I got this from the horse's mouth, and I'll try to retell it the best I can. A man named Todd. Half Hippy, half Redneck, ALL interesting. A story-teller, he. He wears overalls and a colorful knit beret. And he's as kind as can be, deep down. Todd sorta collects old tools. He collects lots of things. He may have a barn with hundred of antique saws in it. And an equal number of anvils. Special things he likes are old powder horns (the only gun content on this post...) and tools repurposed/made from used up files by a blacksmith. Wrenches, drawknives and such where you can still see the file's teeth. He's been known to do some blacksmithing himself. Makes miniature tomahawks that unscrupulous sellers will eventually get a hold of and try to sell as original. He loves pointing those out, "Hey, I made that 2 years ago!"
Well, even he was new to the collecting hobby way back when. You have to do a lot of legwork to get the good deals. He knew that. So he'd hide off to every country auction in range of the DelMarVa Penninsula. He had a nemesis at these auctions. An old guy everybody hated because he was aloof. Mean even. Crotchety. Todd realized he was hard of hearing, and that might have made him aloof, given him the 'mean' reputation. Plus, he was mean. Old Coot. Todd could carry on SOME contact with him, but he was still a Crotchety Old Coot. That wasn't the worst of it. The man KNEW his old tools, and would not be underbid on the good stuff. Ever.
You could win junk at auctions he attended, but not the good stuff. Box lots full of rust, with old Sears woodplanes worth a buck if whole, but missing the blade and handle, dented doorknobs, a half dozen bent farrier nails, and such.
Todd was getting tired of losing all the time, but he persisted. One auction the old guy won something that Todd was admiring. It was a small folding ruler and the Old Coot let him see it up close. Todd was unfamiliar with it and asked why it had bid up so high. The Old Guy was shocked Todd didn't know what it was (of course he didn't, he could never outbid him on good stuff...) and explained to Todd was an ivory folding ruler. 12 inches when you unfold it. A little yellow with age, but handsome. Made from real elephant. "Hell, boy, EVERY tool collecter needs an ivory ruler!" And that was that. He sunk back into reticence for the rest of the day.
Well, months go by and Todd is at another auction with the same big money Old Coot. Todd figured he'd just have a go at the box lots of junk, and that there'd be no chance he'd get a shot at a 3-wheeled plow plane from the mid 19th Century. Well... he searches. In one box, underneath the 10 year old utility knives, rusty wood screws, and window latch hardware he finds a nugget. It happens. It happens to me very rarely. It'll happen to every persistent tool collector eventually. Thing is, the Old Coot knows that, too. And he LOOKS for those nuggets in the box lots. At the bottom of this box is an ivory ruler. That's the nugget. Decent shape. Of all things. Probably north of $200 at an antique tool dealer's shop. But Todd has to play it cool. In case the Old Guy HADN'T seen it. Quietly. With luck... Todd would have a shot at a Good Stuff at the same auction as the Crotchety, Bottomless Wallet. He'd need a lot of luck. He shoved the ruler back in the bottom of the box and crossed his fingers.
The box lots come up for bid, including the special one. Bidding starts at a dollar and doesn't get much higher. A couple cursory bids but it stops at $5. It stops at Todd. Todd wins the jackpot of the day's box lots. When he returns with his seat with a box of rust and ONE little piece of tusk, the old guy, the Old Coot, leans over to him and says, "EVERY tool collecter needs an ivory ruler."
He had seen the ruler and let Todd get it. Years have passed and Todd has gotten a few more ivory rulers in his travels. But that was the first one.
Well, time goes by, and the Old Coot wasn't getting any younger. One day he shuffled off his mortal coil (which I think has something to do with an alternator coil...) and Todd heard about his passing before the funeral had taken place. He decided he should pay his respects to this worthy auction adversary. When he passed the open casket at the front of the church and paused, a little something extra got shoved into the exCoot's suit breast-pocket. Something to take with him on his long dirt nap. Because EVERY tool 'collecter' needs an ivory ruler.