How to Identify & Value Antique Hammers (Guide 2023)

Antique hammers are the most vital items in any vintage toolbox! But, if you visit an auction to buy one, you might be bewildered at their prices! Some might cost you thousands of dollars, while you can get others for as low as $20. Why? You may ask!

Well, antique items have some unique features that affect their cost. So, to get the best price, you must check your old hammers and value them correctly! No, there’s nothing hard about it! Just get a magnifying glass, and I’ll help you identify the antique hammers!

Key Takeaways

  • If you want an old, aged hammer, look for bone handles, stone heads, and pointed, spade-like edges.
  • Pick slightly curved, ball peen or mallet-shaped hammers for better returns. But if you want a functional model, go with flat box-head or saddle hammers.
  • Get minimum colored, bare wood, metal, or stained hammers for an old make. But if you want a quirky antique hammer, pick natural black, white, or brown hammers for high value.
  • You can choose your model from six types: claw, veneer, or gavel. Of these, pick gavel and stone sledge hammers for the best returns!

What Key Features Do You Expect in Old Hammers?

Old Hammers with Aged Wood Handles

Picture a normal hammer with a crude stone head, blunt throat, and rounded claws. That’s how an antique hammer looks! You’ll even see hand-cut handles, flat-head faces, and stone or bronze heads with them.

But aren’t hand-cut finishes hard to spot on an old and rusty hammer? They may be! So, here are some other features you can check out!

  • Wood or bone handles with squarish sides and lacquer on top
  • Block or hollow letter trademarks on the hammerheads and faces
  • 5 – 6 inch hammerheads with a 12 – 13 inch handle below it
  • A hammered, antique, or wrinkle-type finish with copper or aged brass
  • Bulbous or percussion-shaped handles with a flattened section at the top

The History & Evolution

You’d be surprised to know that the first hammers had no handles? Built around 3 million years ago, these were like pointed stones with a leather cover. Plus, they had no throats or claws and broke with beating. So, most of these pieces are rare and precious today!

It was in the 1800s that David Maydole built the first claw hammer. He added a dense, metallic head and a hand-cut handle at the base. But, this two-piece design came loose with time and struck the finger. So, down went its use and production!

The late 19th Century hammers are more functional! So, they look just like modern hammers with grooved eyes and claws. But these machine models are easy to grab. So, you won’t get high returns for them.

6 Types of Antique Hammers & Their Valuation

Antique hammers are quite diverse. You’ll get them from tens to thousands of dollars! But what decides their price is their type and design! So, let’s break down the six main types of hammers and calculate their cost range!

1. Claw Hammers

Antique Claw Hammers with $100 value

Claw hammers are just like the nail-pulling straws they use nowadays! They have long claws, flat faces, and tapering handles. Most even have thin, round profiles and soft steel cores for easy handling! So, they’re very functional and value $100 – 150.

2. Veneer Hammers

As the name suggests, veneer hammers are the ones for fixing veneers. So they are shorter and thinner than others. They also have an axe-like shape with round tips for better fixing.

But veneer hammers have small, low-quality heads and handles. So, they obviously catch mold, lowering their value to $50.

3. Stonesledge Hammer

Old Stonesledge hammers with rope-tension heads

Stonesledge hammers are the regular stone-breaking hammers you see today. But they were long and round, with a small, rope-tensioned head. Plus, you’ll get them with shiny brown and golden handles, costing $200 – 250.

4. Blacksmith’s Hammer

Antique Blacksmith's hammer with a $80 value

Blacksmith’s hammers are like beaters that mold hot metals to shape. So, they are dual-faced, with a square at the center and a round face at the sides.

Also, note their thick heads and long handles that make molding easy! They value at around $80 – 120.

5. Gavel

Gavel hammers are just like the typical mallets in cartoons! They are heavy and primarily used for demolishing objects and nails. They also have a cylindrical barrel-shaped head for easy breaking. Plus, most of them are handmade, costing $500 – 600.

6. Brick Hammer

Brick hammers with typical chisel tools

Brick hammers are more like a chisel tool that splits stones. They are small, light-weight, and have a rounded throat on each side.

Plus, they have smoothened edges with barrel-shaped heads on both sides. But since they are factory-made, they cost only around $80 – 90.

6 Factors to Identify & Value an Antique Hammer

Now that you’ve learnt the main types of antique hammers, let’s move to the next step; knowing their ages, shapes, and brands to value your piece rightly!

1. Antique Hammer’s Date & Age

Crude hammers from the Early 1700s

Old hammers are as raw as stone age tools. In fact, if you see the 1700s models, you’ll notice their bulbous heads and short handles. Many might even have bone and vine handles, making them handmade and precious.

But do you know that even the 1850s hammers are precious? Well, it’s because they have metal bodies and polished handles. But you must check if it has pointed claws and curved necks. If yes, it will cost you $100 – 200.

Then came the vintage hammers from the 1900s; which are obviously cheaper than the handmade models. But you can pick golden ones for high value!

Want more help in dating your antique hammer? If yes, read below!

How Do You Identify Old Hammers from the 1700s?

The 1700s hammers look exactly like a boat’s oar! They have small, rounded handles with a flat stone head at the top. You can even find bone necks, feather hangings, and tight rope joineries with these.

But these locally-made hammers won’t have any brands or marks! Plus, their design and material differ with the region, increasing their value to $400 – 500.

How Do You Spot Vintage Hammers from the 1800s?

Hammers from the 1800s evolved after the Industrial Revolution. They’re obviously functional and have standard materials and fittings. So, if your hammerheads are lead or brass, price them for $200 – 300. And if they are wood or rubber, you can value them at $100.

