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  • 'Collectible' machine tools?

    A topic came up on my own board, about the idea of "collectible" machine tools, and I thought that might make an interesting discussion.

    Basically, are there any?

    I argued that, generally speaking, when something becomes 'collectible', it's value goes up over what it originally sold for. Comic books, cars, paintings, etc. Sometimes it's simple desirability (various Corvettes) sometimes it's extreme rarity (Honus Wagner baseball cards) or being attached to a famous person (Marilyn Monroe's dress.)

    And I can't think of a single machine tool that falls under that definition.

    There's machines that hold value well, like the 10EE or HLV-H, mainly due to quality, and in the case of the EE, good looks, too. But I can't think of a single machine that is, say, valuable as having belonged to somebody famous, valuable as being a rare example, or valuable as being an early serial number.

    Quite the contrary, doesn't somebody here actually own Bridgeport #2? Or am I misremembering?

    I also seem to recall somebody here or over on PM posted a series of photos, a good while back, of a tour of an old factory building- Cincinnatti or Brown & Sharpe, maybe? And found that, even years after it'd closed, they had early models of their machines on display in the front atrium, which were still there. Apparently not worth the effort of even hauling off. (Probably misremembering that one, too. )

    Anything CNC, of course, like a used car loses a big slice of it's value just being rolled off the showroom floor. Some will hold value longer than others, but there's not one I can think of that's worth more, years later, than it sold for.

    As for being owned by a famous person... Can't really think of one, really, let alone one that's more valuable than another just because X person owned it. The machines in Edison's R&D workshops, for example. You pull one of those lathes out of there, and it's no more valuable than another one of similar vintage or condition.

    Are there such things as collectible machines? Can anyone think of an example? (And in this case, yes, I know there are collections of machines, the Tuckahoe museum for one, and I'm sure the Smithsonian has some too, I'm talking about individual machines that are, for whatever reason, more desirable/valuable than others.)

    Doc.
    Doc's Machine. (Probably not what you expect.)

  • #2
    Theres plenty of them, easy to identify by their pristine condition and sparkling exactly original paint.

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    • #3
      https://maineantiquedigest.com/event...rd-228000/3646

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      • #4
        Making intricate turned objects and Guilloché decoration with rose engines was a niche hobby for some wealthy men during the Victorian era. If one of those could be found and its use by an important historical figure confirmed, it might be valuable enough to be collectible.

        Machines used to make Babbage's analytical engine might be sought after, as would machines used by Turing to make the bombe that broke the Enigma cyphers.

        Not machine tools but probably collectible...

        People who actually think politics a respectable pursuit might find woodworking tools used by Jimmy Carter desirable.

        Phineas Gage's tamping rod.

        Then there's the Spear Of Destiny, if one considers weapons a form of tools.​
        Regards, Marv

        Home Shop Freeware - Tools for People Who Build Things
        http://www.myvirtualnetwork.com/mklotz

        Location: LA, CA, USA

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        • #5
          I am one of the seemingly few that fail to comprehend why anybody would pay 7 hundred, much less 7 million for ANY baseball card.
          Assuming one could prove that they had Johansson's first set of blocks, would anyone care very much (more than a few dollars higher value than any other blocks)? Who would there be to 'impress' - a handful of people on sites like this? "I have an original Monet" compared to "I have an original Johansson block".
          Perhaps we are simply just a more pragmatic bunch about such things. Function over hype (and artificially assigned/claimed 'value').
          I might pay a little extra for Marilyn Monroe's lathe or Edison's dress, though.
          Location: North Central Texas

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          • #6
            -That is an excellent example, and near as I can tell, the first such one.

            Makes me curious to know if the buyer bought it to display (it certainly looks the part) or to actually use. (And even then- as a rich guy's hobby, or an actual jeweler making high-dollar product.)

            MKlotz, those are all good examples of potential collectibles, but not actual examples. Part of the question is, if such a machine came on the market, who would buy it? There's a Shelby Cobra out there, once owned by Bill Cosby. It's more valuable than a 'normal' Cobra because of that, and if you put it up for sale, there'd be legions lining up to buy it. On the other hand, if you found an old lathe that could somehow be proven that, say, Nikola Tesla used... who would buy it? Possibly some Tesla museum, possibly Elon Musk, though I have no idea if he has or shows anything actually related to Tesla.

            There's a museum in South Carolina that has a lathe that we have photographic evidence that Wilbur Wright owned and used. If you pulled it out of there and put it up for auction... would anyone buy it?

            Doc.
            Doc's Machine. (Probably not what you expect.)

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Joel View Post
              Assuming one could prove that they had Johansson's first set of blocks, would anyone care very much (more than a few dollars higher value than any other blocks)? Who would there be to 'impress' - a handful of people on sites like this? "I have an original Monet" compared to "I have an original Johansson block".
              -That's kind of my point. There's a fellow over on PM (and probably here, too, on occasion) that collects old tools, like surface gages, micrometers and calipers. His collection is quite impressive, and he has examples going back to the 1700s, one of the first micrometers, etc.

              But none of it is valuable. You'd think an early micrometer, from back in the days when such things were being invented, would be valuable, but as I recall, he bought it for a few hundred bucks.

              As I recall, somebody out there has the very first Warner & Swasey turret lathe, from like, 1888. I can't imagine that'd be worth much, let alone a valuable collectible.

              Doc.
              Doc's Machine. (Probably not what you expect.)

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              • #8

                As you mention, rarity seem to be a big deal. If there were a thousand Honus Wagner cards, obviously they would have little value. If you had the only South Bend heavy 10 or whatever, who would care - except for normal shop utility. And, while it would be kind of neat to have a South Bend serial number 1, I would just assume that later ones would have improvements and be of somewhat greater value to me.

                A 'one-off' painting has the greatest value, a one-off lathe likely has less value than a production piece. With art and the like, it seems a matter of an irrational perception of value. Things are 'worth it' because somebody says so, and another person with money believes them. I find it fascinating that an original painting may be worth 10 million, but a copy so exact that it requires a microscope and extreme expertise to tell that is a fake, has zero value. That is a lot of disparity, especially when the bulk of the claimed value is how pleasing the piece is to the eye.

                Like I said, perhaps those of us who are more functionally aware, are likewise more practical and logical in general about such things?
                IDK, but I too would like to better understand, as humans are quite an irrational lot.​
                Location: North Central Texas

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                • #9
                  I would vote yes there are collectable machine tools and will be even more as time goes by. Remember the classic cars of today were basically worthless in the early 70's. Same with British motorcycles, couldn't give them away now collectable. You can point to many machines that this has happened to. In 50 years an old Monarch 10EE will be going for big dollars, kinda like they are today but for a different reason. Why do some seek out old American iron today, is it because they are really so much better than modern machines or maybe something emotional. I bought my old Monarch for exactly that, an emotional desire. Doesn't that mostly drive what becomes collectable? Just give it time and humans can make anything 'collectable'.

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                  • #10
                    Jeweler's lathes are considered 'collectable' as opposed to 'functional tools' in some markets.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Joel View Post
                      If there were a thousand Honus Wagner cards, obviously they would have little value. If you had the only South Bend heavy 10 or whatever, who would care - except for normal shop utility.
                      -Yep. I have a Springfield 16x56 lathe. Springfield is a fairly rare brand- I've had and have been working on mine since '13, and I have never seen one parted out, only seen parts up for sale very rarely (and usually just a steady rest), and the number of other people I've seen with similar size machines, I can count on the fingers of one hand.

                      If you're talking about Ferraris, such rarity adds to the value. If you're talking about machine tools, it subtracts. One of the things that makes the 10EE so popular is that Monarch made many tens of thousands of them. You can get them ranging from worn out clunkers to clean, relatively recent examples. Parts are comparatively easy to come by, the manufacturer is, after a fashion, still in business, documentation and diagrams are easy to find, etc.

                      A machine tool proves to be a low production and uncommon... well, nobody wants it. Or at least, somebody'll take it just because they need a machine, but it's generally worth less than a more common one.

                      I find it fascinating that an original painting may be worth 10 million, but a copy so exact that it requires a microscope and extreme expertise to tell that is a fake, has zero value.
                      -Occasionally even that works. As I recall, there used to be a fellow back in... maybe Victorian England? That counterfeited stamps. The counterfeits were so good, and the fellow so prodigious and eventually famous, that they, too, have become collectible.

                      There was also the story of the counterfeit painting that hung in some famous museum for decades, before the original resurfaced. (Looted during WW2 as I recall.) The counterfeit itself gained some value simply from that story behind it.

