Wrench Collecting Gives Bountiful Harvest

Tool collector turns to wrench collecting with great results

| March 2000

  • Among the rare pieces in Joe Greiwe's collection is a set of key model Coe's monkey wrenches
    Among the rare pieces in Joe Greiwe's collection is a set of key model Coe's monkey wrenches (shown above in the stand at front) in three sizes: 32", 38" and 48". "The 48-inch is very rare, very hard to find," Joe said. "I never dreamed I would ever get a 48-inch. But I found it just 12 miles away from home." The wrenches were patented Dec. 6, 1906.
    Photo by Bob Crowell
  • The collector who hauls a steam engine or a tractor or even a stationary engine to a show may think the wrench collector has it easy. But little things have a way of adding up. "We take about a ton and a half of wrenches on the road," Joe said. "It's about all we can haul in the pick-up. It just squats that truck down."
    Photo by Bob Crowell
  • The top four wrenches are patented by J.P. Johannson of Enkoping, Sweden, and manufactured by the Bocho Co.
    The top four wrenches are patented by J.P. Johannson of Enkoping, Sweden, and manufactured by the Bocho Co. From the top: a pipe wrench patented in 1888; the company's first adjustable crescent-style wrench, parented in 1892; a jubilee wrench, part of a 1998 celebration of the company's 100,000,000th wrench; a bottle opener and case used as a commemorative piece on the 100th anniversary of the company's first adjustable wrench. The bottom wrench is a lead adjust wrench patented by Albert Courtright in June 1896, manufactured by the Indianapolis Wrench and Stamping Co.
    Photo by Bob Crowell

  • Among the rare pieces in Joe Greiwe's collection is a set of key model Coe's monkey wrenches
  • The top four wrenches are patented by J.P. Johannson of Enkoping, Sweden, and manufactured by the Bocho Co.

Joe Greiwe collects gas engines, brass anvil paperweights, molding planes, carpenter's tools, spark plugs and vintage advertising materials. But it's the lowly wrench that's put the grip on the Batesville, Ind., man. 

"I was a tool collector," he said, "but the wrench collection has overtaken that. They're just so unique in their operating mechanism."

Joe's collection – somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 wrenches – reflects the hobby's unlimited scope.

"The reason wrench collecting is so interesting is that between 1830 and 1905, there were 3,300 patents issued on adjustable wrenches alone," he said. "The field is so big; it's just a never-ending search."



Adding interest to the search is the fact that many of the patented wrenches were manufactured in exceedingly small numbers.

Joe, who worked nearly 40 years as a carpenter and superintendent, knows a little bit about hand tools. "I have a few that nobody's ever seen before," he said.