How Do You Know If Your Hammer Is from the 1900s?

If you see plastic or steel finishes on your hammer, it’s from the 1900s! You can also check if its handle has some logos or patent numbers to help you track them! Overall, they will be cheaper, around $30 – 80.

Here are some hammer patent numbers for reference:

YearAgePatent NumberVintage Hammer TypeAverage Valuation
1990s32 years5970553Wrench Hammer$200 – 250
1900122 years601310Thor Copper Hammer$150 – 200
1880142 years2239719Multiclaw Hammer$300 – 350

Try to get masonry, coach building, or sculpting hammers for an old make.

2. Antique Hammer Shapes

Different types of Antique Hammer Shapes

Old hammers were not flat and pointed like today! In fact, most of them, like the Ball peen hammers, were short and rounded. They even had small, sculpting heads with long handles on both sides.

The next 1800s models are cuboidal. So, you’ll see thin, squarish handles and rectangular heads with them. Most of them, like saddle hammers, are sturdy, durable, and expensive.

The post-industrial revolution pieces are pointed and functional. They have longer claws, flat throats, and curved necks. But, they are new and cheaper, at $70 – 100.

Shape of the HammerAverage Valuation
Ball Peen (rounded head)$300 – 400
Mallet, Sculpting or Caulk Shaped$200 – 300
Box Head Shape$200 – 300
Saddle-Shaped$100 – 150
Spear Shaped (Industrial Revolution)$90 – 100
Wrench or Staple Shaped$70 – 100

3. Old Hammer Colors

The natural the handle color, the precious the hammer! That means you’ll get the best value for uncolored wood, metal, or stained wood hammers. The same holds for naturally oxidized colors like black, white, and gold.

On the other hand, machine-painted, red, or yellow hammers are new and easy to get! So, I recommend avoiding these shiny, bold hammers of low value!

Hammer’s ColorAverage Valuation
Bare Wood, Metal or Stained Wood$150 – 200
Black, White, Gray or Brown$100 – 120
Golden or Silver$90 – 100
Red, Green or Blue$70 – 80
Orange, Yellow, Caramel$30 – 40
Polished or Galvanized$20 – 30

Old gray hammers might look like galvanized ones. So flash a torch, and check for uneven finishes before buying.

4. Vintage Hammer Materials

Antique hammer heads were standard – copper, stone or iron. So, it’s the handle materials that impact the value drastically. For example, if you see ash or cast iron handles, your hammer is from the 1700s. You can price it for $450 – 600, depending on the size.

Similarly, if you see steel finishes, it’s from the 1800s. And if you notice shiny, stainless steel handles, it’s from the 1900s. So, they will obviously be cheaper and more polished.

But if you see plastic or acrylic, your piece might not be that old! You can still get a fair value for fancy resin finishes. But most of them cost less than $100.

Handle Materials Average Valuation
Ash, Hickory, Walnut$500 – 600
Cast Iron, Alloyed Steel$450 – 500
Spring Steel$300 – 400
Stainless Steel, Aluminum$150 – 200
Synthetic Rubber & Fiberglass Resin$70 – 100
Plastic or Acrylic$50 – 70

Avoid getting soggy or mold-infected wooden hammers, as they might lower the cost by 50 – 60%.

5. Branding

If you want a new but high-value hammer for your daily work, get a branded one! Why? Because its rich, golden polishes raise their value by up to 15%.

But is there any way to check if a hammer is branded? Yes, of course! Just rotate its handle, and trace the etched logos or trademarks! You can even look for a foundry’s mark, maker’s stamp, or sign to identify the make.

Here are some antique hammer brands for your info!

Old Hammer NameManufacturerAntique Hammer TypeAverage Valuation
Spalling HammerYerkes & PlumbSledge Hammer$300 – 400
Hatchet Head HammerKeen KutterClaw Hammer$200 – 300
Nail Holder HammerHenry CheneyStonesledge Hammer$300 – 350
Hickory Round Head HammerStanleyGavel$100 – 120

Pick limited-edition, rare and unique-shaped hammer models for a high cost.

6. Hammer Condition

None of us wants chipped, damaged artifacts, right? Even faded, discolored or broken hammers lose 40 – 50% of their value in the same way!

The same holds true for oiled, painted, bleached, and mold-affected hammers as well. In fact, any superficial changes or treatments lower the hammer’s value by 12-15%.

Are Old Hammers Worth Anything?

Yes, old hammers are worth $100 – 500, depending on their age, shape, material, and type. You can also look for branded, well-maintained pieces to increase their worth!

How Do I Clean My Antique Hammers?

Cleaning antique hammers is relatively easy! You just need to rinse them with water, soap, and vinegar. If you want, you can also coat them with WD-40 lubes to save them from rusting.

Should You Still Use Your Antique Hammer?

You can use your antique hammer if it has a metal head with no visible signs of rust and fungus. But I recommend using it only as a decor piece to preserve its finish and handle properly.

Mark my words! The crude and wooden the hammer, the costly it gets! As we saw above, it’s always the curved, black, and branded hammers that fetch returns. And if you want to resell your hammers, you must maintain them and eliminate the chips and fungus.

But hey! Are you a DIY buff with a self-made vintage tool set? Well, then, how can your set be complete without an antique plow? Join us, and we’ll tell you all the tips to buy one!

Judith Miller
Judith Miller

Judith is an antique expert with nearly 20 years of experience in the field of antique identification and valuation. She has reviewed over 30 thousand vintage items and has worked with numerous antique shops. She enjoys seeing new places, attending antique shows and events, and sharing her knowledge with people! Know more about me

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *