Lack of antique tools at antique malls?
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  1. #1
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    Default Lack of antique tools at antique malls?

    This weekend I was down in Wichita Kansas and had never been hunting for old machinist tools there before so decided to give it a go. Wichita has been a big manufacturer of airplanes for about a 100 years, airplanes are built pretty much by machinists, so I figured it would be good hunting. I went to 3 antique malls, over 95,000 square feet in total with more than 350 vendors. I found almost NO TOOLS, of any kind, not farm stuff, not Stanley planes and nearly no machinist tools. To be honest, I haven't seen that much useless and ugly crap in years, most of it house hold nick knacks and nearly all of it 20th century.

    There was also no aircraft stuff, no worker ID badges, no jackets or patches, no belt buckles, nothing. Wichita made Learjets, Cesnas, Beech, Boeing, etc. there was nothing.

    Has all this stuff been bought up? Thrown away? What? Why was there nothing?

    If you go to an antique near any industrial city you see all sorts of stuff. Around Pittsburgh PA you find stuff from the steel mills, in Massachusetts all kinds of tool related stuff. I have been hunting antique machinist tools for over 40 years, we all know there used to be this stuff everywhere. I remember when in nearly any mall you would see some machinist tools on every isle and a chest on about every 3rd isle. Now I know it is not like that anymore, but to see almost nothing in 95,000 square feet?

    The total of what I saw was 1 micrometer, 1 empty average machinist chest, 1 M & W square, 1 pair of old English dividers (I bought those for $12),3 spring calipers, a pair of LSS Vee blocks, 2 Wilton bullet vises, maybe 3 other vises, maybe 2 dozen wrenches and less than 10 Stanley planes and folding rules that were all junk. That was it!

    What are you seeing out and about these days?

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    You saw more machinist related stuff in one day than I have ever seen in the antique malls in central Tx. I think the only machinist items I have ever seen at the malls is wooden tool chests, and I can buy new Gerstner for less. For old tools you go to the flea markets.

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    Maybe it’s just in the vernacular, and I don’t tend to frequent either, but:

    *FLEA* market, mall, emporium, etc. are where you find 95% CRAP.

    Blister-packaged, Chinese baubles that SOMEONE purchased…

    *ANTIQUE* market, mall, emporium, etc. tend to be old and furniture biased.

    Maybe an old combination square HANDLE shows up… or a plane,… as an accent to a piece of furniture.

    Honestly, the first thing through my mind entering anything labeled *FLEA* is:

    “Why are ANY of us here?!?”

    Market tends to indicate a weekend affair.

    Mall tends to indicate a 7-day deal.

    Most of the *ANTIQUE* places seem to be on consignment, where the *FLEA* places I guess you pay for a stall???

    If I NEEDED a tool?!? WANTED?

    I go on eBay.



    I WISH! I was affiliated…




    Sad or not, it’s the state of affairs as I see them.






    Jeremy

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    People who get the antique stuff are the deceased estate house clearers.....and they have the information to identify and value every single nick nack and bric a brac......Since the net ,everthing has a value /price put on it....If some object is of no use to you,how can it have a value.....it does ,and the reason is crazy speculation.....the expectation that it will have more value in a short time.

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    Check out pawn shops. I had one student buy a nice 24" granite straight-edge a few weeks ago for $100.00 at one.

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    I noticed this phenomenon over ten years ago. Inquiring with several friends who dealt in tools and similar stuff, I found that the dealers have gone to the internet to widen their market exposure and increase sales and profits. Even with free shipping, they claim more profit per sale. They also avoid travel and set-up expenses.

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    Liberty Tool in Liberty, Maine will make you drool.

    It's worth the trip from anywhere in the USA

    Get clams, lobster while you are in Maine

    Visit the Owls Head Transportation Museum, cars planes old engines motorcycles that are all operational !

