Selling an antique

My grandfather was a skilled machinist from the 1920s through WWII. He used a kind of tool box–something equivalent to the red boxes a modern mechanic might get at Sears. Except that this thing is exquisitely made of some kind of high quality wood, with many drawers that are lined with velvet, and the whole thing is varnished in a beautiful “mahagony” color. It’s hard to describe with mere words, and I’ll try to get a digital photo up for a better description if someone can tell me how to do that. (By the way, it was manufactured by A. Gersteners and Sons of Ohio, for what it’s worth.)

It has a top level, wide tray, which is about 2 and a half inches deep (plus and extra inch with the cover), and includes a diamond shaped mirror on the top inside cover. It also has latches: two on the front, two on the side, and a locking mechanism (unfortunately for which I don’t have a key, but a key or new, more secure lock could probably be easily replaced). This locking mechanism locks a front panel, which makes all the lower drawers secure and inaccessable. The two bottom three draweres span the whole width of the box, and are about two-and-a-half, one and a quarter, and three-quarter inches deep respectively as you go up.

The whole thing is 20 inches wide, nine and one-half inch deep, and 16" high.

Upbove the three bottom trays are three half-width trays on the right and four on the left.

In between the lateral trays is a drawer which contains the Second Edition of The American Machinists’ Handbook, by Colvine and Stanley, which is not in very good condition because the cover has come off (so I don’t know what year it was published). However it does contain quite a few notes my grandfather made which showed his mastery of trigonometry.

In any case, if I were a rich maven with large quantities of jewelery (or things I’d like to keep locked away from my husband, such as a darenger), I’d gladly keep it. But I don’t possess such things. I really don’t like to sell such a thing; it was the only thing I inherited from my father (besides a family photo), because my father died poor. But I have little practical use for it; and it is relatively heavy–not good for someone who moves around a lot.

What do you think I should do with this thing?

I can give more details, too. The thing stilll contains some 1920s mechanists’ tools–quite good ones that still work.

What should I do?

See if your local museum or historical society would like to add it to their collection. Tell them as much as you can about your grandfather, and the work he did with the tool kit.

You’ll be preserving your grandfather’s memory forever, and sharing a piece of history with the community.


Gerstner is still in business.

I’m a trained machinist and still do it as a side job. Occasionally in the factories and shops I go in all day I see these old boxes. I lust after them. Today they sell for about $1000. I’d imagine your Grandfather paid the equivalent in 1920’s dollars. I’m waiting for the call from an old coworker of mine when he retires I really really want to buy his.

I’d love to know about the tools too. I have a pretty good collection of old machinist and hand tools. Powered equipment goes a long way but some of the tools could be 100 years old and do the same thing as what you get today.

The handbook sounds neat too. I’ve a 27th edition here on my shelf.

That is a cool treasure, take care of it and if you sell, get a fair price. There are people like me that would give a hefty price.

Get it appraised and email me with the appraisal. Serious!
I have a good collection of 19th century and early 20th hand tools and old machinist tools. I’d love to have a Gerstner box in my collection.

How about keeping it for your son(-in law)?

Holy cow! I have one of those! My father gave it to me 20 years ago and I never knew it was so expensive.

this one

I’m going to have to take better care of it. It still holds my D&D lead figures, paints, pencils, and drawing implements for making maps.

Thanks Mr. Goob for the link and thanks guizot for asking the question that yeilded it.