Buying Old Hand Tools through eBay and other online sources

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Forum topic by Aidan1211 posted 07-13-2016 04:38 PM 1416 views 1 time favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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198 posts in 1282 days

07-13-2016 04:38 PM

I have chatted with quite a few folks lately that have been burned (Some very badly) using eBay and other internet outlets to purchase their older hand tools. I typically advise them to the best of my ability and sometimes even look for them and let them know when I have found the item they are looking for. I buy tools from all over the internet, auctions, estate sales, flea markets, and directly from the families of the craftsmen that were the original purchasers of the tools and I too have been burned VERY badly from each source. So I decided to try and share a few tips to try to help those that are looking for tools to complete their workshops.

When buying on eBay it is very possible to get a good price and a tool thats in great shape and will be a good user tool for your projects however keeps these specifics in mind when pouring over the vast variety of offerings.


-Never buy tools that don’t have pictures of every angle of the tool (the pictures that are missing are more than likely to be the pictures that would show how BAD the item is)

-Never buy tools that have super low prices and outrageous shipping prices (you are likely dealing with someone that is less than honest if they are trying to hide the sausage by making up profit on shipping)

-Stay away from collector grade tools if you are a user (you are likely going to pay a fortune for a tool just because of its scarcity and not because it functions well) some collectable tools were bad designs and sold poorly leading to their scarcity

-If the seller isn’t willing to provide extra information or additional photos upon request steer clear of their items at the end of the day you are giving money for a product you can’t physically inspect (you’d never buy a car without asking questions or at least hearing it run would you?)

-Ask for as many pictures and or questions you need to so you get the best possible picture of what your buying

-Read thoroughly through descriptions (some crooked sellers will use prose to hide defects and cover themselves in the event there is a debate over accurate descriptions)

-Return items that were inaccurately described each time in the event they manage to sneak one past you (in order to keep the crooked ones honest you MUST hold their feet to fire, if they can’t get away with screwing anyone they will either move on or start being honest)

-Be respectful and pleasant with the seller while holding your ground before or after the sale (good sellers will be more likely to help someone that is being reasonable and nice so you’ll buy from them again)

-Always know what the RECENTLY sold prices have been, there is a filtering option on eBay that will let you know what the a similar item has sold for recently. Antique tool prices vary sometimes drastically from week to week.

-Research the tool or ask someone you trust about the tools before using the buy it now button or bidding. Two planes side by side might appear to be similar in design however one is a great door stop and the other is a great user. Keep in mind though if researching on the internet that “The Internet Never Lies” which is a huge crock. Ask someone that has actually used one of those tools not the guy in mommas basement in his underwear trolling the web dropping his opinion like its law. There are quite a few LJ’s with a ton of experience here that will give you a real informed opinion on the tools ability to be made to do great work.


Auctions can be a great place to get a good deal and could also be the best place to get burned.


-Never take the auctioneers word for condition or rarity they don’t represent you the buyer. Their job is to sell that item for top dollar so they get more items for their next auction and they make the biggest commission for that sale.

-Alway keep in mind that there are additional costs to factor in to your bid. If your max bid is $50 for that $50 plane you are over paying by quite a bit. There is a buyers premium in most cases and sometimes even sales tax in addition to that. So using the $50 number you’d actually be paying $58 for your $50 plane plus your time a gas to go to the auction. ($8 additional is based on a generic 10% buyers premium and 6% sales tax) so you could actually end up paying closer to $70 for a $50 plane quickly if you had to drive far or had tolls to get there.

-DON’T get sucked into a bidding war with someone you’ll end up getting suckered into paying waaaaaay more than the items worth. There are some suuuuuper petty people out there that go to auctions and goad people into paying stupid amounts of money for stuff.

-Don’t talk to others at auctions and discuss what you’re interested in, it never helps and could actually drive the prices up. You are there for whatever brought you there the rest of the audience is going to help you get it cheaper.


-Always show up super early to look everything over BEFORE the auction starts and take note of what you want what lot number it is and including Buyers Premiums and Tax what your max bid is AND STICK TO IT.

-Cataloged auctions usually offer a catalog print out for free or for a nominal printing fee. GET THE CATALOG! it helps you follow the auctioneer and helps you organize your thoughts on paper ( Try to position yourself so there isn’t someone sitting behind you so they can’t see your bid amounts)

-Always look out for shill bidders, they are sometimes hard to spot but they are usually the ones that bid stuff up then drop out right before the last bid drops. If you suspect there may be a shill bidder in audience report it it’s illegal in most states if not all. You can avoid this all together by going only to well known and respected auction houses they make a living off of their reputation and wouldn’t do anything to hurt themselves.

-Try to position yourself in an area where the auctioneer can see you clearly but the rest of the audience doesn’t have the ability to watch your every bid. (again some guys that go just like to drive up the bid to be a mules behind)

Estate Sales:

Estate Sales are another place to get good deals if you are prepared to work for the deal

Estate sales are really easy to deal with be the first one there negotiate the price (be reasonable and respectful) don’t screw around “thinking about it” or someone else will buy it first and know your stuff. Knowledge is key at these places you won’t have time to ask google if its familiar with that item or whats its value is. Very carefully look over the item you are considering, take it apart and look everywhere. BRING CASH!