    Do the Blues Festival if they still have it

    Avoid Camden the tourist trap

    Do see Boothbay Harbor

    plan a trip on the Victory Chimes 3 master!

    Liberty Tool has an on line presence at Welcome to Liberty Tool! but it is not a secured website so use your friends phone to browse it.

    Remember there are 2 seasons in Maine 4th of July and Winter, plan your trip accordingly

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    Flea market at steam or tractor shows...... Always has good stuff as well as junk. Prices vary from cheap to "that ain't gold, ya know!".

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    I have been going to antique shops since about 1950, after my mother decided to collect antiques. Tools have always been one of my interests, whether new or old. In the large antique malls, I usually see just a few tools and some malls may have one or two booths with mostly tools and "men's stuff." Some dealers will rent space in more than one mall and travel from one to another to stock and maintain their displays, so there may be tool booths in several malls in a certain area, all from the same dealer. But there have never been very many tool specialists compared to the "general line" dealers. The Internet and eBay have certainly changed things.

    I try to get to New England every few years to visit the Precision Museum. I have a few favorite antique malls I like to browse every visit, but seldom buy anything. There are few things of interest and fewer still with attractive prices. I think the only thing I bought on the 2019 trip was a fine Ca. 1950 mahogany Chippendale mirror for $45 in Wells, ME. I hear that old walnut and mahogany furniture is out of fashion and worth little these days, but I was raised with it and still like it better than plastic stuff.

    Liberty Tool is one of three shops in different Maine towns that apparently have a single owner. I have been once to all three, some years ago. At Liberty Tool, I bought a child's size Craftsman hatchet that sort of goes with my tiny Lie-Nielsen No. 1 plane, also from Maine. At Captain Tinkham's Emporium, I bought a Hardinge 5C collet work stop and a pair of antique Japanese samurai stirrups. At Hulls Cove Tool Barn, I bought several old English carving chisels.

    Jonesport Wood Co. Old Tools, Books, Antiques, Prints and more!

    Larry

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    Quote Originally Posted by JST View Post
    Flea market at steam or tractor shows...... Always has good stuff as well as junk. Prices vary from cheap to "that ain't gold, ya know!".
    Yes! I manage the machine shop museum at Tuckahoe Steam and Gas Association in Easton, Maryland and our big summer show is coming up, July 8th through July 11th. We always have a big flea market and a big auction. Come on out!

    Finding tools at flea markets and antique stores is definitely hit or miss. I do better at online auctions in my area but you have to be looking consistent and be able to pick the stuff up on pickup day. Look at hibid.com.

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    Hopewell Pageant of Steam is coming up here starting August 11. Usually only one or two good machinist tool vendors, but post-pandemic maybe more will come out of the woodwork. I love Hull's Cove Tool in Maine, but haven't been there in many years. It's where I got all my wood planes and many machinist items. If only they'd stop cleaning things up with a wire wheel.

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    Maybe it's just my area, but my experience has been that most antique shops these days are run much more "business like" then they used to be. They don't sell stuff that was found local. They sell stuff that they get through estate sales, bulk auctions, weird connections, etc. from all over and then truck it to their store location. Most could care less about the history of the region that their store is in. They're looking to get top dollar on whatever stuff that they specialize in and is popular at the time.

    At our old shop (small town, downtown Texas) we had some old press machines in the scrap pile that a passer-by asked about. He was a dealer who was buying some stuff in our area and was interested in the cast iron bases. He offered to trade us for an old steel-case type drafting desk, which we took him up on the deal as the desk fit in with our other office furniture and just needed new Formica and paint. The desk actually came from Belgium as he had imported a bunch of stuff that probably was junk over there, but was popular over here.

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    In my area I've found there are a few booths in antique malls from people who clearly collect/trade in old tools and then there will be some random finds from a dealer who had acquired a few tools as part of a larger deal.

    The collectors know the value of their stuff, so I am usually looking for the shelf or box of stuff in the back corner of a booth. You've been hunting this stuff longer than me, so I don't have to tell you to look under the tables and inside all the rusty buckets.

