Although wrenches didn’t change much over the last few centuries, something is overjoying in handling antique tools that your elders used to fix and tinker around things. Vintage or antique wrench sounds much more attractive when explaining to your friends and flaunting your old rusty tools in the garage. And, who doesn’t want to flaunt them? They are neither easy to identify nor evaluate when it comes to collecting antique analog tools.
First, it’s important to understand the difference between the terms vintage and antique tools. Vintage tools were used throughout the last 30, 50, or 60 years. However, antique wrenches are older than 100. Needless to say, that doesn’t matter much as we’re reviewing a tool that didn’t change much, although some specialized types of wrenches saw some changes over the past few decades.
Collecting antique analog tools may not be everyone’s cup of tea. However, those that were used quite well, well preserved, and didn’t rust too much can be sold for several hundreds of dollars. If you’re a mechanic worker and you like to collect antique tools, some valuable wrenches are quite a score.
However, given that there are many wrench types, models, and brands around the world, as well as people who were making handmade wrenches ever since they started existing, identifying them can be quite difficult. Many collectors care about specifics like the brand and year of manufacturing, so valuing wrenches that you can’t identify can be even harder.
We put all these factors on paper when deciding to write this compelling guide. We wanted to help collectors identify wrenches and other analog tools in a straightforward way that won’t consume much of their time and can make them feel fulfilled and accomplished once they do.
This guide also provides a guide to evaluating your vintage and antique tools both on your own and professionally. Lastly, you can take a look at good places to buy antique analog tools such as wrenches and add them to your collection. Continue reading!
Brief History About Wrenches
Some collectors may not see the wrench as a significant analog tool. However, it is a very significant asset to the development of the modern world, especially during the industrial revolutions. The world got introduced to various tools, machines, and apparatus, but didn’t have the tools that will help put them together.
With all the tools that were meant to be putting things apart, the first wrenches kept machines much bigger than humans together and working properly. Wrenches were made for different purposes, from making manufacturing machines to, specially-shaped wrenches that’d be used to fix tractors and other vehicles like train wagons and locomotives.
The first patents were introduced during the 19th century, particularly at the beginning of it. Although it’s not exactly clear who made the first wrench, history books attribute them to Solyman Merrick’s patent from 1834. Nevertheless, that patent adds up to the patent of another tool made by Henry King in 1832.
The first screw-and-adjust wrench patent, the most similar to today’s general wrenches was granted for manufacturing in 1835. Further patents just make a more modernized, or specialized type of a wrench that was being used in particular cases. Those mostly came in the middle of the 19th century.
Monkey wrenches were developed later in the 19th century by the brothers Loring and Aury Gates Coes.
Antique Wrench Identification
Let’s take a look at the wrench you just found, but although you see that it’s old, and likely not anywhere near today’s time you are unsure about how to identify it properly. Don’t worry, although identifying wrenches can sometimes seem like a guesswork, if you’re working with patented and manufactured wrenches with a brand name, you don’t have to worry too much.
Basically, all branded and manufactured wrenches come with some kind of marking on their body. They are either made by a forging company or a foundry so they should possess the initial or the full name of the logo that made them. Some more recent wrenches could even have a logo forged onto them.
What’s the best sign to look for is the serial ID or identification number that is engraved into the wrench. If you can flip your wrench and read that, you can go to some online product catalog or an old workshop specializing in antique tools and see if it fits with any of the wrenches made at that time.
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Some smaller companies didn’t have identification numbers for their wrenches and other analog tools, so they used some other trademarks that are part of some bigger and more famous companies that were distributing those wrenches at the time.
If you identify the trademark, you should still visit an antique store, a workshop, or consult online catalogs that can shed more light on the origin of your vintage or antique wrench. Some smaller companies also replicated many famous wrenches.
They’d look identical but they possessed some features that were about quality and how they feel to use. That being said, more original and older antique wrenches also came with some kind of a handle or lever that could be utilized for more comfort.
Those handles would either be out of wood or some other material. These materials are also important for evaluation because wrenches with a handle hint that the wrench came from a limited edition and is more valuable.
If the wrench doesn’t have any trademark signs on it, you should estimate it by taking a look at the signs of wear and tear, as well as sturdiness. You should be able to determine the purpose of the wrench being used at the time, and whether they had a straight shaft or some other kind of design that would make it reach easier into some smaller areas of machines or locomotives.
