What is my Lauson engine worth?
Firstly, you need to realize that Lauson engine manufacture falls into (what I’ll call) three, distinct periods.
First period: Hit-And-Miss. Lauson was one of the few “old time (pre 1900)” engine manufactures that successfully transitioned from building hit-and-miss engines to small air cooled engines. Hit-and-miss engines are engines that have their speed controlled by regulating the frequency of the power strokes. A mechanism is provided to prevent the engine from taking every possible power stroke, such as by holding an exhaust valve open or preventing spark ignition. These engines are usually large, heavy engines with open crankcases and big heavy flywheels.
Second period: Lauson small engine production. These are all “speed controlled by throttle” engines. This is the group of engines where I claim some expertise and is the group of engines covered by this web site. These engines were built from 1930 through the late 1950’s.
Third period: Tecumseh engines. The Tecumseh corporation purchased Lauson in 1956, but continued to use the Lauson trademark for a while. The engines in this group are, by and large, Tecumseh designed and built engines.
I get occasional inquiries regarding “what’s my engine worth?”. I wouldn’t begin to venture a guess for engines built during the first and third periods; it is not my period of expertise (assuming I have an area of expertise to begin with :) ).
Since production of Lauson parts ceased many years ago, and NOS (new old stock) parts are a rarity; the only current source of Lauson parts is other engines. This should, I would think, tend to make every extant Lauson have some value. For this reason I hate to see an old non running engine sent to scrap. You have to figure that someone, somewhere is looking for a few parts that could be removed from even the worst “basket case” engine. Still, I don’t usually purchase junk engines. I don’t have the room, inclination, or deep enough pockets to pay the price and cost of shipping for junk engines- to even begin to break even in that venture. Also, there just aren’t that many Lauson collectors who are eager to pay a decent price for even what I would call a “rare” model.
If you have an engine you would like to sell, I would recommend that you take it to a local engine show and sell it there; for the right price someone will be willing to take it off your hands. You might even try eBay (I bought most of my engines from ebay). Worst case, put it at the curb with a $25 “for sale” sign and in a day or two someone will relieve you of it; maybe even a neighborhood kid who wants to learn something about small engines. If you put a “free” sign on it, it will be nabbed by the junk man with the resulting one-way trip to the scrap yard.
People must think that renovating small engines could be a lucrative business because people are always asking me if my engines are for sale at the shows. I have more money invested in almost every engine in my collection than I could every get back out, in a sale. I get offers of $75 to $100 for most of them. People can’t seem to believe that I may have purchased an engine for $50, but I paid an additional $30 to have it shipped, then another $25 for piston rings, $45 for a muffler, $15 for oil seals, and maybe $75 or more for a bearing, a coil, or possibly other part(s). There is also my time in the renovation and paint and gasket material; obviously I’m not in this hobby to make money.
So, back to your question; “What is my Lauson worth?” That depends upon the buyer. If the prospective buyer is planning on purchasing your engine to put to work and give him reliable service he probably isn’t interested in your old Lauson; his Dad or GrandDad did that to your engine and it gave up the best part of it’s life in that pursuit. To him, your engine is worth around $150 per ton at current mixed scrap prices or, about $3.50. “But my engine is an antique”, you say. Well, that’s different. In that case your engine is worth whatever a collector is willing to pay. I’ve seen a RSC go for $250 and I’ve seen them sell for $20. It just depends upon who wants it and how badly when it’s for sale.
Finally, Lauson engines are not popular and they are not in high demand; other manufacture’s engines are. As an example: even though there are (probably) a few dozen Briggs and Stratton model “F” engines still in existance; if you have one and put a $3000 price tag on it; it will disappear pronto. My Lauson model TLV may be the one single surviving model TLV extant; but given that- it’s probably at best a $200 engine to a collector.