    Edit to add that I think there had been an increase in interest in old tools. Everyone complains about kids these days, but some of three folks posting about old tools on social media have lots of followers and get silly prices for their stuff.

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    Every pawn shop I have seen in NJ was more interested in selling and buying gold and coins than tools or anything useful. Down south and out west it seems to be different. Antique malls, the few I've been in, misidentified junk, depressions class, vintage clothing, old furniture.
    Why waste you time sitting at a Flea market table where you might get a couple hundred or if you are very lucky a thousand tire-kickers look at your stuff?

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    I guess it has been like so many things, stuff changes. I suspect the fact that I haven't been out shopping in 15 months might of had something to do with it. I had higher than I should expectations. The last Antique Mall I was in was the largest antique shop in Amsterdam where I did get a very nice brass slide caliper circa 1850 in a small size I had never seen before. Btw, this stop in Amsterdam was a surprise because it was due to a change in plans having just escaped from Italy at the end of Feb. 2020.

    Just like everything dealing with old it ain't like it used to be. Liberty Tool is nice, it used to great but for the past 10 years or so it has just been a shadow of what it used to be. Many years ago one of the very first precision steel rules made in America was found there for $1. It was signed "Jos. R. Brown, Maker Prov. RI", later it sold for thousands. I have been there at least 30 times over the years and used to get some very good pieces there. I also remember Bitler's booth at the Black Angus in PA., he had 18th c. wooden planes stacked like cord wood and knew the value of every one. Or down the road to Bud Brown's booth and a little farther south, Harry Ludwing's. Ray Crouch had a booth in Gettysburg and it was one of my favorites. Of course it should have been, he would sell c. 1860-80s machinist tools for just a few bucks each. Roger Smith had a place in White River Junction north of the APM, bought one of the rarest Starrett levels in there for about $30., it too later sold for thousands.

    The bottom line is those guys and their replacements are all gone, the era of finding super historic pieces in an antique mall is just not good.

    I do realize a lot has gone online, when I look at the good things I have bought in the last 15 years it is by far mostly ebay and auctions.

    But I still think it is odd the complete lack of anything, of any age, even stuff I would have no interest in buying, from the aircraft manufacturing businesses in Wichita antique places.

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    I think there are two factors we all would prefer didnt exist, but are the elephants in the room-

    1- Half-Life.
    All "stuff" disappears with time. As the generation that paid hard earned money for it dies off, old things become less emotionally important to each succesive generation, and become clutter to get rid of. And if you get rid of 10 % of it every year, in our lifetimes, its almost all gone.
    Cars have about a 20 year life span, before they are only preserved if exceptionally exotic- you hardly see any Pintos or Vegas, for example, and those are 70s cars.
    Its the same with tools- they dont just get kept forever, by everybody. Each successive generation throws more out when they move, when they die, when they downsize to the old folks home.

    So, you see some, but not many, things from the 70s and 80s, very few things from the 40s and 50s, and virtually nothing from the 20s, or 1890s. And each ten years that go by, the date of stuff that dealers recognize moves up a decade.


    And then-
    2- Population Growth.
    Even if every cool thing ever made was kept, instead of being landfilled, there are now 350 million people in the US alone to divide them amongst. When I was born, there were only 165 million of us. And many of those new americans live in places that didnt even exist in 1955. Whole new towns, suburbs, and sprawl, where there never was a blacksmith shop or a factory running bridgeports. If the stuff was never there, it wont show up in grandpas attic.
    Wichita began building planes when there were maybe 100,000 people there, now its something like 400,000, and thats not counting the increased density of the sprawl. So whatever few good antique tools there were, are spread out farther, harder to find at garage sales, and travel when people move. The country is a lot more mobile than it used to be.

