Vintage Screwdrivers: Identification & Value Guide (2023)

Have you ever wondered how old those screwdrivers in your grandpa’s toolbox are? Would you be surprised if he tells you they’re over 80 years old or if I tell you that these old drivers are still worth up to $80? Well, that’s true! And today, we’re going to learn all about them!

From their age to their construction materials and shapes, every factor helps you identify a vintage model and estimate its price rightly. So, let’s get into this journey and find out all about those old and sketchy vintage screwdrivers!

Takeaways

  • The oldest screwdrivers can be spotted with their wooden handles and iron shafts with flat tips. You can look for exotic wood handles like Rosewood or Ebony to hike the price. 
  • Large-size, bigger drivers with markings will fetch you good returns.
  • Look for a dark patina, scuffs, and scratches on the wooden handle to ensure an old make. Tarnation and discoloration of the shafts are also common.  
  • Marked vintage screwdrivers are quite valuable. Clean the rusty shanks and collars of old tools to spot the markings.

What Makes a Vintage Screwdriver Unique?

Vintage Screwdriver

Unlike a modern screwdriver, which has polished handles and clean, even shafts, vintage drivers have some imperfections. For instance, you can find an uneven surface on the shaft, scuffs on the handles, and even minor cracks.

But these features, combined with some more interesting features given below, make an old driver special!

  • Chipped or scuffed wooden handles 
  • Flat blade (either fully flat along the shaft or flat head with round/square shanks)
  • Hand-forged metal construction for the shank and blade
  • Rusty brass or bronze ferrules/collars
  • Longer and bigger designs for armor construction
  • A patina on the driver’s surface

A Glance at Antique Screwdrivers’ History and Development

Although the origin of a screwdriver traces back to the pre-15th century, it only became popular during the 17th and 18th centuries when slotted screws were introduced. But these drivers had a full flat shaft, which broke easily with heavy pressure or torque.

The following century saw the rise of screwdrivers with wooden handles and round or square-shaped shanks with flat ends. These were sturdy, but the wood on the handles was prone to sogging up and often cracked up open with continuous use.

And due to the industrial revolution, screwdrivers were highly in demand. So, the makers then shifted to more reliable materials for handles like plastic, celluloid, and rubber in the coming years.

The 19th and 20th centuries saw the rise of specialized screwdrivers such as Roberston, Hex, Phillips, and Torx. Plus, advanced mechanisms like Ratcheting and Interchangeable Bits also became popular, resulting in the mass production of modern drivers.

6 Different Types of Vintage ScrewDrivers and Their Base Prices

1. Slotted (Flat-Blade) Screwdriver 

The earliest known type of screwdriver, a flat-blade screwdriver features a simple flat blade used for slotted screws. You can also find brass ferrules on some models. Usually, these screwdrivers can have 3″ to 12″ long blades.

Look for wooden, pear-shaped handles to verify the old make. These tools can cost you $8 – $20 for common models.

2. Square-Shank Screwdriver 

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/155303887747038840/

As suggested by the name, these screwdrivers have a square-shaped shank along with a flat blade. You can also find wooden handles on the old models. With added torque and grip, you can price these screwdrivers at around $15 – $60 based on their age and brand.

3. Cabinetmaker’s Screwdriver 

These unique tools can be spotted with their unique design that features a flat blade right below the ferrule, followed by a round or square shank with a flat head. In some models, you can see either a fully flat blade or a long round shank with a flat head.

Also, look for an oval or ellipsoid handle with a cross-section for a better value. These tools can be as long as 20 – 30 inches, costing up to $65 – 80. But you can expect common-size models at $10 – $35.

4. Ratcheting Screwdrivers 

A ratchet screwdriver features a unique mechanism that allows you to drive the tool in one direction while the handle can move in both directions. You can spot pear-shaped wooden handles on vintage models costing around $15 – $60, depending on brands and sizes.

5. Interchangeable Tip Screwdrivers

If you’re able to detach the shaft of your old screwdriver, you’re likely holding an interchangeable one. These tools come with a removable tip that can fit into a slot on the end of the shaft.

In vintage models, this is done mechanically with the help of screw thread or springs. And if you find an interchangeable driver with a wooden handle, you can price it at around $20 – $50.

6. Perfect Handle Screwdrivers

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/155303887698500520/

Known for its perfect, sleek design, a “perfect handle” driver can be spotted by the split wood handle. Like, you’d see the steel blade running along the length and width of the handle, riveted into the wood.

Depending on size and brand, you can price these around $7 – $20 for small drivers and $15 – $40 for bigger models. In fact, a very long, branded perfect handle model can go up to $100.

6 Factors That Will Help You Identify And Value Vintage Screwdrivers

We know that age is the most important factor in identifying old screwdrivers. But even other factors like materials and shaft shapes can also tell a lot about the model and its price. Let’s see how!

1. Antique Screwdriver Age

Antique Screwdriver

As we saw, the oldest screwdrivers with hand-forged metal flat blades, shanks, and handles are from the pre-15th century. But these are very rare, and you may find one in a museum. So, you can start your hunt with 18th-century drivers with wooden handles.

Now, the best way to track the age of a tool is by looking at the markings. You can find the company’s name, logo, initials, or model numbers engraved on the collar, the shank, or the handle.

But you may not find any markings in very old models. In that case, use these clues to age your driver:

The 18th Century Screwdrivers

You can identify the drivers from this era with their large and heavy shapes due to their use in armor. Also, look for flat blades and square shanks. You can find these mostly with pear-shaped or oval wooden handles, and price these up to $10 – $30 for common models.