                      Like I said, perhaps those of us who are more functionally aware, are likewise more practical and logical in general about such things?
                      -Well, there's definitely an "art over utility" aspect to it. Collectible cars are generally always essentially works of art. Ferraris, Plymouth Superbirds, Corvettes, the old Gullwing Mercedes, and so on. Paintings are of course art in and of themselves, and have risen to the point of being status symbols. "Oh yes Reginald, I own an original Rembrandt!"

                      Machine tools are utilitarian. They're tools. Most people consider them two steps above a shovel or a rake. You use it, you stick it back in the garage when you're done. Nobody has one on display under a spotlight. Hell, a desktop computer from the late seventies is more valuable as a collector's piece than a lathe from 1910.

                      Doc.
                      Doc's Machine. (Probably not what you expect.)

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by vectorwarbirds View Post
                        I would vote yes there are collectable machine tools and will be even more as time goes by. Remember the classic cars of today were basically worthless in the early 70's.
                        -Possible, but I still disagree. That's because we already have hundred-year-old machine tools. I had a shaper that was probably 115 years old when I sold it (for considerably less than I had in it) I have a drill press that's probably 110 years old that I'm not sure I could give away, and the Springfield I mentioned up above, is almost eighty years old, and in near 100% functional condition, and is worth less in today's dollars than it was when it was new. (About $5K new in '43 dollars, and I bet I'd have a hard time getting $3K out of it today.)

                        And even in the seventies, there were 50's and 60's cars that were getting more valuable- the early Corvettes, again, as well as things like the Ford Thunderbolt, etc.

                        Things like the 10EE, Southbends and others might well hold their value- that is, somebody might always be willing to throw a few thousand at a working EE, or a quick $1500 at a good SB9- but my point is, you'll never see a $100K used 10EE, or a $50K Heavy 10. My 11" Logan will never sell for $20K, etc. (Well, assuming we don't pull a Weimar Germany thing and suddenly a loaf of bread costs a quarter of a million dollars. )

                        Doc.
                        Doc's Machine. (Probably not what you expect.)

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Doc Nickel View Post
                          A topic came up on my own board, about the idea of "collectible" machine tools, and I thought that might make an interesting discussion.

                          Basically, are there any?

                          Doc.
                          It is subjective. I collect machine tools. I have some pretty massive collections. For obvious reasons I don't post here, any pics or stories about what I have collected. Folks here just wouldn't understand, I get it. JR

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                          • #14
                            I can only speak for my perception of value for such things, and we need people to discuss why they paid a lot for the first micrometer or whatnot - but those seem to be rather few and far between!

                            It seems reasonable to speculate that people who acquired millions by building a machine tool empire (or similar) have far less money in collectibles than one who made their fortune in something like investment banking. Machinists tend to be less concerned with impressing people, where as those in 'high society' often make it a dominant part of their lifestyle. We are mostly 'get 'er done' personalities, and many others are 'look at all my expensive stuff'.​

                            I imagine that is one reason people frequently don't share their amazing machining projects more often, even when they take a lot of pride in them. We feel little need to impress, and we are already among a group of like-minded people who understand and appreciate the skill set, and who are already impressed by our collective capabilities.
                            Heck, if someone simply tells me that they own a metal lathe, I am already impressed. Pretty much never happens though (so their rarity raises their value)!

                            "Collectible cars are generally always essentially works of art"
                            When I see a custom car I really like, right off I want to know if they built it. If not, I see little to be impressed about. OK, so you wrote a check, wow, what amazing vehicular skill (still like the car though). Usually these people can't even answer basic questions about the car, nor drive it anywhere near its capability (which to me IS the main purpose). It is just a piece of art to look at, and to try and perhaps make others feel that you are cool. IDK.
                            If they built a nice car to their specific requirements and desires, or that just hauls ass, that's cool. If they built the suspension and engine, cooler still, if they designed the suspension and made unique mods to the engine, did the machine work, painted it themselves and so on, color me very impressed. I admire skill and innovation, not 'stuff'.

                            "shovel or a rake. You use it, you stick it back in the garage"
                            There are two-man saws and similar hung over many a mantle, and now that I think about it, old planes have quite the following. Some are stupid expensive.​
                            Location: North Central Texas

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                            • #15
                              JRouche - you are definitely a collector. You have posted many pictures of drawers and drawers full of inserts and a hundred more things you have in very large quantity. More than a large shop could use in a lifetime. I do admit to not 'getting' it. Your restored machine tools and cars - that I do understand and find interesting.
                              Location: North Central Texas

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