Antique wrenches are unusual and highly collectible among tool enthusiasts and those interested in artifacts which chart vital stages of human history. Rare and unique wrenches can provide insights into the development of early engineering and manufacturing practices, as well as the evolution of tools and machinery over the centuries.

While an antique wrench may not fetch a high price at auction, there are some key models to look out for which will differ in value depending on the maker, type of wrench, condition, and provenance. You can expect tens to hundreds of dollars, but full sets of rare wrenches in top condition can fetch over $1,000!

Today, we will explore the world of rare antique wrenches. We will only focus on antique rather than vintage examples – that is those which were made more than 100 years ago. Let’s take a closer look at how to identify antique wrenches, different types of wrenches, 10 of the rarest wrenches to look out for, auction records, and top tips for buying and selling antique tools.

How To Identify Antique Wrenches

Rare antique wrenches

Here is a short guide to help you identify rare antique wrenches and the maker’s marks to look out for. Bear in mind that all of these factors will affect the value of an antique wrench. As a general rule, the more specialised the wrench, the rarer and hence more valuable it will be.

1. Research your antique wrench

Before you start identifying antique wrenches, it’s essential to learn about their history. Familiarize yourself with the various types of wrenches, their uses, and the different makers who produced them. If you have a wrench and you want to identify it, try searching for similar wrenches by uploading an image and using Google Lens, or by typing in the measurements and any marks you find on the wrench.

2. Inspect the wrench for maker’s marks

Look for any markings on the wrench that could indicate the maker or manufacturer. These marks can be found on the handle, jaws, or frame of the wrench.

Once you find a maker’s mark, research it to determine who made the wrench. Some common maker’s marks include “J.H. Williams & Co.,” “Coes Wrench Co.,” “Bemis & Call,” and “L. Coes & Co.”. You may find letters or symbols rather than words. Look these up to try and find out the origin of the wrench.

3. Note unusual or rare features

Rare antique wrenches often have unique or unusual features that make them stand out. These features can include unusual shapes, unusual sizes, or unique finishes. This is usually an indication of what the tools were used for. For example, spud wrenches have one pointed end which is specifically designed to aid ironworkers in aligning holes drilled in steel before securing them with a bolt and wrench.

4. Consider the condition

The condition of the wrench can also affect its rarity and value. Look for any signs of wear or damage, and examine the wrench for repair or restoration. Wrenches in mint condition are the most valuable. However, signs of wear and tear are also an indication of age which may help you to determine whether the wrench is antique or vintage. Areas of rust are common, as are chips and scratches obtained through use.

Common Types Of Antique Wrenches

Rare antique wrenches - Common Types Of Antique Wrenches

Antique wrenches come in many different shapes and sizes, each with its own unique purpose and design. Some of the most common types of antique wrenches include:

  • Adjustable Wrenches – these feature a sliding jaw that can be adjusted to fit different sized nuts and bolts. Some of the earliest examples of adjustable wrenches date back to the 1800s.
  • Monkey Wrenches – these feature a straight handle and a fixed jaw, with an adjustable jaw that pivots on a pin. Monkey wrenches were commonly used for plumbing and gas fitting. They were especially popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
  • Stillson Wrenches – similar to monkey wrenches, Stillson wrenches feature a pivoting jaw that adjusts to fit different sized nuts and bolts. Their unique self-locking mechanism that allows the jaws to stay in place once adjusted can be a helpful ID feature.
  • Pipe Wrenches – these wrenches were designed specifically for working with pipes. They have serrated jaws that grip the pipe firmly, and a long handle for added leverage.
  • Combination Wrenches – these have two different sizes of jaws on either end, allowing them to be used for different sizes of nuts and bolts.
  • Screw Wrenches – this kind of wrench has a screw-like mechanism that tightens and loosens the jaws. They were commonly used for working with small nuts and bolts and were popular in the late 1800s.

10 Rare Antique Wrenches To Look Out For

There are many rare antique wrenches, and the value of a wrench depend on several factors, including its age, maker, condition, and uniqueness. Here are 10 examples of the rarest antique wrenches to keep your eyes peeled for:

1. Billings & Spencer Co. Compound Lever Nut Wrench

This rare wrench, patented in 1903, has a unique compound lever design that makes it highly sought after. Notable wrenches with patents are often rare and valuable.

2. Bemis & Call Monkey Wrench

This monkey wrench, patented in 1877, features an unusual swivel head design that allows the wrench to be used at various angles. Rare designs like swivel heads made before 1900 also hold a high value when in good condition.

Rare antique wrenches - Bemis & Call Monkey Wrench

3. H.D. Smith Perfect Handle Adjustable Wrench

This wrench has a unique “perfect handle” design that makes it comfortable to use and highly collectible. It was patented in 1890.

4. Coes Double Ended Screw Wrench

The unique double-ended design allows this rare model to be used on both large and small screws. This wrench was patented in 1858, the oldest on our list today! Age often equals higher value in the world of tools, as long as the wrench can be positively identified and is in good condition.

5. Fray Handled Nut Wrench

Another wrench acclaimed for its comfortable and distinctive curved handle, this nut wrench was patented in 1903 and is highly collectible.

