A picture of my small tools in boxes collection.
When I first found out how much an old tool in the original box was worth I was shocked. I have been trying ever since to figure out why they are worth that much. I never had much money but focused on little tools in boxes and bought one here and there until I have what you would call a small collection. Some were found at garage sales and auctions on the cheap but most were purchased when I had a $20 per week tool allowance and I found them at antique shops. There are several impressive antique tool booths at the antique malls in Goshen and Niles in northern IN. I also found some at MWTCA tool meets, where I bought most of my old tool catalogs. I once hit a jackpot of old catalogs at a garage sale; the tools had all been sold and the catalogs overlooked. So here I have my small tool in box collection, my Stanley bible, and my old tool catalogs. I think the earliest catalog dates to 1907. I think the tools in boxes mostly date from the 40’s. I look them up when I get them then promptly forget.
The question is why is the box so valuable? A Stanley #60-1/2 plane in mint condition is listed at $75, currently I think it would sell for maybe $50. (Ebay and economy seem to have driven prices down.) Here is one in mint condition with the box that sold for $104. http://www.ebay.com/itm/Stanley-60-1-2-Low-Angle-Block-Plane-with-Original-Box-minty-/271386457315?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3f2fe4b4e3 . The box in this case is worth about $50. A couple pieces of cardboard and a label for $50? Neil Caffrey would have fun with that. Why are people willing to spend so much for a box? Obviously because there aren’t that many of them around. This is why gold is valuable; the supply is limited. In the same way, there is a demand for tools in mint condition in the box and there is a very limited supply.
I on the other hand actually prefer a tool that has been used. When I pick up an old plane that has some of the japanning chipped off and the finish worn off the handle, I connect with the past when I pick up this plane and use. In the future I will be highlighting some of these tools I have, the people they came from, and the memories I have when I pick them up and use them.