Another thing that is worth considering when it comes to identifying antique wrenches is whether it was an adjustable or one wrench handle. For example, older ones weren’t adjustable but had only one purpose instead.
There are also transition wrenches, which were neither one wrench nor an adjustable option. For example, some had multiple wrench heads that could be put on one handle or wooden handles which are attributed to the adjustable wrenches.
Known Companies That Made Antique Wrenches
If you are struggling with identifying and evaluating the antique wrench you found online or at your home or old workshop, perhaps knowing what companies were making wrenches at the time of their introduction will help you know about them.
Nowadays, there are dozens of different types of wrenches, as well as their uses. Back in the day, there weren’t as many, which is why we focused on the brands instead of focusing on the types in particular. Let’s dig in!
- Craftsman: This is among the most famous antique tool brands on the market. It was established in 1927 and didn’t immediately specialize in wrenches. Thanks to their tools, it’s much easier today to maintain your garden machine tools, as well as lawn mowers. They excelled at making wrenches that are durable and are quite valuable today.
- John Deere: Besides wrenches, John Deere is famed to make powerful tools for gardening and agriculture maintenance. The company was established in 1837 and is famed for making good quality wrenches that today have great value. They were also making heavy machinery, which is why they also included wrenches in their manufacturing process. Some antique wrenches with this brand name can sell for tens of thousands of dollars.
- Keen Kutter: Keen Kutter was making wrenches that we refer to as antique today. However, you might not always find this company etched on their tools, as they are a trade that is a part of Simmons hardware company that made other tools for machinery, including wrenches.
- The Hazet Tool Kit: When it comes to Europe-based companies, this German company provided a great value for heavy machinery tools such as wrenches. Their wrenches are common but not as valuable as the John Deere wrenches. Some rare finds are worth $150-$200 if you’re lucky.
- SK Wayne: This company is especially known for making tools for fixing cars and keeping them together. They patented the round-headed ratchet, as well as the fine-tooth ratchet. It was a revolutionary patent for motorcycles and sped up their repairs. All their tools are quite portable as well as convenient to use including wrenches of different types.
- Snap-On: This company excelled at delivering simple and convenient designs for their wrenches. However, they were interchangeable in sense of sockets. Now they’re making drive tools and their designs are easily distinguishable from others through snap-on marks that can be found on the shaft.
Valuing Antique Wrench
After being able to successfully identify the antique and vintage wrenches that were put up in front of your challenge, one would think that valuing them will be a piece of cake. Unfortunately, it’s not always that way, as workshop workers and others alike tended to replicate these wrenches which would deviate from the original quality but also deceive collectors into thinking they are authentic.
That’s why the following tips can help you value antique wrenches better, without being deceived. Also, if you’ll struggle with identifying on your own, you can always hire an appraiser, which we will also detail in the paragraphs below.
Valuing Antique Wrench On Your Own
Valuing wrenches on your own, as well as other antique tools, can appear like a hard thing to do, but with a little research, patience, and attention to detail, anyone can do it. There are several things to look after when valuing an antique wrench, but one of the most important things is the brand and the patent number.
Brands play important role in valuing antique wrenches, you may have noticed how some of the tools sold higher than the others because they belonged to a certain brand. If you see the seal or watermark of a certain brand engraved into the metallic build of the shaft, it’s likely more worthy.
Of course, the age of the wrench also matters, but if you were able to identify the wrench before, you’ll also be able to know the age too. Generally speaking, older wrenches are similar to the original patents that were released back in the 19th century. That being said, older often means better as long as they’re well preserved and ultimately functional.
While we’re talking about the patents, you’ll have a much better chance to get a good value out of your antique wrench if there’s a patent number engraved into the shaft. Look for the patent number to skyrocket the value of your wrench.
What also can add to the value of the antique wrench is the visibility of the cutouts across the shaft and the heads of the wrench you’ve found. The more cutouts it has, the more it’s worthy because it’s a clear indicator of wear and tear throughout the ages of use. Collectors will see that it’s seen a lot of machinery and repairs and will become more interested in giving you more money on the price.
As mentioned above, cutouts on the shaft and body of the wrench say a lot about its value, but so does its whole sturdy, durable yet crude appearance. Before the heavy machinery that runs today’s tool factories, most wrenches were made manually, by hand. Whatmore, it wasn’t just the companies and factories making those, it was also the independent mechanics and workshop workers who made them.
Being made by hand made a lot of wrenches look crude and uneven on some parts, which can indicate that it’s an old wrench. For some people, that will also mean more value. Lastly, you should look at the general design of the wrench as well as the design of the shaft.
