Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Behold the Power of The Schwarz!

Oh, how nefarious the woodworking world can be!  What you are about to read is a tale filled with intrigue, secrecy, arbitrage, and data analysis.  What else do you need?  Hollywood, I will be expecting your call.

A couple weeks ago, Chris Schwarz blogged about his Stanley #80 scraper plane.  As usual, it was a thoughtful and instructive post that described the advantages of these simple tools.  It was nice reading for a Monday.

A nice Stanley #80 scraper plane
What only a lucky few knew, however, is that "The Schwarz" had previously set up a little experiment in arbitrage, woodworking style.  In the final session on the final day of Woodworking in America, Chris offered a bonus to the group.  He said that you could buy the #80's for $20 all day long on eBay, at least until he blogs about them.  Those in the room had one week to corner the market on these tools and then the public would hear about them via the blog, likely sending prices into the stratosphere.

Shall we see how the power of the Schwarz may be used for evil instead of for good?  The following chart takes a look at sales prices on eBay for the past month or so.  Each bubble is a single sale.  The total delivered price is along the left axis, and time marches out along the bottom axis.  The bubble size indicates how many bids the auction had - more bids get larger bubbles.

Click for larger version

As you can see from the chart, things were cruising along steadily in "The Good Old Days".  Average shipped price for a #80 was about $26, and things were good.  Then on October 3rd Schwarz made his speech at WIA, and the sharks smelled blood in the water.  I only have data up until the 5th because I forgot to check and eBay cleans house after 21 days, but even in the 3 days after WIA the average shipped price went up to almost $38.  After his blog post on October 11, Schwarz generated enough demand to drive the average shipped price up again to $41.51, a 60% increase over "The Good Old Days"!

Do you need further proof of the power of the Schwarz?  From 9/22 to 10/5 there were another 12 auctions that had zero bids and therefore did not end in a sale.  Buyers weren't interested in these planes, so these listings were not included above.  Since Chris made his blog post on Oct 11 there have been no unsold scraper planes on eBay.  All auctions have ended successfully in a sale, including the gem pictured below with the absurdly optimistic description "has light rust" which sold for $24.95 shipped.

Click for larger version

What does this teach us?  Chris has the Mojo, baby.  One comment from him is enough to send literally tens and tens of people into a buying spree.  Oh, and I have too much time on my hands. On a related note, I will be starting a new hedge fund soon trading under the ticker symbol SWRZ.  Operators are standing by!
Care to comment?  You would be among a select few who take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity!
Footnote:  In case you are as into data geekery as I am, here is the fine print on the methodology:
  • I used the search term "Stanley scraper 80" to bring up closed auctions on eBay.
  • I only included auctions for a single tool, no bundles were allowed.
  • Only sales were counted, so auctions with no bids were excluded.
  • The price reported is the shipped price of the tool, including final bid price plus shipping cost.  I did look at the results without shipping costs and the conclusions were the same.
  • Only sellers in the US were included.
  • A few tools were sold without blades, and I kept these in the data.
  • A single bid typically means the "buy it now" feature was used.


Anonymous said...

Nice job man!

Jason Kreger said...

Holy crap. Just last night my wife looked at me like I was completely nuts when I mentioned that Schwarz was beginning to have "The Oprah Effect" whenever he mentioned a tool! Great post. Kudos on the data collection.

Swirt said...

Great job with collection and presentation. Makes me wonder how long it will take before they will turn to pre-Schwarz levels (I'd hate to think they never will).

Aaron said...

Thanks for the comments, guys! Nice to know my data geekery has a use in the woodworking world!

Ethan said...

Excellent study, Aaron.

I cringe every time Chris blog about a book or tool if I don't already own it because I know the prices are going to skyrocket for a few months! Still working on finding a good copy of Woodwork Joints by Hayward.

You know who loves it when Chris blogs about tools? Patrick Leach!

I let out a sigh of relief last week when I got the latest issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine and saw the Hermann article on miter saws.

Fortunately, I was able to snag a really good Stanley off of CL last winter with the proceeds I received from selling the fruitcake my great aunt and uncle send me each year (a whopping $15!), so I won't have to worry about those prices going up...

Eric said...

All hail the "Power of the Schwarz".
Great blog Aaron.

Gye Greene said...


Hey, good stuff!

Willing to send me a spreadsheet of the data? I'll run a LoWeSS graph (basically, a moving average) overlaid over a scatterplot, and send it back to you as an image file.


Unknown said...

Glad I picked up a #80 sweetheart two years ago. We need Schwarz to post how Bedrocks are the worse handplanes ever and suck them up while we can !

Shannon said...

Well Aaron, your blog has just been Schwarz'd so I want to see a report of traffic before and after measuring engagement, loyalty, and exit points. By commenting here I expect to see a significant increase in my own traffic as a substantial exit point from this post.

Aaron said...

Schwarz'd is right, Shannon! Traffic has gone through the roof in the past couple days. In the past, I was so happy to see just a handful of visits per day. The traffic from this post dwarfs all the history, a little sad!

Not complaining though, thanks Chris!

Lea said...

Let's coin a new term: Schwarzalanche (with a hat tip to Glenn Reynolds at