Welcome Guest, • Login


Search the wiki


How Much Is My Machine Worth

Modified on 2010/12/16 23:24 by MarkCA1 Categorized as FAQ

How much is my old machine worth?

This thread from the early days of OWWM is an oldie but goodie. Just as today, early on, the OWWM site got lots of "how much is my machine worth" type questions. We decided to have a thread on the subject and post it to the OWWM web site and simply refer askers of the quesiton to the text. For those who have not been around for a long time, you might not recoginize a some of the names but the content of the message is still pretty much right on track. Enjoy...

The question was asked, "how to place a value on an old woodworking machine". What follows is the unvarnished conversations that took place. The comments are here for the buyer and seller to use. While we wish we had the time to devote to every question you have about an old piece of equipment, we don't. We do suggest you subscribe to the OWWM forum where you are free to post questions. We do not guarantee a straight answer though.

Keith Bohn:

The question of machine value comes up pretty regularly. What follows is not an attempt to appraise every machine ever built, though we can with some certainty for some, but instead is meant to offer some guidelines and background on evaluating a machine. Establishing a value for an old machine will require a lot of work on your part. I will also note that my particular focus is on machines you will find in a home shop. Larger industrial machines are a whole nudder kettle of fish, which I will leave to someone more qualified to handle.

What Is This (Insert Machine Name Here) Worth?:

Luckily (for some) we have not gotten to the point where there is a lot of *collector* value associated with most old woodworking machines. We see this with hand tools and as a result you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a price guide or two on the subject. Instead we rely on a whole myriad of formulas, research, Tarot card readings, barometric pressure, witch craft and gut feelings.

Rule No. 1:

My personal hard fast rule is, a machine’s base value is fifty percent of a new for a comparable machine. From here we go up or down based on completeness and condition. As an example: A base line and brand new Unisaw with Biesemeyer fence is worth $1400. Simple math tells us that half of this would be $700. Now we factor in that with the used saw's condition. A saw in horrible condition might be worth $200 to $300 depending on what is missing and what will need to be replaced. A complete saw in horrible condition might be worth $300 to $400. The same saw in good condition might be worth $500 to $600. Will we ever go over the mythical 50% mark? Not in my neighborhood. Here’s why. I'll have to replace the fence. That alone tacks on another $300 putting the saw at around $1000. Too pricey for me. What about the motor and starter? If they are bad you can figure another $300 added to the bottom line. Suddenly the saw we got isn't looking like such a value.

Will someone pay over $1000 for a Unisaw in good condition with an aftermarket fence? Yes, but not me. Will someone pay more than I've stated above for a bad Unisaw? Yes, but it won’t be me.

What Brands Are Good?: There is a saying; "they don't make them like they used to". Sometimes this is followed up with, "and thank God". With old woodworking equipment you can, for the most part, rely on an older machine to be a pretty good buy. There are dogs and to try and list them all would take more time than I have to devote to the subject. A short list of better brands are Delta, Delta/Rockwell?, some Rockwell International, Walker-Turner, Boice-Crane and Atlas. Having said that, there are machines from each line that I wouldn’t give a second glance to if it were offered for free. Again, to list them all... Most people feel safe with Delta because they are still in business. This doesn't mean you can still get parts for all their machines. On the other hand, because Delta is so big and has been in business so long used parts, new in box parts and old stock, never been used parts pop up all the time. Visit the Links page on this Web site for other machines that are still serviced. You can also search the OWWM forum archives to ferret out other brands to watch for.

While on the subject of parts, I don't wholly rely on parts availability when sizing up a machine. A missing dust door for a Unisaw does not hamper it's performance. On the other hand, a missing bandsaw table pretty much signals the end to the party. Parts have to be judged on a case by case basis.

Is There A Fast, Down and Dirty Way To Appraise Machines?: Simple answer, no. Most of us rely on a built in database of good machines and past prices paid for them. There are loads of Web pages where you can find the listings of machinery dealers and current asking prices for their inventory but these prices are typically higher than what would be considered a *good price*. Again, check the Links page for dealer Web pages.

Is An Auction A Good Place To Judge Machinery Value?: Simple answer, no. At most auctions I see machines going for way more or way less than what I'd think they should go for. My friend Dean Gebhardt has the unique distinction of seeing a 24" Crescent planer sell for $280 one month followed by a Delta 10" *Wants To Be A Unisaw* go for $1150 the next month. He is in therapy now as a result.

