Why do some ordinary planes sell on eBay for crazy-high prices?

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Forum topic by Brett posted 08-04-2011 07:59 PM 2440 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Brett's profile


660 posts in 2677 days

08-04-2011 07:59 PM

I was looking at eBay’s completed sales listings recently to see what types of hand planes are selling for a lot of money. The highest prices went for the usual suspects: Stanley Bailey #1s and #2s, Norris infills, etc. What I don’t understand are the occasional “ordinary” planes that sell for three times their normal prices.

For example, I saw a few rather pedestrian Stanley Bailey jointers, Type 15s or later, sell for $200 to $300. I’ve seen other similar models sell for as little as $60. What gives? Are there just some uninformed bidders who get into a bidding war and drive the price up, or do they know something that I don’t?

-- More tools, fewer machines.

20 replies so far

View Bertha's profile


13525 posts in 2688 days

#1 posted 08-04-2011 08:11 PM

There’s a rare common plane with an unusual casting feature or an aborted modifications. Collectors can sniff these things out. I never bid right after Xmas when guys have cash. Some just don’t know what they’re buying. Other’s are just bid warring. I’ve seen it too.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Gary Roberts's profile

Gary Roberts

140 posts in 3016 days

#2 posted 08-05-2011 06:02 AM

I agree with Bertha and would add that many people simply pay way too much at auctions. But, I live in New England with enough sources for tools that I can afford to wait for what I want. Or maybe I’m just a bottom feeder.

Some people pay more for a spotless plane, thinking it will somehow be worth more in the long run, or work better. I don’t know. There’s one or two in every crowd.

Now, if I’m selling something, it’s fine with me if someone gets into a shooting match.

-- Gary Roberts,

View WayneC's profile


13754 posts in 4092 days

#3 posted 08-05-2011 06:15 AM

Also, are you sure it is selling or asking price. Many times stuff is listed for way more than it is worth. Also, are the Jointers Bedrocks or such?

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Brett's profile


660 posts in 2677 days

#4 posted 08-05-2011 05:53 PM

Wayne, the jointers were not Bed Rocks, and the high prices were the actual selling prices.

Gary, I live in Texas where the tool market is pretty thin. In all the flea markets, antique malls, and (most) garage sales I’ve been to in the last few months, I think I’ve come across only two Stanley Bailey bench planes. I’ve seen a Winchester, a Keen Kutter, an Ohio, and numerous, generic, low quality bench planes, but that’s about it.

At one garage sale, I met an older gentleman, a former antique furniture restorer, who had about 20 bench planes, incl. many Stanleys, but when I first met him I already had purchased and fixed up the user planes that I need, and his asking prices were not low enough for me to buy and resell for a profit. He moved here from somewhere else in the country a few years ago, and he said that the antique market here is very thin. Texas’s population didn’t really take off until the advent of air conditioning (which I’ve been grateful for over the last week of 110-degree temps) in the 50s and 60s, and by that time, hand planes had fallen out of disuse. I know that online prices are not great, but many of us are not blessed with the sources that you Northeasterners do. Lucky stiffs! <wink>

-- More tools, fewer machines.

View Gary Roberts's profile

Gary Roberts

140 posts in 3016 days

#5 posted 08-06-2011 03:30 AM

True, the Northeast is sorta blessed with old stuff. The Town I live in, Dedham, dates back to the 1600’s. Not that I find much old stuff here but the local auctions often haves surprises.

I think the big push over the last five years towards hand tools has also raised prices all around. That’s another reason to restore tools on your own. That rust bucket of a #4 might just be hiding under a coat of dirt and ready for rehab. There are enough dealers who sell parts that you can even replace what’s hopeless.

I’m sorry to say I sold off the majority of my Stanley tools around ten years ago. There are still those I use or kept for collecting sake but the majority went out to auction when prices were high. If I had kept them, I would have made a little more now, but the worth of the dollar is so low I believe I would have lost out now!

-- Gary Roberts,

View poopiekat's profile


4354 posts in 3729 days

#6 posted 08-06-2011 02:55 PM

There’s always a few sellers with potentially great planes to own, but they list them only with the “Buy it Now” option, with a price in the stratosphere. These people are hoping to snag some compulsive buyer on the fly. You can easily disregard these listings, and pay close attention to the planes listed at no-reserve auction. The final bids are truly the most reliable, accurate indicators of what an plane’s true value really is in the marketplace….because, after all, that’s what it sold for with national exposure! I pass by dozens of ebay tools daily, because the price went beyond what I’d be willing to pay. However, I’ve pounced on a few deals on Stanley #2’s and #45s, once I became familiar with the prices they typically fetch, and ended up with a few bargains. Hey, I’m in the market for a late-model F-150; you wouldn’t believe what those things go for…......... same story.

