Getting a Grip on Antique Wrenches

Passion for vintage collectibles crosses over to antique wrenches

| August 1998

As interest grows in old tractors and implements, collectors' passions are spilling over to related collectibles - like wrenches. In Cunningham, Ky., Linmo and Verene Biggs have filled a 12-by-20 foot building with wrenches.

"Linmo built the building especially to house and display his collections," says Mrs. Biggs. "The neighbors call it Linmo's museum." Biggs, 72, started farming in the horse-drawn era. But his collection of tools and wrenches is only about 15 years old. Biggs says wrench collectors in his area collect some railroad wrenches, but most tool collections are farm related. Many implements - mowers, cultivators and plows, for instance-came with their own wrenches. Often the wrenches were housed in mounted tool boxes, also big on the collectible circuit now. Tractor and threshers usually came with several wrenches, some of which were adjustable.

International Harvester, for instance, gave away wrenches with every implement, tractor and thresher, more than 800 in all. In addition to wrenches, Bigg's collection includes auto wrenches, more than 50 embossed axes, and more than 150 Winchester wrenches dating to the 1920s. His largest collection is of wrenches from the Keen Kutter brand (also known for pocket knives), and he also has a full set of Jennings bits made in 1898, in the original wooden case.

"To my knowledge, I have more different Chattanooga wrenches than anyone else in the U.S.," he says.

It's a collector's collection, but he's not afraid to play favorites.

"I still like wrenches best of all," he says, "because they do so many things, and represent so much history."