A comment to my earlier post on pricing an antique spinning wheel asked for photos. I considered how best to achieve this. I could have taken one of my wheels and removed various parts, then speculated on what a wheel like that would be worth. But then I realized it would be better to take pictures of actual wheels up for sale and point out why they may not be worth the asking price.
This proved to be a much better way to go, and the number of both Ebay and Craigslist postings for spinning wheels provided ample fodder. The hardest part was picking out which examples to use.
First of all, the photo is terrible. Understanding that many people have limited photo skills and even limited photo equipment, relying largely on what they can do with a cell phone. This listing on Craigslist included a few close-ups which only showed that the finish on this wheel is completely shot — what would best be referred to as “barn-fresh” condition. But the most glaring flaw is that the poor thing is missing it flyer, bobbin, whorl, and maidens. Even with a pristine finish, this wheel will cost between $250 and $300 to have replacement parts made. Throw in another $50 to $100 to refinish and you are talking upwards of $400 on top of a hefty asking price. With that, you enter the range where you may as well buy a brand new Kromski wheel, because this is never going to be worth the investment.
By the way, the asking price of this wheel was $250 for at least a year, maybe two. Spinners in my antique spinning wheel group began discussing ways of putting this poor creature out of its misery. Finally, one of them contacted the seller and as kindly as possible, suggested that with the missing parts, the wheel really wasn’t worth anything. The seller reacted by lowering the price from $250 to $165. At very best, a seller might expect to get $50 if the drive wheel is in good shape. Meaning, no cracks on the hub, the axle is firmly in place and the spokes are all correctly set and not wiggling around. And that the wheel is not warped and turns true. It is hard to tel from the photo, but this appears to be of Scandinavian descent, or American-Scandinavian build, and probably was a fine spinner in her day. Age and neglect have taken their toll however, and even at $50, it would take a lot of work to bring this one back into spinning condition.
The next wheel is another seller’s pipe-dream. A style typical of Sweden or of Swedish-American make, these little wheels are called “slantys” by the antique spinning wheel people:
As lovely as this wheel is, there is absolutely no way on God’s green earth that this wheel (or practically any other) is worth this kind of money. $1,799.00 on Ebay will take it away! She does have her flyer, bobbin, and whorl intact, and also has the benefit of three additional bobbins possible on an on-board kate (or maybe just strung together, hard to tell). She also has a pair of wool cards included. However, she is missing her distaff which is the bit at the end of the bench sticking straight up. She may also be missing a back leg support that typically would run parallel to the floor and brace the two back legs. She not nearly as ornate as some of the little slantys can be. These typically turn up in the Minnesota area and northern region of the county.
Typically, they are priced around $75 to $225 depending on their condition and level of ornateness. This wheel would probably sell at around $150. One can only speculate on why the seller thinks the wheel is worth what is being asked for it. Possibly they feel they have a valuable “anteek” and want their money’s worth. Maybe after it has been listed for a year or more they will start to realize how obscenely over-priced it is. Unless they meant to list it at $179 and then it would be closer to reality.
And the third example I put up primarily as an educational moment for both the would-be spinner looking for an antique wheel and for the seller of one of these misbegotten creatures:
This is not a spinning wheel. I repeat: this is NOT a spinning wheel. This is the rather ubiquitous “spinning wheel shaped object” or SWSO that takes newbies unawares. I would be willing to place a very large wager that if you turned this wheel over, the underside of the bench would be stamped with “Made in Canada.” Note the fiddle-shaped bench and the 9-spoke wheel. It matters not that the flyer is missing — it wouldn’t work anyway. The flyer, bobbin and whorl on these things is all one piece, and the wooden flyer shaft has no orifice to spin through. Additionally, the tensioning screw … well … isn’t. There is just the knob on the end of the bench and the knob is stationary. Even if you were to put a working flyer on this thing, you couldn’t get the wheel to spin because you can’t tension it.
These SWSOs were made in Canada, probably during the late 50s or early 60s, as a purely decorative item. They are the bane of antique spinning wheel collectors. I suppose the dealers who stumble across them don’t know the difference, assume they work, and try to sell them as real wheels. This example is worth no where near the current asking price of $125. It probably isn’t even worth $25, although a woodworking spinner associate of mine says she buys them for cheap to get them off the market and then repurposes the bench into wooden handles. Apparently, they are made of a very high-grade maple.
Here you have three examples of very bad antique spinning wheel deals — missing parts, finish is destroyed, hideously overpriced, and not even a spinning wheel. If you are a handspinner, or a wanna-be spinner, and you want an antique wheel, that is a wonderful goal, but do your best to educate yourself. If you are someone looking to sell a wheel, don’t automatically assume it is the only one of its kind. Nothing is no unique you won’t find another one out there. Do your homework and price the piece fairly and it will sell. Life is too short and there are too many good wheels out there to either buy or attempt to sell a lousy one.