17th dealer show and antique tool auction, The

17th dealer show and antique tool auction, The

Wells, John G

A U c T I 0 N N E w s The Brown Auction Service under the skillful direction of Clarence Blanchard and Mickey Homes put on another spectacular event. Friday morning, October 20, we had the opportunity to attend four presentations put on by leading researchers, each an authority in their chosen specialty.

Phil Cannon spoke on early New England rule makers. He used a digital projector to show images of rules and selected screens from his database of information on New England rule makers. I understand that when Phil completes the database he will sell copies of it on CD-ROM.

Walter Jacob illustrated his interesting talk about unusual Stanley specialty tools with slides of examples from his and his brother’s collection. I didn’t realize that Stanley made a special wrench to twist tighten the diagonal brace wires on a 1920’s biplane or a line of non-sparking Beryllium tools to use in an explosive atmosphere.

Scott Lynk is currently researching Stanley special rules for a book he is writing. His presentation gave a glimpse of the exciting rules he has uncovered and the book he has in store for us.

Tom Lamond gave a report on the current research project and book he is working on with Ken Bassett. The subject is early hardware houses, their brand names and trademarks. Tom has a great eye for attractive graphics. The trademarks and logos used by early hardware houses provide a rich resource from which he will create a wonderful publication. Tom insists on quality reproductions so he uses a computer graphics program to recreate graphics that are too small or lack enough definition to yield reproductions that are sharp and clear. I am looking forward to the book that Tom and Ken will publish.

Dealer Sale

The dealer sale and auction preview opened in the afternoon. There were 115 trade tables piled high with the best merchandise that the country’s leading dealers had to offer. When the doors were opened at I P.M., the room quickly filled with buyers eager to find a rare piece to add to their collection. I heard they were not disappointed.

By far the best offering in the dealer’s sale was Roger K. Smith’s stunning hardware store display of L. S. Starrett precision tools, all in mint, unused condition and in the original showcases made by L. S. Starrett.

The 17th Annual International Tool Auction began promptly Saturday morning, October 21, at 9:00 A.M. Two auctioneers alternated to keep the auction proceeding at a steady pace of about 100 lots per hour.

Rare Stanley in the Box

The hottest group of items in the auction were rare Stanley tools in original labeled boxes. I’m told a private collector decided to open the doors to his locked closet of new, unused rare Stanley tools in the original labeled boxes. I also heard a few of the `Stanley in the Box’ collectors say the boxes weren’t quite as pristine as they would have liked, but the boxed lots realized very high prices any way.

A No. 46 Traut’s patent plow, dado, fillister and match plane in the box brought an astounding $3,100 against a high estimate of $900.

A No. 141 nickel-plated Miller’s patent plow plane with fillister bed in the box brought $3300.

Two Stanley block planes with tail handles in original boxes from 1926 (a NO. 9 3/4 and a No. 15 1/2) commanded a strong $2,700 and $2,500 respectively, almost twice the $1,500 estimate.

A No. 212 musical instrument maker’s scraper plane in the box realized $3,600 and an aluminum No. A78 duplex rabbet plane in the box brought $2,000.

A No. 9 cabinetmaker’s block plane, seldom seen in the box, sold for $8,000.

A bronze No. 71 Rabbet Shave, very rarely seen complete with the fence and almost never seen in the box, was a comparative bargain at $1,300.

The Pride of Sandusky

A Sandusky No. 141 selfregulating boxwood plow plane with six ivory tips was the real surprise of the auction. This beautiful example is from one of the world’s greatest collections and its heritage was very evident. It is a super rare plane and this example was in stellar condition, with a nice honey color patina. It opened with a $16,000 absentee bid and closed to a buyer in the room for $20,000-well above the high estimate of $12,000. The buyer is very fortunate to have acquired a truly great piece, worthy of being the focal point of any collection.

On center stage: Blandin No. 1

The star of the patented metallic planes was of course the dazzling little 5 1/2 inch Blandin No. 1 smooth plane. Blandin’s patented planes are very rare in any size and only dreamed of in the No. 1 size. For the past couple of years there have been rumors about a mint, unaltered No. 1 Blandin and it finally surfaced.

It was the center of attention at the auction preview. I believe it spent more time out of its locked showcase being admired by prospective buyers than it did sitting regally on its glass shelf.

The auctioneer staged a strategic pause before asking for bids on this little gem. Then all of the sudden the action began with an opening bid of $7,500, which quickly turned into $10,000, then $10,500 and a pause; and then the pace picked up with a quick back and forth exchange between two bidders intent on being the new owner. Finally it was hammered down at $17,500 to the gentleman at the rear of the room. There was another pause followed by a round of thundering applause and congratulations.