    If real estate prices go up, old buildings get torn down, and stuff gets thrown out. There are still factories in Providence RI full of 1900 era equipment, but everything is new in Atlanta, or Phoenix, LA, or Seattle. Any old stuff in growing areas with growing economies was usually tossed 30 years ago.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ries View Post
    I think there are two factors we all would prefer didnt exist, but are the elephants in the room-
    ....
    And the third one, the advent of the internet. Now dealers can a) find nearly the exact worth of any object they have, and b) with nearly zero trouble, find the largest market for that object.

    This having been said, I've still found some cool stuff at garage sales and flea markets. There's nearly no market for decorative knurling wheels, so I got those at a very reasonable price,
    from a flea market table. Of course, I had a spotter who clued me in to where they would be....

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    Quote Originally Posted by rivett608 View Post
    This weekend I was down in Wichita Kansas and had never been hunting for old machinist tools there before so decided to give it a go. Wichita has been a big manufacturer of airplanes for about a 100 years, airplanes are built pretty much by machinists, so I figured it would be good hunting. I went to 3 antique malls, over 95,000 square feet in total with more than 350 vendors. I found almost NO TOOLS, of any kind, not farm stuff, not Stanley planes and nearly no machinist tools. To be honest, I haven't seen that much useless and ugly crap in years, most of it house hold nick knacks and nearly all of it 20th century.

    There was also no aircraft stuff, no worker ID badges, no jackets or patches, no belt buckles, nothing. Wichita made Learjets, Cesnas, Beech, Boeing, etc. there was nothing.

    Has all this stuff been bought up? Thrown away? What? Why was there nothing?

    If you go to an antique near any industrial city you see all sorts of stuff. Around Pittsburgh PA you find stuff from the steel mills, in Massachusetts all kinds of tool related stuff. I have been hunting antique machinist tools for over 40 years, we all know there used to be this stuff everywhere. I remember when in nearly any mall you would see some machinist tools on every isle and a chest on about every 3rd isle. Now I know it is not like that anymore, but to see almost nothing in 95,000 square feet?

    The total of what I saw was 1 micrometer, 1 empty average machinist chest, 1 M & W square, 1 pair of old English dividers (I bought those for $12),3 spring calipers, a pair of LSS Vee blocks, 2 Wilton bullet vises, maybe 3 other vises, maybe 2 dozen wrenches and less than 10 Stanley planes and folding rules that were all junk. That was it!

    What are you seeing out and about these days?
    Only the left-over trash ... after guys like "rivett608" .. more than "just the one" of 'em... have been hard at it glomming up all the "good stuff" for forty Mike-Foxtrot years..

    Dammit!

    What did you THINK was going to happen?

    "By definition.." they've quit MAKIN' this stuff!

    Did any of you ruthlessly scavenging lot think to plant any of yer loot, fertilize and water it, to grow more from "seed"?

    Didn't THINK so!

    So now we have to wait for "Estate Sales" as the current generation of tool-whore-hoarding-packrats die-off.

    Too LATE for some of us, that!

    To the good?

    Think how NICE it would be to be the lucky-he who gets to snatch-up your OWN collection!


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    Doesn't matter if it's a pawn shop, flea market, antique mall or swap meet. After 20+ yrs of internet to level the playing field, most serious sellers now either sell or value their items more accurately. And if they sell online with any proficiency, the buying competition is as big as the internet..

    Buyers are just as different now. Nothing like putting an item out on the table to have some otherwise ignorant picker wannabe stand there, look it up on his phone to then tutor you on what it is or isn't worth and offer 1/2 or less of what you're asking or the online price.

    The days of cash-only transactions at a favorite spot that no one else knows about are essentially long gone. There's a limit to how many of old anythigs there are to be had. Now that more people know & want & can pay with a credit card, it's a completely different marketplace.

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    I think the last 4 comments are spot on. I have a book on my shelves that I think the title is “Baltimore, when she was what she used to be”, I’m thinking the part after Baltimore applies to old tool shopping and a lot more these days.


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