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Used-tool fever

One thing is for sure: we gear heads
love tools. Maybe it’s just a guy thing. It’s certainly a farmer
thing. It’s hard not to notice that fact at auction sales when a
bunch of farmers gather around a wagon loaded with the contents of
someone else’s workshop. Everyone eagerly sifts through the pile of
tools, parts and, well, junk looking for that must-have item to add
to their own shop inventories.

Those loaded wagons remind me a little
of one of the Federal Conservative Government’s omnibus bills.
There’s all manner of things thrown in and it’s tough to see just
what’s at the bottom.

When the bidding on the wagon load of
tools actually gets underway, no one really wants to stray very far
away from it in case some tool suffers from a lack of buyer interest
and that increasingly rare phenomenon occurs: a used tool sold
cheaply. The trouble is, cheap tools at farm auctions seem to have
become an extinct species, at least in my experience.

There was a time during that period of
low commodity prices a decade or more ago when farmers seemed to keep
their hands in their pockets at auctions. As I remember it, there
were lots of bargains to be had at almost any sale back then. Now,
however, farmers seem to have money to spend and the price of used

tools at farm auctions has skyrocketed because of it. Almost
unbelievably, it’s not unusual to see old tools sell for more than
comparable new ones. Guys seem to become stricken with a kind of
fever that keeps them bidding, even when the price hits the

I’m not sure why so many people lose
their self control when an auctioneer holds up a fist full of greasy
wrenches. And farm auctions aren’t the only place where I’ve noticed
that feverish impulse to bid take hold of normally sane people. Last
week I stumbled across some used shop tools advertised on the Federal
Government’s surplus website. It looked like a good opportunity to
pick up a few useful items at a decent price.

So, I grabbed the Craftsman and
Princess Auto catalogues and priced out equivalent new items. Then, I
placed my online bid accordingly. Maybe it’s the Scottish part of my

heritage influencing me, but if I’m going to buy something used, even
if it’s a handy shop tool, I want it to be priced accordingly.
Otherwise, I might as well go get a shiny new one with a warranty.

With my research complete and my bids
placed, I waited for the online sale to close. I was reasonably
optimistic I would get at least one or two of the things I bid on. I
offered 50 per cent of new prices, which I think is fair money for
any piece of common shop equipment that looks to be more than a
decade old.

When I saw the results posted on the
website after bidding had closed and winners were declared, it was
deja vu. It felt like I was once again standing at a farm auction
surrounded by bidders suffering from a feverish desire to own those
greasy tools no matter what. I didn’t get a single item. Some things
sold for about 125 percent of what I could order brand new ones for.

I wonder if there will ever be some
kind of vaccination against used-tool fever? If one is ever
developed, I’m sure a lot of farm wives will be dragging their
husbands down to the clinic to get one.


About the author


Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.



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