A Collector’s Guide to Antique and Vintage Farm Tools

For years, antique tools like flails and seed barrows were state-of-the-art technology for farmers. As tools evolved and made some of these implements obsolete, they’ve become hot commodities for collectors.

Antique Farm Tools

Around 9500 B.C.E., humans moved away from hunting and gathering as their primary means of food acquisition. That’s when ancient people began to cultivate grains and domesticate livestock, giving birth to farming. Since that time, tools have been a crucial component of farming success. Even primitive tools like scythes and sickles enabled a dramatic increase in worker productivity. As time passed, humans developed more advanced farming techniques. They invented tools to make their lives easier and to improve farm performance.

In modern times, collectors prize these early tools as relics of a bygone era. Due to the rarity and cultural importance of ancient tools, most collectors (whether out of preference or necessity) steer clear of them. Instead, most collections are filled with tools from the 1700s to the early 1900s. These eras feature plenty of antique tools made from iron, wood, and leather. In many cases, the tools are still usable after some cleaning and sharpening. Even if you don’t intend to use the tools for their original purposes, they still make excellent decorations and conversation pieces.

Most collectors narrow their scope and amass tools that meet particular criteria:

  • Purpose-specific tools, such as pitchforks or hand planes
  • Era-specific tools, such as those from the American Civil War period
  • Manufacturer-specific tools, such as Hedgehog Tools made by Cornelius Whitehouse and Sons
  • Hand-crafted tools, made by farmers for their own use
  • Material-specific tools, such as those made of iron or wood

In more general terms, collectors often divide farm tools into a few broad categories:

  • Hand tools (powered by manual labor), such as shovels, hoes, and pitchforks
  • Implements (often powered by livestock or engines), such as haybobs and plows
  • Complex machines (usually powered by an engine), such as tractors, balers, and combines

Whether you’re looking to start a tool collection or just learn more about vintage farming techniques, you’ll find plenty of research resources online. In addition, farm tool collecting clubs and organizations can provide information and contact with like-minded folks in your area.

Farm Tools From Yesteryear

Some of the hand tools farmers have used for years are still in use, while others have been replaced by machines that do the same job. Learning the names and uses of these unusual tools is part of the fun of researching antique tools.

Collecting Resources for Antique and Vintage Farm Tools

Antique Tool Collecting Clubs and Organizations