A rare collector’s item

We gripe a lot about how material quality has gotten worse, and it has. But sometimes, it’s just a case of accidents happen.

Across the board, the materials we work with have gotten cheaper and crummier. From plywood with veneers so thin you can see through them, to tools so poorly made they don’t last. But through it all, I’ve always maintained that you can still find quality tools and materials if you’re willing to either drive a bit farther or pay a bit more to get them.

I still believe this, but every once in a while something slips through in an otherwise OK batch of materials. For example, look at this:

I really don’t remember how many screws were in the box, but I dumped the whole thing into a plastic hardware bin that holds up to 1,000 screws and more, so it had to be at least that many. I’ve been using them for a couple years, and the other day while screwing down some toggle clamps for a jig, that smooth guy on the right in the above photo popped up. Stupidly, I never noticed until I tried tightening it down in the pilot hole I’d drilled for it. The thing just kept spinning and I couldn’t figure out why. Couldn’t even back it out of the hole – no threads! – and finally had to pry it out with the tip of a putty knife.

Still, I have no complaints. The other 999 screws from that box are just fine; it’s just a case where an oddball screw made it into the batch. That can happen with anything, like that 1918 postage stamp with the upside-down airplane, the famous “Inverted Jenny.” Only a hundred of those are thought to exist. Find one and you’re an instant millionaire – a single Inverted Jenny sold in 2007 for $977,500 and a block of four went for $2.7 million in 2005. Of course, stamp collecting is a huge hobby, which drives the values way up. The way I figure it, all I have to do is wait for screw collecting to become big.

And when it does, I’m set for life.



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