So, what have we learned from this exercise? Know your machines. Know what’s required to make them complete. Know what other comparable machines sell for. There are no easy answers.

Steve Thomas:

I can't imagine why anyone should be given the time of day on that question if they are not willing to submit it to the group as a whole. 2 basic answers do spring to mind: 1.)"whatever the current price of cast iron is at the scrap yard, minus the cost of haulage unless you deliver. Maybe a slight premium if it has single phase motors" or 2.) "whatever the last one sold for on eBay, +/- based on condition" IOW: if you are unwilling to participate/subject to the group, do your own d@nged basic research, leech.

At the group level, insights will be shared, information gained, and useful data can be added to the database. If the person wants to mooch a value appraisal and only wants it private, personal, one-on-one, refer'em to MDNA and the tender mercies of their professional appraisers. grumble, gripe, stepping down from the soapbox now.

Editorial comment:

For those out there with a *thinner* skin, Steve does make a valid argument. The members of the OWWM are not in it for the glory. Oh yeah, we’d sell ten pints of blood in an afternoon for the chance at a big score, but we are after all true believers.

Don England wondered aloud:

How about a very, very simple form that anyone could fill out that would include machine, maker, model, or description - the usual identification stuff. very brief summation of condition and pertinent facts, i.e. missing parts?, single phase? and the price paid. these could be inserted into an index for reference. But then the more I look at this the more impossible it seems. the variables are enormous, not to mention the subjectivity of assessment. On further thought I say the hell with it and caveat emptor.

OWWM Web Master Keith Rucker:

  1. What is the condition? Great condition does not always make a machine more valuable but poor condition will always make it less valuable.

  1. Where is the machine located? Lets face it, if you live in a larger area, you will have more potential buyers than somebody that lives in the sticks (like me).

  1. What have similar machines sold for? We can tell them to look on the bay for something similar. Remember to only compare to machines in similar condition.

  1. What does a similar *new* machine sell for? Old machinery is usually only worth a fraction of the price of something new. Some people think that their old Unisaw should be worth at least as much, if not more, than a new one. We need to set the record straight on this point. What would you say on this one - somewhere around a third of the price for something in great shape with decreasing price for poorer condition?

  1. Of course we can always use the scrap iron scenario. This should probably be the bottom of the range.

Vince Ancona:

I'll bite. Some ballpark estimates off the top of my head:

  • 4" jointers $50-$150
  • 6" jointers $100-$250
  • 8" bench saws $50-$100
  • 10" bench saws $100-$300
  • 10" Cabinet saws $300-$800
  • 10-12" band saws $50-$150
  • 14-16" band saws $200-$350
  • 9"-10" radial arm saws $75-$200
  • 10"-12" lathes $100-$300

Lower end of range is for equipment in not-so-great shape or off-brands. Higher end is for better condition or more-sought-after manufacturers. Just my opinions based upon what I typically see stuff for here in the Midwest. Your mileage may vary.

I'll leave the big iron to someone else.

John Orvis:

Sounds about right. Qualifiers on motor voltage, documentation, identification, completeness, accessories and shipping costs.

Peter Crowl:

But scarcity (not necessarily rarity) also figures into the equation. For instance, if there has never been a used 20" bandsaw sold in your area in your lifetime, and one becomes available, and it is priced at fully 50 percent of its replacement cost, then you're stuck with the 50 percent, even if there were repairs required. In which case you have to do a *very* thorough job of evaluating your potential "prize".

I did my due diligence (I got a Delta operation manual and a parts list, and did an exhaustive evaluation of the subject machine) and I thought 50 percent was reasonable, given the machine's condition and the machine's scarcity (perhaps a hundred Delta 14" saws have passed my way, but not one 20", this being over a more than two decade timeframe). In my case, the cost of repairs was $49 in proprietary parts from Delta, plus $29 for a replacement Square-D horsepower-rated motor starting switch, plus several bucks for miscellaneous generic hardware and fasteners. So, say $100, maximum, above one-half of the replacement cost, in my specific case.

Added to that equation was the fact that the machine in question came with the fence and lamp, which are accessories on the original and the replacement, and you're just about at a wash relative to the 50 percent rule. For machines which can come lightly or heavily accessorized, perhaps 1/3 to 2/3 is a good figure of thumb. But for machines with few options, I think I can live with 50 percent of replacement cost ... + or - an adjustment for the factors mentioned in the quoted author's post.

