Nail Notes--May, 1999

I sent out Nail Notes May 25, 27, and 28.

Subject: date nail related stuff
Date: Tue, 25 May 1999 21:33:19 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Jeffrey A. Oaks" <>

You are on my list of people interested in date nails.  If
you want to be  removed from the list, let me know.

This note contains info on:
   (a) the Indianapolis nail show held in April
   (b) errata for my book
   (c) some comments about this list

(a) The Spring nail show was held here in Indianapolis April 9-10.  I haven't
had time until now to report on it.  It was a success:  21 members of the nail
club were here to trade, buy, sell, and to talk nails.  In the nearly thirty
years since the TDNCA has sponsored shows the show has never been this far east.
For the first time we had people coming from the Atlantic side of the
Mississippi nearly outnumbering those on the uncivilized er.. western side!
     I had a great time talking nails with people I had only corresponded with
before, and I saw many nails which were new to me.  Several of these I bought
so I can photograph them.  Don Blake had a table covered with a pile of
nails priced at 5 cents each---that was fun to sift through.  None of those
nails are junk, and some are downright interesting.  They are mostly, if not
all, from Ken Gronewald's collection.
     Charles mentioned Don's table in the last Nailer News, where he wrote that
there were some triangle 27's in the bunch.  The story behind these is
interesting.  Ken gronewald once found an unused bunch of triangle 27's which
had rusted together.  He tried to separate what he could, but most were rusted
beyond collectibility.  The few passable nails would up on Don's table, and they
were gone by the time I got to it.

(b) Errata for my book _Date Nails and Railroad Tie Preservation_.

(If you do not yet know about this book, let me know and I will send you my
e-mail flyer.  So far 145 copies have been sold since late January.)

In addition to the errata I sent earlier, I have a couple new changes:

---Volume I, p. 92.  Algoma Central & Hudson Bay.
Add an 80 to the last line of nails.  The dates should read 61-80,82.  Ed
Biedenharn got some unused 80's from an employee.  These came from an AC&HB
building.  None have been found yet in ties, but they are probably out there,
along with 81's.
     Also add a reference to AC&HB to the 80 in the reverse listing, Volume III,
p. 192.

---Volume II p. 247.  New York, Susquehanna & Western.
On second line of nails from the bottom (2 1/2 x 1/4 rnd R   stl (07)) add a 52.
The dates should read 31,40,42,44,45,52-54,57.
    Also add a reference to the NYS&W (sh) to the reverse listing, Volume III,
p. 171.

---Volume II, p. 320.  Southern Pacific test sections.
Eliminate all six 1903 test sections.  The 1917 list from which I took these
mistook the OSL for the SP.  These are really Oregon Short Line tests.  In fact,
I already have them under OSL, from other sources.

---Volume II, p. 257.  Oregon Short Line.
Due to another typo in the AWPA volumes, I now know that the "Nevada, 1903" test
had 45 and 36 miles, not 45 and 3.6 miles.  This isn't that important, but I am
a picky guy.

I will send out a complete list of errata sometime later.

(c) If any of you have nails for trade or sale, or if you have a want list, you
can send a note to all recipients of this list.  If you don't know how to do it,
send your note to me and I'll do it.  Of course I welcome any comments you might
have on nails or tie preservation.  This is a very primitive discussion group,
and I'll ask around to see if I can make it more professional.

---Jeff Oaks

 Jeff Oaks                                                Office:  Lilly SC 252
 Department of Mathematics                                Phone: (317)-788-3454
 University of Indianapolis                               FAX:   (317) 788-3569
 1400 E. Hanna Avenue                                   e-mail:
 Indianapolis, IN  46227

Subject: nail notes
Date:  Thu, 27 May 1999 20:18:54 +0000
From: Jeff Oaks <>

Hello nailers,
     Below are some notes sent to me following my last mailing.  First,
though, Lee Brewer ( wrote about the fact that my
book does not contain prices of nails.  I would liked to have included
prices of all the nails shown in my book, but right now two things stand
in the way:  (1) I don't know the prices myself---I don't buy or sell
nails, so I just don't know what price to put on them.  (2) The
price of the vast majority of nails varies considerably from place to
place and time to time.  Most nails, of course, are worth just about the
5 cents Don Blake was charging at the nail show, but even the rare nails
fluctuate a lot.  Example:  I looked around at the square indent "US"
nails used by the Forest Service at the nai show.  Several people had
this nail.  One was $25.00.  Another was $35.00. Still another was
$20.00.  I found on dealer who had it at $1.00!  Surely the one dollar
price was low, but it is not uncommon to find such a variety for a
particular nail.
     Despit all this I will ask around to see if a group of nail
collectors knowledgeable on prices can put together a list.


I casually collect nails.  I have 1910-1970 except for a 1967. I will
buy or trade for it if you can find it. I think this is fun. Mike
Comstock 704 E. Rumble Rd. Modesto, Ca. 95350.  Thank you, Mike


My date nail collection is very primitive.  I am very busy traveling the
rails by railroad motorcar, (speeder).  A group of us rent the rails of
a railroad and put our versions of an off road vehicle on the rails and go
caravaning on the rails.

