18th-Century Austrian Tools

Value (2005) | $3,000 Insurance$4,000 Insurance

GUEST:
They were actually collected by my father. He was an architect, and he would buy things that were interesting and mount them on the wall. He really didn't look at the value. He just liked the shapes, the designs.

APPRAISER:
Do you have any idea what your dad paid for them?

GUEST:
Oh, less than a hundred dollars apiece, I'm sure.

APPRAISER:
How long ago was that?

GUEST:
1960s.

APPRAISER:
This is a joiner plane, and these two axes are what's called hewing axes, which were for squaring round logs into square timbers for timber frame construction. Strictly utilitarian things, and yet they're works of art. These three tools are all Austrian, although decorating and carving tools was popular all over continental Europe. The English (and mainly in the United States) tools were not decorated in this way. It was more subtle decoration. You notice on this plane, not only have they done chip carving, but they've actually dated it 1799...

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
"A.K." would have been the initials of the owner. This plane was more than likely made by the owner. I'm sure that the work he did with it was fine work, because anyone who cared that much about his tools cared about his work.

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
These axes-- they're both decorated. There's a lot of speculation on the meaning of this decoration. For example, the first decoration here, the three symbols-- it's often speculated that that is an allusion to the Holy Trinity. A Christian cross here, another Holy Trinity and then a Tree of Life. I wouldn't want to say that that's necessarily accurate, but it's certainly been speculated by collectors that those are the meanings in that symbolism. The shape of this ax-- there's an ogee shape, and that's the same kind of an ogee that we'd use in an architectural molding. This ax, while also a decorated hewing ax, is not nearly so appealing. The form... you notice that here it's more of a straight line rather than the fine curve here. There isn't an elegant molding there. The surface is pitted and rusted. This ax has an absolutely wonderful surface. This is a surface that a collector will die for. It's a fine patination. This ax was always stored under ideal conditions. In terms of valuation, this plane, we'd be looking in the United States at a market value $300 to $500. But actually in Europe, I've found the market quite a bit stronger. And I would expect in Europe, this plane would bring more $800 to $900.

GUEST:
Okay, that's great.

APPRAISER:
And this ax, which is the lesser example of the two, would sell $300 to $500, would be an auction estimate on it. This ax, however, is right there at the top of decorated axes, and I think that an auction estimate would probably be $1,500 to $2,000, and I'd expect it to retail $2,000 to $3,000.

GUEST:
That's terrific.

APPRAISER:
An insurance replacement value on them as a group would be more $3,000 to $4,000.

GUEST:
Well, that's terrific.

APPRAISER:
Yeah, that's a fantastic ax.

GUEST:
It's not going anywhere. I'm keeping it in the family.

APPRAISER:
I'm glad to hear that.

GUEST:
I won't use it.

APPRAISER:
Yes, and don't use it. (chuckling)

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
The Best Things
Herndon, VA
Appraised value (2005)
$3,000 Insurance$4,000 Insurance
Event
Tampa, FL (June 25, 2005)
Period
18th Century
Form
Plane

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