Flea Markets:

Flea Markets are either a gold mine or a waste of gas. Always negotiate and always look things over with a fine tooth comb. Most (Not All) flea market vendors are shady period (in my experience) and will prey on the folks that have little knowledge and or will lie to you as if they know everything about that $10 plane they want $50 for. Most of the vendors in my area are cleanout people and they paid pennies on the dollar for what they are selling you. Go in well informed and if you have to walk away to research something do it. I’ve seen it all at flea markets from the ultra rare wow factor stuff to the boat anchor tools that a scrap yard would turn away because there isn’t any metal left to recycle and the vendors seem to price the stuff as if they have the tool that built the arc.

Antique Malls:

the only way I will buy from an antique mall is if I personally know the dealer running it. As a dealer I don’t sell in antique malls or antique stores because the additional overhead cost to me makes my prices outrageously high and out of reach for those people I typically deal with. I do know a few Antique Stores / Malls in my area I frequent but they are friends and the prices are reasonable for me because we take care of each other. My best advise really honestly is run as fast as you can from these places unless you have gotten a referral from a friend to see a specific dealer, keep in mind it cost them more to get the item to you so you will have to pay more for it. They are entitled to recoup their expenses in acquiring the items you are looking at. The worse I was ever burnt was in an Antique mall in Jersey, I got burnt soooooo bad I actually started dealing in tools because I started to think there were no honest people left in old tool world.

The best places (In My Opinion) to buy old user grade tools for use in your personal shop are REPUTABLE internet dealers and personal referrals from other LJ’s and friends. There are three different online sources that I will buy from without hesitation and one of them is actually one of us and has been here on LJ’s for quite some time. I won’t list the names here because I’m not an ad agency but if you need something PM me and I’ll be happy to refer you to right person.

Bottom line is being informed and smart is really most of the battle, you can’t be taken advantage of if you have the knowledge.

Don’t forget you don’t have to buy new tools to get a quality user tool, buy older stuff and save your money they work just as good IF NOT BETTER.

If you guys have any questions or I missed something just ask.

Robert (Aidan1211)

-- its better to plan on the task at hand than actually doing it........ You look smarter.

6 replies so far

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5216 posts in 4416 days

#1 posted 07-13-2016 05:02 PM

Only too true, and a well meaning post.
I have bought from Robert, and he has given my good info on other reputable sellers.
He is quick to advise both positive and negative thoughts.

-- [email protected]

View MikeUT's profile


195 posts in 1815 days

#2 posted 07-13-2016 05:24 PM

For the most part I have limited my searches to estate sales, auctions, etc. I recently started following more listings on ebay and it is pretty funny/outrageous how much some sellers think they can get away with. I saw this listing a few days ago and couldn’t help but message the seller and call him out. He had the little Harbor Freight plane listed as ‘manufacturer unknown’ and had it listed above the regular price of a new one at Harbor Freight!! I messaged him and told him exactly what it was and where to verify. He didn’t respond and didn’t list the manufacturer but he did drop the starting price. Some people…

View jwmalone's profile


769 posts in 1158 days

#3 posted 07-14-2016 03:31 AM

I bought a sargent 107 with no problems but as stated above it had pics from all sides and the seller done a lot of business on eBay. Flea markets are fun though its like a treasure hunt, I got a Stanley G12-220 newer model great user 8 dollars you never know. The estate sales around here are awesome so many wealthy retires its not uncommon to find vintage tools of top quality barley used but there are lots of professional thrift store ppl around also they usually by the whole damn thing dirt cheap. These bastards prey on the uniformed . Think I will start trying to deal with ppl on this sight seems to be a lot of good guys

-- "Boy you could get more work done it you quit flapping your pie hole" Grandpa

View Civilsurf's profile


11 posts in 1148 days

#4 posted 07-15-2016 06:42 AM

I am in Singapore and there is no one selling old tools. Is there any way I can buy old tools from estate sales?

-- Shawn, Singapore

View Clarkie's profile


482 posts in 2297 days

#5 posted 07-15-2016 11:37 AM

I believe it comes down to “buyer beware”. If you don’t do your homework, then don’t expect someone else to do it for you.

View Aidan1211's profile


198 posts in 1282 days

#6 posted 07-20-2016 11:49 AM

Knowledge is power. Period. Unless you get a referral from someone that has purchased from any one source you best off being cautious. I buy stuff sight unseen a lot it’s the risk I take and due to the amount I typically buy I get burnt more than your average bear but I know what I’m looking at so it’s just part of the deal. Some guys out feel they are entitled to the best price for their pos and others look at it from the receiving end and make sure that the buyer gets a fair shake. Try and find the latter. If they use the tools they are more likely to make sure the end buyer is getting something they’d actually use.

-- its better to plan on the task at hand than actually doing it........ You look smarter.

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