If you've perused my site you'll see a lot of high quality, low cost collectable planes. You have also seen some very collectable high cost planes, some costing more than, well, more than I care to say, maybe to a non collector, even embarrassing. If you're not a collector you probably don't get it. If you are, "You know from whence I come."
When I started this "voyage of the damned" life was good and planes was cheap, relatively speaking. Because, as every collector starting out knows, you usually start low because you don't know how much is too much and generally speaking condition is much less important than building your inventory. Ebay is a help in that you can do some basic cost research before bidding but in order to do that you need an idea as to what you are looking for. The basic Stanley Bailey No 4 or 5 should run you about $40-50 bucks in average condition. Add 10 if it's in good user ready condition and another $10 for corrugations. Now, if it's a type that is in demand, like a type 11 you might get a bidder upping it to maybe $70 or more. A scarce type, like a type 3, (if you ever come across one) is going to be several hundred dollars, maybe more. My point is that as you progress through the different phases of collecting your costs increase markedly. Too, once your initial inventory builds condition plays a more important role in your purchase decisions. In fact, you will likely start replacing poor condition examples, or as many do, just get nicer ones. Then of course shelf space becomes an issue. I've known many collectors who have had to reduce the size of their respective collections because they've had to downsize or just plain ran out of space.
Sometimes collectors too, realize that it's just time to let someone else take care of their charges simply because of age. Now, while this practice has merit, it can also result in a "shrinking life" and I've seen that end up hastening the end of a life that could continue to be much as fulfilling
. I guess some folks don't want to burden their heirs with the responsibility and would rather see the process through for themselves. Now me? I've given specific instructions to my family as to how these precious commodities should be disposed of after I have been. I've maintained a complete inventory of prices and values in a conspicuous location so that at least when the time comes the disposer will have some basis in which to start. I figure that this will allow me to do what I love doing until I can't do it anymore and the family will be able to do the liquidation with some peace of mind.
Recently, I was fortunate enough to find a pre-Stanley, Bailey Boston No 4 smoothing plane, likely the rarest and most expensive plane type in the Bailey line of production planes. I paid a lot for it but still got a good deal. It was the only type I didn't have and just that one plane cost about half of the cost of the rest of my Bailey collection. You think I must be crazy. My wife did. Collectors do strange things and as they get better at their hobby they tend to buy less but at a higher price. If you get into a specialty item, like a No 2 collection just about everything is in that "rarified" place where you need a spacesuit just to breath. The theoretical process is the same: common planes generally are less but special or rare examples can break the bank. I've been fortunate in that I have a lot of collector friends who have been very generous to me with their surplus or duplicates and I've not only been able to get some nice stuff, but some very rare and collectable stuff without having to resort to on-line purchases, including eBay, too heavily. That has kept my prices down for the most part which provides more buying power and more opportunity.
It's at this point that many beginners stop collecting, Interest lags or changes, storage or display space becomes scares as does the finances, or a combination of all of the above. I resolve the last issue by refurbishing and reselling common user grade planes which gives me an opportunity for a different hobby and a relatively steady inflow of seed money. In addition, the difficulty in finding the more collectable and desirable examples also has a psychological effect on the collector in that those pieces just don't show up in the places that have provided a "target rich environment" in the past, like eBay and even when they do, there are likely dozens of others looking for that same one. That creates the compounding issue of "High demand plus limited supply equals high prices" or the old theory of supply and demand.
As a collector the price you pay for an item (as long as you aren't spending the grocery money )is less important than the desire to have that rare commodity that very few others have. I see this hobby as rewarding in that I can take that rare or not so rare Bailey, Standard Rule, Chaplin's or whatever, rent it for a few years and then pass it on to the next generation. That way these beautiful old relics will continue to share their history well into the future. Sometimes the rent is high but I guess if you want to live in the lap of luxury you pay what you can afford, just don't get carried away lest you find that being "plane wise makes you penny short".