From wood planes to plows, some of the most valuable antique tools can be worth thousands of dollars. Knowing how to spot vintage and antique tools worth money can help you score a great deal at an estate sale or flea market or get the most for a rare antique tool in your collection. Keep an eye out for these valuable tools.
Sandusky Tool Co. Ebony and Ivory Center-Wheel Plow Plane - $114,400
One of the most valuable antique tools ever sold was the Sandusky Tool Co. ebony and ivory center-wheel plow plane. Made in 1876 by the Sandusky Tool Co. and intended only as a showpiece, the plane remained as a decorative piece in the company headquarters for decades. When the company disbanded in 1934, a private collector bought it. It stayed in this family until it was sold at auction.
The plane, which was constructed of precious materials and featured the best craftsmanship the company could produce, went up for auction with the Brown Auction Service in 1995. It sold for a record-setting $114,400.
Blake, Lamb, & Co. No. 6 Bear Trap - $44,850
You might not think of animal traps as valuable tools, but they can actually be worth a lot of money. According to an 1899 issue of Hardware Dealer's Magazine, Blake, Lamb, & Co.'s traps had an excellent reputation for precision and quality, even when they were first made. The No. 6, known as the "grizzly trap," weighed a whopping 42 pounds and was designed to catch large animals like moose, bears, cougars, and lions.
A beautifully preserved example of the Blake, Lamb, & Co. No. 6 trap sold for $44,850 at Martin J. Donnelly Antique Tools. Large animal traps with minimal rust and damage can be worth a lot of money, so it's worth checking the value if you have one.
School of McIntire Carved Wood Bellows - $35,000
Bellows help to add oxygen to a fire to keep it going and allow it to burn hotter. Hand-carved bellows were special-order items, even in the 1800s. Those with exceptional craftsmanship and beautiful materials tend to be worth a lot of money, especially if they are old.
A hand-carved wood bellows, possibly made in the early 19th century by carver Samuel McIntire in excellent condition was appraised on Antiques Roadshow for $35,000.
Stanley Miller Patent Plane No. 42 Type 1 - $19,800
Made between 1871 and 1892, this antique wood plane is a thing of great beauty, which is part of its value. The ornate design was crafted from gunmetal with a rosewood handle. This plane was also the predecessor for later Stanley plane designs, which makes it highly desirable among Stanley tool collectors. The plane was adjustable and allowed for flexibility.
The earliest planes are the most valuable with the Stanley Miller Patent Plane No. 42 Type 1 selling for up to $20,000 in excellent condition. Later models are still considered valuable antique tools, with most worth at least $1,500.
Leonard Bailey Vertical Post Plane - $7,200
Originally a competitor for Stanley, Leonard Bailey specialized in fine woodworking tools, including some of the first metallic planes. Old planes, such as those by Leonard Bailey, can be among the most valuable antique tools. Because the company was eventually purchased by Stanley, Leonard Bailey planes can also be quite rare.
A Leonard Bailey Vertical Post Plane sold for $7,200 at Martin J. Donnelly Antique Tools. If you have a post plane like this, it's worth doing some research to see if it's a valuable vintage tool worth money.
George Tiemann & Co. Surgical Tool Set - $5,500
George Tiemann & Co. is still in business producing medical tools, and some of the tools produced in the company's 190-year history can be worth a lot of money. Valuable vintage tools for doctors and surgeons tend to include bone saws, forceps, dental tools, and other specific medical items. Condition and age are important with rare, old examples in excellent condition being worth the most money.
A wooden case filled with perfectly preserved George Tiemann & Co. surgical tools sold for $5,500 on eBay in 2022. Many of the pieces included bone, ivory, or tortoiseshell handles, and every piece was in excellent condition.
Salesman's Sample Plow - $5,060
Throughout the 19th century, salesmen would carry miniature sample plows to show potential customers. These tiny plows can be quite valuable, often selling for thousands of dollars.
Martin J. Donnelly Antique Tools has a record of one of these salesman plows selling for $5,060. It was in beautiful condition. If you have a miniature plow or other type of farm tool, it could be very valuable.
Hand-Carved Wood Jointer Blade - $3,277
One highly valuable antique tool that sold at Brown's 52nd Antique Tool Auction was a hand-carved wood jointer blade that sold for nearly $3,300. It was 22 inches long and featured carvings of George Washington, an American eagle, Lady Liberty, and other patriotic motifs.
Much of this tool's value was due to its incredible condition and delicate hand carvings. If you have a tool with hand carving and fine workmanship, it may be worth money.
Hawley Patent Bench-Mount Corn Sheller - $2,495
Antique farm tools can be incredibly valuable, especially if they are not common. The Hawley bench-mount corn sheller was a rare model by James Hawley. It was made in Ohio. This design allowed the sheller to mount to a bench or table top. Someone could turn a crank to shell the corn.
A Hawley bench-mount corn sheller sold for nearly $2,500 at Meeker's Mechanical Nature Antiques. It was in good condition with some wear. Most corn shellers tend to be worth less than this rare example, however.
Antique Tools Are Functional Treasures
If you suspect you have some vintage old tools worth money, it's worth examining them closely and looking at a price guide for antique tools. These functional treasures can offer a glimpse at the history of all kinds of professions, and they may also a good investment for antiques enthusiasts. So dig around in your vintage toolbox. You never know what you might find. Maybe you'll wind up with one of the most expensive items on the Antiques Roadshow some day! Have a tool you don't recognize? Learn some tips for identifying antique tools.