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How to Identify Antique Tools

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Identification of antique tools can be a fun and interesting endeavor. Overall, antique tools are quite common and plentiful in the collecting market. Most are easily distinguished as being heavy in weight, well made, and may contain manufacturer inscriptions. Many contain fine metal such as brass accents or ornate wood, such as inlays. The process of identifying these tools can be easy provided you have the time to spend sleuthing.

Identification of Antique Tools

Measure your tool and make notes of any manufacturer's marks or inscriptions. Note any key features of the tool such as special or fancy materials used that may also help you identify the tool.

Determine if there is a patent number on your tool. If not, move to Step 3. If so, go directly online and search for the patent number using the United States Patent Office or Google Patent Search. This may clue you in to the company who took out the patent, thereby identifying your tool.

Seach your local library. Pull books that will help you identify your tool including antique tool books, antique and collectible price guides, history or reference material on tool manufacturing, and also woodworking tool books. If your have a manufacturer's name, do a search for the company to see if there was a book made.

If the library has an archival database computer system, you may also wish to search for your tool there.

Conduct a specific online search using the Internet. Search for a short description of your tool to alleviate the mass amount of information that is unnecessary. An example would be "antique wood claw hammer brass handle." Searching by image results only using the same keywords is another method. If these steps fail, search eBay under "Collectibles" section and "Tools" category looking for a similar type item.

Consult an antique tool dealer for help. Search for antique malls in your local phone book. Call and ask if anyone specializes in tools, and would be willing to take a look at your item. You may also want to search online for antique tool collectors, and email them to see if they would be willing to look at your item via digital photographs.

Pay for a professional identification. Many places offer such services, provided you pay a nominal fee and submit clear photographs either online or by mail. You may also search your local phone book for an antique appraiser in the area who may be able to offer an appraisal with identification.

Things You'll Need:

  • Measuring tape
  • Notebook
  • Pen
  • Access to library
  • Access to Internet
  • Phone book


Most antique tools are considered common and should be easy to identify.

Condition is the key factor in determining if your tool has any value. A common tool that is mint in the original box will have a higher value than a rare tool in poor shape.


  • Sometimes antique cobblers hammers and tools are confused with general construction tools, so keep an open mind when trying to identify the type of tool you have.
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