-- 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!!

View MedicKen's profile


1615 posts in 3457 days

#7 posted 08-06-2011 03:13 PM

Because people are stoopid

-- My job is to give my kids things to discuss with their

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4213 days

#8 posted 08-06-2011 03:39 PM

Ever watch Antiques Roadshow? The value of some items can be out of sight, just because it is the “in” thing to collect right now.

As far as ordinary, common planes going for high prices, like MedicKen said, people are stupid! I think guys put planes up with high starting bids just to see if some dummy will bite. Some folks are just gullible enough to believe that if the starting bid for an old #4 is $100, it MUST be worth that much for some reason.

And then, of course, there are the bidding wars. Someone puts in a reasonable bid, somebody else trumps him, and before you know it emotions are at play, and the plane is going for three times what it’s really worth.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Brett's profile


660 posts in 2677 days

#9 posted 08-07-2011 03:37 AM

Must be bidding wars. All the high-priced auctions I saw recently had multiple bidders (and bids) and the prices just went through the roof.

-- More tools, fewer machines.

View Loren's profile


10377 posts in 3642 days

#10 posted 08-07-2011 03:59 AM

Well, as a seller there are a lot of things you can do to get higher prices
on average from your auctions, but freakishly high selling prices are just
that, anomalies. I’ve sold stuff for less than I thought it was worth and
I’ve had stuff sell for more… and in the average range you learn
where you can make or lose money. Sometimes bidders go nuts –
hard to know why.

Sensible tool buyers don’t pay outlandish prices for common planes -
I reckon a Bailey jointer is worth about $50-80 in usable condition
with no cracks in the casting. Why some buyers pay much more at
some auctions is baffling, but I’ve seen it happen.

A few months ago a went to a seized assets auction and people
were smiling and bidding and it was like they were on drugs… I
know they were mostly reseller pros, but I suspect a lot of
people were getting carried away because there was so much
excitement in the room.

At live auctions I’ve got the best deals, usually, at events with
anemic attendance or apathetic crowds.

View Brett's profile


660 posts in 2677 days

#11 posted 08-08-2011 01:38 AM

“Shill” bidding? Bidding by non-genuine buyers to drive up the price?

-- More tools, fewer machines.

View krisintoronto's profile


8 posts in 2792 days

#12 posted 08-08-2011 06:48 PM

I would say a #7 jointer is worth around $80-100, corrugated a bit more. #8 is worth around $100-150, more if in a great condition.

I think planes in decent condition are not that common and the prices Walter gives in his books are often outdated. Some people will pay extra for a plane in a very clean condition. And jointers in a great condition are not that common anymore…

View MrRon's profile


4764 posts in 3238 days

#13 posted 08-08-2011 08:10 PM

Buying from E-bay can be dangerous. For one thing, you have to bid unseen. You don’t know if the deal is good until you have it in your hands. Some sellers are very savvy. I stay away from E-bay sellers that are there conducting a business. I believe E-bay was set up originally to get individuals together to buy, sell and trade. It has now become a business. I prefer not doing business in this fashion.

View Brett's profile


660 posts in 2677 days

#14 posted 08-08-2011 08:45 PM

I’ve had decent luck on eBay, but I tend to avoid buying a tool unless there are a lot of pictures. I bough an old 60 1/2 low-angle block plane for $20, but when I opened the package, I discovered there was a chip missing from the sole just behind the throat. I went back to the eBay listing and saw that the seller had conveniently forgotten to show a picture of the sole. I learned my lesson, but the plane still works fine, despite the chip, so it turned out okay.

I realize that buying on eBay is a bit of a gamble, but the prices there are typically a whole lot cheaper than those at specialty tool vendors. It’s kind of like buying a warranty on an electronics purchase at a large department store. Sure, you might occasionally be glad you bough the warranty, but over a lifetime, I suspect the cost of the warranties far outweighs the occasional savings one gains when a product fails while still under warranty.

-- More tools, fewer machines.

View Brett's profile


660 posts in 2677 days

#15 posted 08-15-2011 09:38 PM

Now I’m really confused. Last week I tried to sell an old tool on eBay for $5. Nobody bought it. This week I dropped the price down to $4. The current bid is about $14. Go figure.

-- More tools, fewer machines.

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