History buff has spent a lifetime collecting antique implements
Collecting antiques—primarily tools—has become a lifetime hobby for Albion's Ron Jensen.
ALBION Ron Jensen still has the first antique he bought at an auction when he was 15 year old.
He'll never sell the intricately carved 1870s oak buffet with beveled glass, he said.
Collecting antiques—primarily tools—has become a lifetime hobby for Jensen, 68.
His collection has 42,700 pieces.
"Every piece is unique. No two tools are alike," the Albion man said.
Among them are 3,300 hammers, 4,100 pliers and bushels of screwdrivers, wrenches and other antique tools.
They are spread throughout nearly every room in his home, but Jensen knows where to find each. He has catalogued all of them, noting when he bought them, where he bought or received them from, whether they were gifts and how much he paid.
The Vietnam War veteran and retired UW-Madison farm management professor explained the appeal of tools more than 100 years old.
"It's the engineering that went into them. You can't buy tools like they made back then," he said.
Jensen is a history buff and a member of the Dane County Collector's Club. Members visit each other's houses monthly for show and tell. Most members, he said, also are members of the Midwest Tool Collectors Club.
Each week, Jensen receives a copy of the Auction Action Antique News that lists Wisconsin auctions.
"I go a couple times a week looking for tools," he said.
What he enjoys most is finding a tool he doesn't have.
"It's the thrill of the hunt," he said.
Jensen knows where and how every tool was made and can demonstrates how it works.
His most interesting tool, he said, is a window and shade opener made during the Civil War and used by porters of the Illinois Central Railroad. He bought it for $6 at a downtown Janesville thrift shop.
The most rare piece in his collection, he said, is a horse collar bracket made in 1858 by James Way, Fort Atkinson.
"There may be no others in circulation today," Jensen said.
His most valuable pieces are four framed black-and-white Samson prints from the early 1920s. One shows a Samson's Iron Horse tractor that sold for $450. The others capture a three-quarter-ton farm truck that sold for $550, a Model M two-plow tractor that sold for $650 and a nine-passenger car that sold for $750.
To Jensen's knowledge, they are the only such prints in existence today.
Jensen's favorite piece is a Howard Tool Co. hammer made in 1880. He waited six hours to bid on it in 2008 at a Jefferson County auction and paid only $1.
Among some of Jensen's other interesting pieces is a 1917 two-horse wagon tongue with the original Janesville Tractor Co. stencil, tools Czechoslovakian tool smith Frank Vlchek made specifically for use at General Motors dealerships starting in 1926 and a complete 1920s wallpaper tool collection once owned by painter and paper hanger Casper Pfaffenbach.
Jensen also enjoys collecting antique postcards.
Only time will tell what he will begin collecting next.