Dave Potts:

Tomorrow's Headline: eGroup Shoots Self in Foot (or is it A$$) Why not set a policy: "we don't establish, quote, or suggest prices". I'd hate to see all the little old ladies on Pasadena raise their prices on dearly-departed Uncle Walter's "Unysaw" because their busy-body neighbor says the OWWM Blue Book value guide says $400. Pricing and value is subjective and floats with all sorts of variables. Condition, availability of parts, reliability of the machine, region of the country are all factors that could easily triple or cut-in-half the asking price any piece of equipment. Would we be misleading someone that a Uniplane for $75 was a "Steal" because they went for $1200 new?

I simply say: "We don't set prices: Do your Homework. Read the OWWM posts cover to cover. Search eBay on your own if you want. Your invited to advertise it here when you figure out what you want" I'm afraid that to try to pin down ballpark-prices will only end up being a real Cluster-FAQ. (Sorry)

(I think I should climb UNDER the soapbox right now.)

Table Saw Jones:

Good grief. I must have misunderstood this deal from the get-go. It seems to me that any seller web-say enough to question this group re: the value of an old machine is also web-say enough to at least search, if not offer it up for sale on ebay, and let the marketplace determine the value using the good ol' supply and demand equation.

I have a hard time believing that a significant portion of the "how much is it worth?" questions are coming from those little old ladies with "unysaws", but rather from guys like us, or at least like me, wondering about a machine we own or are thinking about buying. I thought we were talking about an easy way for members to access the wealth of information we are all able to share on this particular topic. Even if that concept was incorrect, I have to ask why... What's everybody so afraid of?

Peter Crowl (again):

Been following the messages on this topic. It is difficult. Keith's formulas are valid but so are the qualifiers that have been put forth. I tend to side with those who say that case by case research is the only way to value anything like this. I found this site after buying a Heston Anderson jointer. Shortly after that, a major auction came up and I dove into research mode. Many opinions were offered including Keeter's patented auction methods advice. (this was the first time I heard the expression Naked and Covered with Peanut Butter - I knew then I had arrived at the right place)

As a result of all that research I went into the auction ready to rumble. I got some killer deals and let other things go out of over analyzation - like the Delta Tennon Jig - which made me consider that you can't spell analyze without anal which is what I had become about it. We could all keep contributing to a database of what we paid for (insert item here) but it still wouldn't be valid since need/greed/rarity/scarcity/condition and all the other factors including I stole it gloats wouldn't be part of the equation.

Truth is - I'd hate to see the day when somebody whips out the Old 'Arn Price Guide and reels off the price for some piece of rusted tight crap he's trying to unload. If you've ver muddled about old car circles, you see Price Guide figures tossed out regularly. Much like clay pigeons at a skeet range.

I'd prefer to see an FAQ that teaches the researcher how to fish - so to speak - arriving at their own price. Which a buyer such as any one of us would then proceed to beat into the mud. Methods such as Ebay completed auction searches. I know - who wouldn't think of that themselves - but many people don't. 1/2 the price of new, and all the other formulas that we use would be better than - Unisaw : $100 to 900. Mine was $250 and arrived pretty much plug and play.

David Potts (again):

Sorry if I sounded gruff... I don't think it's effective or efficient to establish prices or have to answer questions about prices. It's too easy for someone to be mis-lead and too easy for others to be left-out. With the majority of the readers here being bottom-feeders when it comes to buying, are we going to suggest prices that are skewed low as well? I think that's a dis-service to someone that has a truly "vintage" piece of machinery to sell and I don't think it's accurate enough to help guide a new-user to OWWM purchases.

Final example:

Bob in PA wants a VS Lathe- Oliver, Powermatic 90, etc. OWMM Bluebook says $400-1500, ebay prices range $800 - $1150 Bob buys his first lathe at $600- "a fair deal according to OWWM 'cuz its missing parts" - Bob thinks. Bob missed out on too many lessons by using this FAQ. Bob never learned about Cook Machinery in Sicklerville, NJ where you can buy any Powermatic 90 or Yates, or XYZ-brand for $200. There is no easy way to set or estimate prices or value. Guys like Bob can be mis-lead and hurt. And now - guys like me will have less to choose from when we go to Cook's.