6. Johnson Pipe Wrench

The most notable feature of this pipe wrench which makes it rare and collectible is the unique chain design. It was patented in 1877. Unusual additions like chains raise the value of antique wrenches.

7. Stillson Pipe Wrench

Another pipe wrench patented a little earlier 1869. This model features a unique self-adjusting jaw design that adds to its collectability.

Rare antique wrenches - Stillson Pipe Wrench

8. L. Coes & Co. Compound Lever Monkey Wrench

Wrenches made by renowned tool manufacturers like L. Coes & Co. can reach a high price at auction. This rare wrench, patented in 1876, features a unique and fancy compound lever design.

Rare antique wrenches - L. Coes & Co. Compound Lever Monkey Wrench

9. J.H. Williams & Co. Bull Dog Wrench

The distinctive “bull dog” design of this rare wrench that makes it another highly collectible model. It was patented in 1898.

10. Whitman & Barnes Combination Wrench

Multi-purpose designs, such as this wrench that allows use on both square and hexagonal nuts and bolts, make rare combination wrenches highly collectible. This model was patented in 1895.

Rare Antique Wrenches: Auction Records Chart

As a general rule, the older, more unique, and closer to mint condition an antique wrench is, the higher its value today. Complete sets of wrenches are also desirable, as are those with handles made from expensive materials or contained in a custom kit box.

Here, we’ve gathered some of the most impressive auction records for rare antique (and sometimes vintage) wrenches from recent times. If you own an antique wrench, this could help you to determine whether you have a rare and collectible model, and how much you might be able to sell it for. Alternatively, if you want to form a collection of rare antique tools this list should help you get used to what to look out for and the prices you can expect to pay.

Item/s Auction Record & Links
Craftsman BE Amber Handle Ratchet Breaker Bar Socket Set $1,650 in March 2023!
14 John Deere SAE Wrench Set, Running Deer Logo USA $950 in February 2023!
1920s Snap On Socket Wrench Heavy Duty Set $950 in March 2023!
Single Craftsman 1930’s Ratchet $899 in February 2023!
Green Patterned Jaguar MK2 Tool Kit Spanners, Daimler Car $555.55 in February 2023!
Rolls Royce 20 /25 and 25/30HP  Wheel Hub Spanner Approximately $520 in March 2023!
Craftsman Ratchet Rare BE 3/8” Drive $510 in March 2023!
1933 Snap-on F-70 Ferret Ratchet $499.95 in February 2023!
TRW Set of (22) 3/4″ Drive Socket / Ratchet / Breaker Bar Set $349.99 in January 2023!
25pc Craftsman 6-32mm Metric Combination Wrench Set $349.99 in March 2023!
JH Williams Superrench 21 Piece SAE Combination Wrench Set $299 in February 2023!

Antique Tool Buying And Selling Guide

Rare antique wrenches - Antique Tool Buying And Selling Guide

Are you interested in forming an antique tool collection? Or perhaps you have inherited or stumbled across a great set of antique tools and would like to sell them?

Buying and selling antique tools can be a rewarding and profitable hobby. However, it is important to approach the market with a degree of caution, as there are many factors that can impact the value and authenticity of old tools. Here are some top tips to keep in mind when buying and selling antique tools.

Buying Antique Tools

Form a clear idea of what you’re looking for. It’s important to have a good understanding of the exact types of tools you’re interested in before you start shopping. Do some thorough research and learn about the different brands, styles, and materials used. This will help you make informed decisions when purchasing and ensure that you’re getting a good deal.

Check the condition. Antique tools can be fragile and prone to damage over time. Before you make a purchase, carefully inspect the tool for any signs of wear, rust, or other damage if possible. If the tools are being sold online you can request extra images or details about tools you are interested in from the seller. If you’re not sure what to look for, consider consulting with an expert or experienced collector.

Look for authenticity. With the rise of online marketplaces and auction sites, it’s important to be aware of the potential for fake tools or reproductions. Look for signs of authenticity, such as maker’s marks or other identifying features. If you’re unsure, seek out expert opinions or consult with reputable dealers.

Consider your price range. While antique tools can be valuable, it’s important to be realistic about their worth. Do some research on the current market prices for similar items to ensure that you’re not overpaying.

Selling Antique Tools

Determine the correct value. Before you sell an antique tool, you need to know its value. Research the current market prices for similar items, taking into account factors such as condition and rarity. Provenance can also play a part in value, so if you have records proving the origins and use of the tool these may boost the price. Consider consulting with experts or professional appraisers to get an accurate assessment.

Choose the appropriate platform. There are many options for selling antique tools, from online marketplaces to auction houses. Choose the platform that best suits your needs and budget, and be aware of any fees or commissions that may be charged. You can try:

Advertise effectively. When selling antique tools, it’s important to advertise effectively to attract potential buyers. Use high-quality photos and detailed descriptions to showcase the item’s features and condition. Highlight any unique or rare qualities.

Be honest and transparent. It’s important to be honest and transparent about the item’s condition and history. Disclose any damage or repairs, and provide accurate information about the tool’s age and authenticity. This will help build trust with potential buyers and ensure a smooth transaction.

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