I showed some of my passengers what a date nail was and started pulling
them from ties.  They got enthused and in the past year, my nail collection
is almost complete from 22 to 67.

I do have three holes in this group.  They are 45, 52, and 60.  I would
assume that these are scarce for everyone.

I have been very busy and have not had the chance to read your books
yet.  I wish I had known about the date nail convention although that is
a long way to go from California.

My friend got a 98 from a P.G.&E. employee.  Date nails are used in
wooden power poles.  It sure looks shiny next to my R.R. nails.  [that's
a 1998 aluminum nail ---J.]

Thanks for the e-mail.  My friend also has the same holes and would
appreciate securing 3 or 4 of these dates on the nails.  Any info


Al McCracken (


A friend of mine recently joined and is looking for a copy of -DATE NAILS
COMPLETE-any help?
Take care and keep up the good work.
Jim Walker(SAN DIEGO)  (

[Date Nails Complete was the best book on nails until my book came out
this year.  DNC was published in 1976 by Glenn Wiswell and John Evans.
Glenn gave all the extra copies of DNC to Buz Johnston, who has been
selling them off since 1985.  I do not know if Buz has any extra
copies.  His address is:  1110 Thrush Ln, Audobon, PA 19403.  ---J.]


Hi Jeff, in your book, volume III, I see that you didn't list the RR
(07) 2" x 1/4" 23b.  It has the same style numerals as the 2 1/2" x 1/4"
RR (07) 23b listed in DNC and volume III.  I found two more of them along
the Old U.P. line through Cedar Valley last week.  In fact, one of them
was even different from the other two that I now have.  You can definitely
list them as U.P. nails as I can now prove their provenance.  the one I
had before was picked up in a pasture laying loose on the ground where
several ties were stacked, but I wasn't sure as to the source of the ties.
I am glad the show went so well for you.  Good hunting.

Al Nielsen #1134 (
1856 N 600 W
Lehi, Utah 84043
(801) 768-4121

Subject: nail price guide
Date: Fri, 28 May 1999 09:56:28 +0000
From: Jeff Oaks <>

Hello nailers,

Below are three people's thoughts on a nail price guide.  Keep in mind
that Lee Brewer, who made the original suggestion, is really interested
more in a rarity guide than a price guide.  He wants some way to tell
which nails are scarcer than others.  Paul Siebach's and John Iacovino's
idea (below) for a rarity guide is a good one, and I think it is better
than making up a price list.  In fact, whenever I could, I did mention
in the individial railroad listings which nails are rare and which
aren't.  You just have to do a little reading to dig it out.

I won't be in my office to check my e-mail again until maybe Tuesday.



>>From Rolland Meyers (

i received your second e-mail - sent to all.
i totally agree with your outlook on pricing.
if you set a price, or price standard, you
detract from the hobby.  it then becomes
more formalized, like coin collecting or stamp
collecting and tends to eliminate the contact
between collectors and information passed
between those collectors - not to mention the
swap of nails from one area to another.
in short, it depersonalizes the hobby, which
although enjoyable, it not a large scale
recognizable niche!!.  ask ten people on the
street about railroad datenails and three
will think spikes, six will not know what you
are talking about and the last one will know
what a datenail is but have no clue as to its

so i think what you have done for the hobby
is supurb, and should be considered the
current "bible" for that hobby.  but it is still a
very limited hobby and to set prices on that
limited hobby, within a very limited group would,
in my opinion, detract from the hobby itself and
deter the swapping and comraderie' that helps
promote new members and maintain friendships
among old collectors.


>>From Paul Siebach (

Putting prices in will just obsolete your book.  I do think people need
to know the relative rarity of the nail though, so they can make a
judgement of it's value.  I recommend putting in an estimate as to the
number that are known to exist.  This is how many medals, coins, paper
money, tokens, and silver bars are valued.  It would be a logarithmic
type scale.

For example, something like:
    R1 - unique - 1 or 2 known
    R2 - extremely rare - 3 to 7 known
    R3 - very rare- 8 to 15 known
    R4 - rare - 16 to 30 known
    R5 - uncommon - 31 to 60 known
    R6 - infrequent - 61 to 200 known
    R7 - frequent - 201 to 1000 known
    R8 - common - > 1000 known

We could use this scale against total nails by manufacturer, or get
fancy, and use the scarcity scale by railroad, or by condition of nail.
e.g. it's a common nail overall, but uncommon in extra fine condition.

Medal books I've read that are 75 years old are still valid when they
use this type of measurement.  The price range for each scarcity scale will
change with time, but it's rarer that the total number available changes

dramatically.  It gives one a much better feel for true value.



From John Iacovino (

Jeff, I am  strongly not in favor of establishing prices for  nails.
Price like beauty is dependent on the foolishness of the beholder.  If
you try to put in a price guide you will be beset with heated controversy..
Those with the nail will insist on the price listed being  exorbitantly high
to maximize their profit and/or ego.   I do however have another suggestion..
How about a scarcity or rarity guide?  I have seen this done in several stamp
catalogues.  This gives the buyer an estimate of the supply.  The final price
will be determined on personal negotiations between buyer and seller based on
the supply and demand.

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