Jeff Joslin:

I have fielded several what's-it-worth questions as a result of my name appearing on the manufacturers index. Most of the machines have been older machines from little-known makers. Consider a big machine - too big to go in a home shop. The first criterion is safety. If the machine would be at all difficult to upgrade to OSHA requirements, then it can't go into a commercial shop (except a one-man shop) so it's scrap metal. After that, it's supply and demand. Many machines are just too heavy and common to justify transporting great distances, so the local market will determine value. Otherwise, eBay is the way to go.

Next, consider a machine suitable for a home shop. Safety is still a consideration, but many home users are willing to invest some time to build guards, or do without (guards, fingers, whatever). If it's a lesser-known name, the going price of the nearest-equivalent Delta or Powermatic provides a likely upper bound. One problem is that most people asking these questions aren't qualified to judge what's the nearest Delta equivalent, nor can they fully judge condition, completeness, accessories, etc. If they can't screw up the courage to ask us friendly folks on the oldwwmachines list, then they're hosed.

Finally, consider a truly old machine. For instance, I was recently asked about a big, heavy M. B. Tidey tablesaw. M. B. Tidey was arguably the most important early (1860s and 1870s) developer of the tablesaw. I had never heard of a surviving Tidey saw, so this machine is a genuine museum piece - or would be, if there were any museums for old woodworking machinery. Instead, it's an obsolete, obscure machine that's too big for a home user, and too old and dangerous for a commercial users. Value? $1000 at best, and scrap metal at worst.

Matt Prusik:

FWIW, I agree with your perspective that we should limit our comments on valuation and pricing to specific questions only. I had this thought when I first read it earlier today. Now this more recent discussion affirms it in my mind.

When I buy something, I ask one of two questions. One — How much do you want? or Two — I'll give you $xxx.00 for it; and go from there. This negates the "worth/value analysis" and hones in on what the Seller or Buyer wants to get or pay, which after all is the common basis for all commerce here in the US of A last time I checked! I know from experience that the Net is full of people who will cruise sites like ours looking for "pricing advice" and then price according to our advice without ever giving us a chance to buy FIRST! It's all wrapped up in the notion that they want the MOST they can get for a machine or item and the rest of us be damned. I'll mention names privately of "dealers" who have heard this from people but not in public. To have a gold mine of PVI (price-value information) information ready for the plucking is all hooey IMO. It's one thing if among our brethren someone wants some pricing, value, worth advice in preparation for a purchase or sale. It's quite another for us to participate in a Golden Fleece of our ranks, even if unwittingly. How often have any of us heard in a purchase situation about an outrageous price for something and then a comment about (that's what XYZ or that what it says on the Internet says it's worth!) We should always remember that the Net is a very open place and our diligent advice and best tactics can be picked up quite gratuitously by any casual reader. Hence IMO we should watch what we say by answering direct questions and refraining from giving general advice only in the context of asking general questions.

To go out even further on a limb here ... if you need too much "help" to get into this hobby (which for most if not many of us it really is), then maybe you don't belong here. Like Dave said, you have to develop your own style and feeling for buying and selling as you trade up, do your own homework in finding the deals and sources and the hard and fast rules often do not apply. If you want the "better part of the deal" and are saying so to us here (or as people have e-mailed me through the years), well are you trying to steal a machine from someone or are you paying what it's worth? That's why I like my "ethical" two question approach above. Overall, buy your machine, pay what you negotiate and all the rest of the stuff be damned. Like Keith said before, the only purchases I regret are those that I didn't make. I can honestly say I've never felt raped, that I over paid or that I've been taken advantage of. naturally some deals are better than others. But that's life, isn't it? And you always learn from your mistakes, if you're "smart'. I'm willing to say, offer or do anything for some who is willing to do the same in return like Keith, Dave Potts and Marty have in the past. But often I see these inquiry messages and I just delete them without comment because I feel they are cruising for information to feather their own nest and let our collective nest remain unfeathered.

As a caveat I want to say affirmatively and loudly that this is not a specific comment directed to anyone or in response to any inquiry. So please do not take it that way. It's just a general statement that is solely one man's opinion...

Gary Phillips rounds out the discussion with:

I totally agree!

--- So, there you have it. Everything we know about establishing the value of an old woodworking machine. Oh by the way, I agree with Gary.

ScrewTurn Wiki version Some of the icons created by FamFamFam.