What's in a Name?
Since my investment in No. 2 planes began a couple years ago I've learned a number of things among which is the fact that they vary greatly in cost. Now, it's not just based on condition, although that does have some effect, or age, as we all know, just because it's old doesn't make it valuable. The maker of the plane itself is certainly a factor. A Birmingham 98 or 99 plane is much more scarce than a Fulton and commands more than 10 times the price. A Chaplin's No. 2, perhaps one of the most scarce and highly sought after, can cost up to the low 5 figures. However, I'm not talking about those in this reference. I'm talking about the difference between a Stanley, Sargent, Ohio or Millers Falls made standard clone that they provided to contract buyers or large hardware companies . You know, reddish stained hardwood tote and knob, twisted lateral, etc. Sargent and Ohio did the same thing as did Millers Falls in the 30s, 40s and 50s. Though the planes themselves may be identical, the difference in price is based on the value of the stamped trademark atop the iron.
A typical average run of the mill Stanley No. 2 will generally run you about $150-$225 depending on the condition, of course. Change the iron to a Bridge tool or Bristol and the price may increase as much as 25-50 percent. At least that's been my experience. Other stamps will run more or less in varying degrees of rarity and desirability. Conversely, slap a made for Sears "Fulton" cutter on a $200 Sargent and the price might drop that amount, even more on a Millers Falls made Fulton vs a nice MF No. 7 size which for some reason seems to be much more scarce and way more desirable, (expensive).
Stanley made Siegley SSS and STS No 2 size planes are an interesting study in that the SSS is indeed a Stanley clone in all respects as previously stated. The STS on the other hand was manufactured to accept a thicker, tapered iron which required enlarging the mouth a bit. It's a much rarer type and the price will, of course reflect that difference, as much at double over the SSS or Stanley No 2. The difference does not appear as profound with the larger size bench planes but their rarity isn't as significant as the No 2 size either.
Someone just starting out collecting anything usually doesn't go too crazy...at first. My very first No. 2 size plane was of course a Stanley Bailey type 12 SW that I paid $200 for at a local antique mall. (No 2 prices were much stronger then). Bought a couple Fultons (Sargent, Millers Falls) as they were affordable, Sargent 407s, paying in the same range. The first time I experienced sticker shock, or in this case "trademark" shock, was on an Eclipse No 2 made by Stanley. It was a standard Stanley clone with the twisted lateral and hardwood tote and knob, nothing special except the iron, which set me back an additional $75. The more I searched for these off brand names, the more I came to realize that it was not only going to be a difficult search, it would be an expensive proposition. Luckily, I had several friends in the business already who took pity on this poor "piker" and gave me some
The Orr and Lockett plane you'll see in my collection is a standard "B" casting type 8 Bailey "Q" trademark cutter with no modifications except one, the lever cap which cost more than a nicely preserved Stanley No 2 type 8 plane by itself. I learned that Orr & Lockett (mainly a distributor of tools to "industrial" institutions) bought their planes from Stanley and replaced the plain Stanley lever caps with those bearing their own logo. These lever caps also appeared on the Bedrock planes of the same era.
An interesting fact to note as well is that the paradigm works in the opposite direction as well. Take for example the plight of the Keen Kutter. Any K- plane produced by Stanley in the 1920s for Simmons Hardware (not so much in the No 2 size) is based largely on the Early, type 4 Bedrock (round sided). Identical in all physical and performance aspects with the exception of a twisted lateral lever and plain lever cap (as with Orr & Lockett). The typical Keen Kutter bench plane sells for about 60 percent of its Bedrock counterpart...for the same plane. Quite a bargain for those of you users looking for a Bedrock standard in performance. Winchester planes, also based on the Bedrock type 4, carry a little more value it seems, than the K planes, but still less than the Bedrock itself. Now that's what's in a name.
To most of us in the USA names don't mean a lot other than some have good reputations, maybe some have bad reputations. Politicians rely on "name recognition" as a factor in voting. You know, "I don't care what you say about me as long as you spell my name correctly". (Clinton, Trump, Obama, Bush) Names synonymous with a product, (Budweiser) or business (Microsoft) used for advertising always improve the product's salability, so long as it has a positive reputation. (Anyone over 60 remember the Corvair?) Like most collectables, it's not quality, reputation, or even name recognition that make something expensive. Sometimes it's just what people want.