Bloggers are provided with all sorts of background statistics via their blog dashboard. I can even see a map of the world with red highlights to show where readers came in from on any day. I can count how many hits to which stories. But by far the most interesting is the “search engine terms” data.
Hands down, the majority of hits to my blog come in, not from knitters or spinners, but from the “how much is my antique spinning wheel worth” contingency. Coupled with this is how many views are garnered by the photos I used in an older post to illustrate three very overpriced wheels.
So, obviously, there are readers out there with spinning wheels in their possession that they wish to evaluate and possibly sell. If you landed here for that reason, here are some tips on pricing and selling your wheel:
1.) Anything is worth what anyone is willing to pay for it. The problem is, getting in front of that one elusive buyer. You may need to lower your expectations, and your price, in order to widen your perspective market.
2.) The people interested in old spinning wheels tend to fall into one of two categories: spinners looking for a wheel that actually works and people looking for decorative items. This post will focus on wheels for use by handspinners.
3.) Knowing what you have will help target your sale in those two categories. If your wheel is incomplete, broken, or otherwise less than whole, it will not be worth that much to a spinner. Keep in mind, too, the style of wheel. Don’t call a wool wheel a flax wheel and vice-versa. If you aren’t sure, don’t reference it at all. If the potential buyer is a spinner, they will know what you have.
4.) If you are selling a wheel and do not want to be bothered with cleaning it, don’t expect to get top dollar. If the seller has to clean the dirty, dusty wheel, they will expect a lower price. Personally, I would rather pay less for a dirty wheel and clean it myself because then I know what went into that. But finding a wheel cleaned by someone who knew what they were doing is always a plus.
5.) Just because the drive wheel turns does not mean the wheel “spins.” It needs all its parts to be used for spinning. If the wheel is damaged or missing parts, the potential buyer will assess it accordingly. On a treadle wheel, the real deal breaker is if the flyer assembly is missing. It will cost upwards of $300 to have a new one made, plus the loss of time in waiting for the craftsman to make it. Rarely would a spinner buy a wheel for more than $75 if the flyer assembly is missing.
6.) As per above, if you are selling a walking wheel (also called a great wheel) and it is missing its spindle head, this is the same as a treadle wheel missing its flyer. Spindle heads are equally expensive to flyers to be recreated properly.
7.) If you don’t know what the flyer assembly is or the spindle head, see #3 above.
8.) Do not describe your wheel as “working” unless you know how a spinning wheel works. Just because the drive wheel turns does not mean the wheel can be spun on. It is much more complex. Are all the parts there? Does the tensioning screw turn? Will the wheel throw its drive band off? What condition are the flyer or spindle bearings in?
9.) Nothing is so unique that another one won’t turn up at some point in time. If you price that Canadian Production Wheel at $500 or $600 and you aren’t entirely sure it is in spinning condition, you will have that wheel for a goodly long time. Fully cleaned, restored, and in top spinning condition, the average price for a CPW is around $300 to $350. Spinners know this.
10.) Insurance appraisals are not reliable. The appraiser will look at what wheels sold at in auctions, create an average, and double it. That will give the “replacement cost.” Trouble is, if you are comparing apples and oranges, you won’t get a good average. A Saxony-style flax wheel that sells at auction for $100 compared to an Irish castle wheel that sells for $1,000 is going to give you skewed numbers. The appraiser needs to compare Saxonies to Saxonies and castle wheels to castle wheels and this is a difficult task. Coupled to the fact that most appraisers never saw a spinning wheel. One of my associates purchased an American-made flax wheel, probably of eastern PA origin. The appraiser told her it was from the Netherlands because “they didn’t make spinning wheels in the U.S.” in the time period of the wheel in question. There is no excuse for this level of ignorance.
From the buyer’s perspective, when I go hunting spinning wheels, here is what I am looking for:
1.) Completeness – how much am I willing to replace that will cost me more?
2.) Soundness – how dry, rickety, or cracked is she (yes, most wheels are she)?
3.) Unusualness – How common or uncommon is the style? Is there a maker’s mark?
4.) Condition – has the original finish been monkeyed with? How badly?
5.) Overall eye-catching-ness – how graceful is the wheel? Interesting turnings? What made me look?
If you think like a spinner, you may have a different reaction to the wheel you are selling. Yes, it may have been your great-grandma’s but this will not typically impress the buyer. No, it probably is not a valuable “an-teek,” there are dozens of the same thing around. Check Craigslist. Check Ebay. Check Ebay especially for unrealistic expectations like the $6000 great wheel that has been posted for several years. A pendulum wheel in mint condition isn’t even worth that much.
I don’t want to discourage anyone from selling a wheel, but I want sellers to be realistic. Don’t ever throw a wheel out; someone will always be around to rescue one. But price them accordingly. When you start getting up into the $300-$400-$500 range, you better have something pretty amazing to offer. And a spinner will know the difference. Knowing what you have and setting a reasonable price is the difference between finding a good home for your wheel and wondering why you have to keep relisting it for sale.