Regular wrenches boast a straight shaft, which was widely used in the beginning but not so much seeing that some places that needed tightening were hard to reach and inconvenient.
As the shaft and overall shape and size change, it is indicative that the wrench was used for other things other than just repairs. The more specialized it is the more value it will have, especially if you can tell what it was precisely used for.
If you are struggling with some aspects of valuing the antique wrench, there are different websites and forums that you can visit to address the problem before you consult the appraiser or a local antique shop worker. Check out these forums and websites.
Having Your Antique Wrench Valued
Unfortunately, evaluating on your own is not always the most reliable option. If the wrench you discovered is particularly old, perhaps broken, or brittle, you will rather want to have it evaluated professionally, rather than explore it on your own and take internet opinions for granted.
With so many different wrench designs being available in the world, it can be impossible to have your antique wrench valued that easily. There’s always a human factor where due to some lighting options on your uploaded picture can distort their decision-making and give you the wrong value, not to mention the trolls.
There are two things to do, either connect with a local antique worker shop where they specialize in identifying and valuing different tools as well as other collectives or get connected to car mechanics or workshop workers who specialize in recognition of different tools that are available from the old times.
Some of them will be willing to do an evaluation for cheap or a small percentage if you decide to sell the antique wrench at theirs. However, for any serious and authentic wrench the evaluation service will cost, so make sure to be prepared, especially if you’ll travel to some other town or state for evaluation service.
Where to Buy Antique Wrench?
There are different websites where you can purchase an antique wrench or a vintage wrench with a special story attached to it. While there are many small and independent online stores which you can consider, large marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay and Etsy remain the most popular ones. Below we’ll display our experiences with these stores.
Amazon – Small Choice of Vintage Wrenches
- Price range: $9-$40
Amazon is one online shop that can have everything at its disposal. Unfortunately, antique wrenches aren’t one of those things that fit into everything. You can, however, settle for vintage wrenches with a sturdy and robust design. Some of them have a specialized purpose, while the other ones are generic. There is a collection of very small sets to larger ones that are available for up to $40. They are made out of steel alloys, while some of them have a crude appearance indicative of their age.
Editor’s notes: Amazon is definitely not the best place to look for vintage and antique wrenches. Still, it’s a good starting point you can occasionally check for new finds, as antique stores are often present in this marketplace.
eBay – Large Collection of Vintage & Antique Wrenches
- Price range: $9.99-$500
With eBay, the story is a bit different, there is a great variety of vintage and antique wrenches that were pre-owned and collected. Some smaller options with a straight shaft and handle are cheaper than the others. However, those larger ones, with crescent design, and other distinguishing features can be found at a pricier tag.
It’s worth noting that most of the most valuable vintage wrenches can be found for $50 to $100. However, antique and authentic patented wrenches are also available for a much higher price tag, up to $500. Many sellers are down for bargain and negotiation, so you should try your luck out!
Editor’s notes: There are no particular complaints that we can make about the eBay collections. However, on some models, serial numbers and marks of the company that manufactured the wrench should be more visible.
Etsy – Selection of Wrench Collections
- Price range: $10-$200
Etsy offers different designs at an affordable price. There are double-ended wrenches, crescent wrenches, and much more. Some of them come in different shapes and are hence put in various collections that are sold separately and together. Some of them are pretty rusty and have visible signs of wear and tear.
For some other ones, although the price is high, it seems that the sellers weren’t successful at identifying the wrench serial number and value, so you’ll have to be super careful when purchasing so you don’t end up with a fake and brittle wrench.
Editor’s notes: Some wrenches are visibly old but not completely identified so it’s something you’ll have to do on your end, which means a long process before you’re able to buy them.
Vintage Tool Shops
Price range: $15-$50
This is the UK-based online store that contains a variety of different tools, starting from screwdrivers, automobile tools, tools made out of wood, saws, and much further. They also host a rich offer of wrenches on the market. Some of them are so old that they look a bit torn and rusty.
It’s worth noting that some of the products on the website are collections of different tools and objects that can also include wrenches of different shapes and designs, as well as age. That being said, if you are hunting for some other products in the process going after a toolbox seems like a good choice to make.
Most of the tools are relatively inexpensive, but there’s sure a place for a bargain just like with most of the other tools.
Editor’s notes: It’s not a convenient store to use by people who don’t live or work in the UK as shipping prices would probably be too high.