I have a pair for every pair of my shoes (~25+ pairs I'd guess). The price for trees is really not indicative of their quality. The JAB ones (http://www.josbank.com/menswear/shop/Product_11001_10050_101593) are often $6.75 a few times a year and the exact same as the Woodlore ones that sell for $24.95 on AE's website (http://www.woodlore.com/mens-full-shoe-tree-pair/)
According to the CEO of AE, you want a shoe tree with the most RED cedar (not as much white in the tree) you can find as that color wood has the highest wicking qualities.
Can anyone confirm if the trees sold by JAB are in fact are the "exact same" as the ones purchased directly from AE?
I know they are both made by Woodlore/AE, but I have a hunch that, at some point in the production process, AE grades the quality of their trees based on the heartwood (red) content. This makes logical sense, doesn't it? There is only so much heartwood in the tree, so it makes sense that some trees would be produced with less heartwood than others. Does AE sell these on at reduced prices to their numerous clients that private-label these trees?
I can back this idea up with some anecdotal evidence: I have trees that I've purchased from AE directly as well as trees that I've purchased from the shoe bank. The trees that the shoe bank sells are second quality - something that I did not consider when purchasing them. The only "defect" that I can find in my second-quality trees is that they use less heartwood than my first-quality trees. In fact, my first-quality trees are virtually all heartwood. AE describes their trees on their website as containing at least 75% heartwood. Where do the trees go that use less than 75% heartwood? JAB and others? The lowest AE sells their trees for directly is about $17.50 (2/$39 + 10% sitewide sales), so I wonder why JAB can sell them for under $7 (presumably at a profit).