The 19th Century Screwdrivers

These screwdrivers were a bit smaller and thinner as they were used for delicate woodworking. You can also find the initial ratcheting and interchangeable drivers in this era. Also, you can spot the flat-blade and shaft cabinetmaker drivers, costing $15 – $60.

The (20th Century) Screwdrivers

You can spot these screwdrivers with their plastic, celluloid, or rubber handles. Also, models from this period may have cross-shaped, star-shaped, and hex-shaped heads. These models are newer and, hence, won’t cost more than $20.

Below are the age and prices of a few patented screwdriver models:

YearAgePatent NumberEstimated Price
1897120+ yearsUS593157, (Ratchet Screwdrivers)$10 – $20
1930s90+yearsUS1908081 (Phillips Screwdrivers)$10 – $30

If your old screwdriver’s shaft is very rusty, you may not see the markings. So, clean the rust off the shanks and collars to check the brand markings as they hike the price.

2. Screwdriver Handle Materials

Since materials like plastic and rubber weren’t that common in older times, vintage screwdrivers mostly had metal and wood handles. If you’re lucky enough to find one with an Ebony or Rosewood handle, you can get up to $100 for it.

On the other hand, celluloid, plastic, and rubber handles are comparatively newer and, hence, less valuable than wooden ones.

Here’s how the prices change with the old screwdriver’s handle materials:

Old Screwdriver’s Handle MaterialEstimated Price
Natural Wood $5 – $25
Ebony $15 – $45
Rosewood$60 – $120
Celluloid$5 – $15

3. Old Screwdriver Bit/Head Types 

Another important factor in identifying a vintage screwdriver is its head or tip. If your driver has a flat tip, it’s easily one of the oldest and, hence, valuable tools. Robertson’s and Gunsmith screwdrivers are also valued for their unique head shapes.

Likewise, Phillips screwdrivers from the late 19th century are also a valuable collectible, costing up to $30 for an antique make. On the contrary, advanced screwdrivers with special Torx heads will fetch you only up to $10 – $20.

Screwhead Head TypeFeaturesEstimated Price
Slotted/FlatThe oldest type, a flat bit for single-slotted screws$10 – $50
Square (Robertson’s)Small square-shaped bit for Robertson’s screws$5 – $30
Hollow Tip (Gunsmith Turnscrew)Sharp hollow-ground tips$10 – $50 (Up to $70 for branded ones)
Cross (Phillips)Cross shaped head for cross-shaped slots on Phillips screws$10 – $30
Star (Torx)Star-like six-point head for Toxx screws$5 – $10

4. Size of the Screwdriver

If you want the best price for your vintage screwdriver, analyze its size. The older drivers were longer and bigger and hence valued more. In fact, branded drivers of over 24 inches can fetch you up to $100.

You can find the average price of vintage screwdrivers of various sizes below:

Screwdriver Size (Height)Estimated Price for Common Models Estimated Price for Special/Branded Models 
3” – 8” $5 – $15$10 – $30
9” – 12”$10 – $20$12 – $45
13” – 15” $15 – $40$30 – $50
16” – 20” $15 – $40$35 – $50
21” – 24” $15 – $45$30 – $65
24” – 29” $25 – $50$35 – $80+

5. Screwdriver Brands

Branded Screwdrivers, like any other antique, will fetch you decent returns if they’re in good condition. But different brands and companies are known for different types of driver features.

For instance, if you want branded flat-head drivers, go for Stanley, but if you want perfect-handle drivers, Irvin would be the best. Similarly, for ratcheting screwdrivers, pick a vintage North Brothers Yankee or Miller Falls one.

Now, if you’re confused about the prices of branded drivers, check out this table below.

Old Screwdriver BrandsKey FeaturesEstimated Price (Common Size) 
StanleyWooden and plastic handles, “STANLEY” logo in block letters, often with “Made in USA”$15 – $50
Craftsman“CRAFTSMAN” logo, sometimes with a stylized “C” and “S”, makes flat-blade, Phillips, Torx$10 – $60
Millers Falls“MILLERS FALLS” logo, sometimes with the model number$15 – $55
Irvin“IRVIN” logo on the shank or ferrule, often with model number and region$10 – $60
North Brothers (Yankee)“Yankee” and “North Bros.” logo on the collar$12 – $60

6. Screwdriver’s Condition – Wear & Tear

An old screwdriver will show some clear signs of wear and tear, which will help you ensure whether it’s a vintage model or not. For instance, you may find chipped or cracked wooden handles with scratches. The ferrules may be loose and cracked.

Also, look for discoloration, corrosion, or tarnishing signs on the metal blade. The tip of the blade may also have some scuffs. And if there’s a dark patina on the handle, you can expect good returns.

Look for the screwdriver’s collar or ferrule. If the ferrule is missing, it will devalue your model.

What to do with old screwdrivers?

If your old screwdriver is still functional and has a tight handle to drive the screw, then you can clean it up a bit, identify its type, age, material, and other factors using our guide, and then put it up for a bid.

How to clean old screwdrivers?

You can clean the rust off the old screwdriver shaft by scrubbing it with 320 and 400 fine-grit sandpaper. You can also soak it in vinegar or apply baking soda and water paste on the rusty area for a few hours and then scrub it with a brush. But try not to remove the patina off the handle, as collectors like it!

Vintage screwdrivers are really a great addition to an avid collector’s toolbox. But make sure you don’t get fooled by the seller into buying any random old driver. Identify the model using our guide and then finalize if the price is worth it or not.

And if you’re planning on buying more valuable antiques like old shovels, pliers, and broad axes, let us help you with their identification and valuation!

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

One comment

Leave a Reply

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

  1. Good remarks on old screwdrivers love the wood handles,What year did Winchester stop making screwdrivers,Thanks