In my post from yesterday, Anonymous asked me if I was talking about a specific tool dealer, or giving "just a representative composite of tool sellers".
The short answer…
Anonymous, I was talking about tool dealers in general with no one specific seller in mind.
The long answer…
When I started collecting tools I had a rough idea what to expect as this wasn't my first barbecue. I had collected things in the past so I had a pretty good idea how it was going to go.
At first, you fill up your shelves with all the little odds and sods that, in the vintage tool market, cost less than $100.00. That gets your feet wet and you learn how the market works. It also allows you to sort out the vendors, figuring out who you want to deal with, and more importantly, who you don’t.
Eventually, there aren't anymore of the cheaper bits that you want, so you start to move up the food chain, and there is lots of tools in the $100 to $400 range to keep you busy. Eventually, though, your shelf gets full of all you want from that category, so you move up to the next category, the $400 to $800 group. From my experience, there is a pretty limited selection in this category, especially when your sticking close to Stanley stuff, so it doesn’t take long before you are ready to move into the big category, the over $800 category.
My collection, other than the odd bits and pieces, has now put me in this last category. Here, you have to be ready to pay the big bucks for what you want, like a No.1 or a No.9. This is when your obsession with tools starts to cost you serious money, and when I get to the point of spending serious money, I want to be comfortable with not only what I am buying, but whom I am buying it from.
I blame my old man for this attitude. When I was a kid, my parents owned a corner variety store and I worked in it. There was a royal a-hole who walked into the store every single afternoon and bought a quart of milk and two packages of cigarettes. He did this seven days a week. I didn’t like this guy at all, and one afternoon after he left, my old man came up to me and told me that he never wanted to see me treat a customer that way ever again. I’m not sure what I did, but whatever it was, the old man didn’t like it. I thought my dad was kidding and answered that he knew the customer was a dickhead. His reply to me was, “Ya, he is a dickhead, but he is a dickhead that is helping to pay for the meal you are going to eat tonight. Treat him with appreciation or find yourself another job!”
When I lay out $1100 to $1400 for a Stanley No.9, I want to feel that parting with my hard-earned cash is appreciated, otherwise I’m not even going to bother looking for one.
To give another example of what I am talking about, all the grocery store chains here have automatic checkouts and I use them religiously. The reason for this is because the machine and the live tellers talk to me exactly the same and if I’m going to get automated responses, then it bloody well better be coming from a machine and not a live person whose wages I am helping to pay.
Actually, if I had my druthers, I wouldn’t shop at a place that held this attitude at all, but here we are talking about an entirely different situation. You see, I need to eat. I can’t survive without subsidence, so I live through the negative experience of shopping in a grocery store by doing my own scanning and bagging simply because it is the lesser of the two evils. When it comes to buying that No.9, however, I do have a choice. It is the furthest thing from a necessity of life that I can imagine. In other words, I can’t live without food, but I can live long and hard without a Stanley No.9.
There is one tool dealer that I mainly dealt with and if I go back to buying tools again, he will be who I will buy from again. My reason for saying this is simply because he never screwed me once on any of the tools I bought from him over the years, and I bought a lot of tools from him. That said, he was also one of the biggest offenders for not giving any information with his listings, but the few times I have visited his site lately, I see he has improved on that considerably. The thing is, I zeroed in on him and worked at trying to build a customer/dealer relationship with him, putting my money where my mouth is by spending between $3k and $5k over the years to do it. When I hit the top spending category, though, I had a niggling feeling that I was the only one working for that relationship. I appreciated him, but I’m not so sure he appreciated me. It is a free world out there and he has a right to run his business anyway he deems fit, but I am talking discretionary spending here, with the emphasis on discretionary. I may be the dickhead my old man was talking about, but I too was that dickhead who was helping to pay for that guy’s supper that night, and I didn’t feel like he appreciated it.
If I do get back into collecting and start looking for those few seriously priced pieces I would like to have, I won’t be looking to get kissed for my purchase, but I also won’t be willing to deal with a machine and do my own scanning and bagging either.