How to identify antique tools

When you first start out collecting antique tools or any antiques for that matter, you never fully know what you are holding until it is too late. This is normal and quite frustrating once you realise just how close you came to adding that extra piece to your collection. We have been collecting tools for a long time and over the years have seen antique tools come and go through our hands. Which is why we are making this guide to help new and experienced collectors in identifying antique tools.

Difference between antique and just old

There are a lot of old tools out there that can be found in places like: garage sales, second hand stores, trading platforms such as ebay, gumtree, facebook marketplace as well as our store. Be aware that just because a tool is old does not necessarily mean that it is an antique. Which then begs the question.

What is an Antique?

The following is quoted from Wikipedia

A true antique is an item perceived as having value because of its aesthetic or historical significance and at least 100 years old, although today the term is often used loosely to describe any objects that are old. An antique is usually an item that is collected or desirable because of its age, beauty, rarity, condition, utility, personal emotional connection, and/or other unique features. It is an object that represents a previous era or time period in human history.

Worth money or sentimental value

If you have a piece that is 125 years old but no one other than you wants it then it really has no value other than sentimental. These pieces are great for your collection but, probably no one anyone elses.

Tool material and markings

In the 19th century many tools were made from wrought iron. They also also used long patent numbers or even the manufacturer’s name. You may need to use a magnifying glass in order to see the faded numbers or names on these old tools.

It is important to note that you will never see “Made in China” marked on an antique tool as this is a 20th century marking.

Antique tool corrosion

It is quite normal for an antique tool due to its age to have patina on it. Patina is a thin layer that is formed on the surface of some metals. Chances are you have come in contact with patina but not known what it is. A good example of patina is the green layer that covers copper and bronze over time.

Patina can put a sheen on an objects surface usually from age but also from frequent handling. Removing patina from the wrong thing can actually devalue your antique tool and render it a throwaway.

Knowledge is power

If you are unsure of what you are holding but you have the manufacturers name or even the patent number, you can do a simple google search and find out if that particular tool will be a suitable addition to your collection.

If in doubt

Take it to an expert. These particular experts are usually found at trade shows as well as online either via their own website or through a tool collectors forum. Appraisals usually cost around $100 but if you have a tool that’s a valuable antique, it is well and truly worth it.

Our tool collection

If you are looking to start your antique tool collection or already have one going, you should check out our antique and vintage tools available through our online store.

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