Did I misunderstand the purpose of this book?

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Review by poopiekat posted 02-01-2012 01:44 AM 2590 views 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Did I misunderstand the purpose of this book? No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

There is, of course, so-called price guides for just about every field of collecting, from comic books to Staffordshire pottery. Problem is, some categories of collecting lend themselves to well-sorted, organized price guide publications and some do not. For example, American coins…there are a few guides which list EVERY US coin, I mean every year, and grade (condition) with reliable common retail prices. Easy! Has anyone ever attempted to list every tool ever made? Nope, it’s too much of an undertaking, and such a book would have to be SO comprehensive to make it worth owning that it would be too big for your bookshelf.

This ‘Warman’s Tools Field Guide’ attempts to condense 200 years of tools into one small book of 500 pages. Gotta say, it just doesn’t work! What they’ve done is take some fanciful auction prices with an attached picture, and with minimal information present it to us with the hammer price. This doesn’t work! This edition touts a ‘New! Stanley tools chapter’ but it surely would disappoint any Stanley collector. I’ve concluded that this guide is not a reliable reference book, for Stanley tools at least, because I see Stanley items on eBay with similar descriptions go for far less.

Perhaps this is where the incentive comes from, people paying stratospheric prices for common tools? Perhaps this where bizarre prices comes from at antiques shows and shops?

When somebody markets a guide that is comprehensive enough that it may be used for identifying Stanley planes in their respective permutations over the years, and what to pay for them with respect to their condition, I will certainly be interested! But using this guide is the equivalent to appraising your rusty ‘69 Camaro in the back yard by watching Barret-Jackson auctions! It just doesn’t work, and will surely mislead you if this is your sole source of reference. Observing eBay activity is a far better gauge of the value of tools, and the amount of bidders an item has is as good an indicator of value as the final price. (yeah, there’s a few pitfalls there as well, which I’d like to highlight… later. I didn’t find much value in this book, which is the reason for the 2 stars. Anyone trying to build on their base of knowledge should skip this book until they have collected some other sources by which they can compare, in my humble opinion.

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

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#1 posted 02-01-2012 01:56 AM

Thanks for the review. Trying to figure out the “value” on stanley and other vintage tools is often like trying to hit a moving target. Even checking the completed listings, one can see an array of prices and conditions. Some defy logic, which often makes it tough.

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#2 posted 02-02-2012 05:49 AM

Agreed, far too many variables with tool appraisal to be done by some simple book.. What would you pay for an autographed Krenov plane? A vintage Stanley cab. scraper? Nah, I think good judgment by knowledgeable woodworkers is the way to go on this.

-- Sneaking up on the line....

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#3 posted 02-02-2012 06:18 AM

The best way I know to learn what tools are worth is to go to the auctions, flea markets, garage sales and see what tools in your area are selling for. It takes time but once you have a good idea of what tools are worth, it makes it a lot easier to find the real deals. I think E-bay is over-priced and you can’t look at the piece you’re buying other than the pictures the buyer supplies. There are deals on CL but you need to do your homework first!

-- Every day above ground is a good day!!!

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#4 posted 02-03-2012 12:44 AM

Thanks for the great comments!
Reading this guide, I became concerned for all those people who might be misled by the higher than normal prices indicated for some of the tools presented. In short, this book might be a good secondary source of knowledge for an experienced collector, but not for someone just getting into the hobby. Better to rely on someone you trust as a woodworker, or hitting the streets whenever good antique shows and flea markets are conducted, to get a good feeling for typical prices. Focus on a few types of planes you’d like to own, develop an eye for quality, and soon enough you will be able to spot a bargain and ultimately build your collection.

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

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