Patented Planes

A superb example of Leonard Bailey’s No. 3 size split frame smooth plane, with an arch joint, in stellar condition sold to an absentee bidder for a very reasonable $14,500.

A No. 3 size vertical post plane by the same maker, also in outstanding condition, was a great buy at $5,700.

A nice little core box plane, patented by E. W. Lewis in 1866, in fine or better condition opened and closed on an absentee bid of $3,400.

E. H. Morris’ patented plow plane with an unusual lazy-tong fence adjustment and in super condition sold for a surprising $6,100.

A rare Stanley No. 12 3/4 veneer scraper with the extra thick bottom brought $2,050.

Measuring and Layout Tools

A good example of the scarce Hight micrometer gravity level made in Toledo Ohio, with a few minor manufacturing defects, was a bargain at $800.

A nice example of the Davis Level and Tool Company’s No. 2, 12-inch inclinometer level, with 95% of the original black japanning and gold pin striping, sold for a reasonable $750.

A hard to find &inch, No. 39 pocket level by the same maker, with 90% of the original japanning and 80% of the gold pin striping, brought $1,400, which was a little over the high estimate of $1,200.

A rare Stanley 9-inch level adjustment stand, the perfect companion for the above level, sold for $1,050.

Lot No. 144, a small level made by W. T. Nicholson of Providence, R.I., probably had the most historic significance– it was the precursor of the scarce Stanley No. 43 level. It sold for $350.

A very rare ivory two-foot, two-fold rule by Wm. Marples & Sons with a German silver arch joint, Gunter’s slide and Routledge’s engineering tables, slightly yellow and showing just a little wear, went home to England for $900.

Lot 627, a scarce one-foot, four-fold architect’s ivory rule by Halden & Co., London, with inside beveled edges and arch joint, in clean crisp condition and only slight yellowing sold for $700.

A rare boxwood two foot, two fold rule by J. Watts of Boston,-one of America’s earliest rule makers-with Gunter’s slide and drafting scales was a bargain at $105.

A special Stanley No. 66 three -foot, four-fold boxwood rule, with standard markings on the outside and special markings on the inside showing the height of school house chairs in inches and the corresponding height of matching desks in 11/2 inch increments, was won by an absentee bid of $1,000.

A Stanley No. 36 1/2 onefoot, two-fold boxwood rule with special English and Metric graduations in stunning mint condition brought $475.

A beautiful wine cask wantage rod and caliper patented by Prime & McKeen in 1870 and made on special order by Stanley Rule and Level Co. was a bargain at $1,000.

The most interesting marking gauge in the auction was the only known example of John L. Pringle’s 1906 patented gauge. It had an unusual three-piece stem to provide three layout setups. It was submitted to the patent office in 1905 by the Union Manufacturing Co. but the patent wasn’t issued until 1906 after Stanley acquired Union Manufacturing. It brought $2,400.

Unusual Pieces

One of the most intriguing pieces in the auction was the only known example of a well made folding bit brace patented May 16, 1905, by Charles W. Stites. Its near mint condition and unique design brought a hefty $7,000.

A custom handsaw made by Henry Disston & Sons for F. P. Kelly of the Savage Arms Corporation had great provenance and graphic appeal. The saw was made from materials salvaged from the battlefields of World War One. The saw screws were made from shell casings and the handle was made from the laminated wood propeller of a WW-I fighter plane. A large engraved and beautifully hand-enameled eagle decorated the saw blade. The original letter signed by Horace Disston that accompanied the saw when it was sent to F. P. Kelly, dated March 22, 1920, was included with the saw. It realized $3,000.

A charming jeweler’s rotating bench vice, of beautiful form and nicely decorated with gold and red pin striping sold for $1,500

A wonderful octagonal bolt cabinet, just like the ones that used to be in all of those old hardware stores with wood floors and potbelly stoves, found a new home for $2,400.


In this auction, which draws the most knowledgeable buyers, the finest pieces always stand out from the rest and command top prices. Of course, there were a few bargains in among the gems for those with enough knowledge and patience to find them. But in general, prices for top items were strong and reflected the true quality and value of the pieces as determined by authenticity, condition, historical significance, rarity, and provenance.

The auction realized a grand total of $383,465.

by John G. Wells

Berkeley, CA

Copyright Early American Industries Association Jan/Feb 2001

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