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Knife Collecting: A Beginning
Want to learn more about knife values or knife history?


Knife collecting is one of the fastest growing hobbies in the United States. It provides enjoyment as well as being an excellent investment for the future. A carefully assembled collection of selected knives will continue to grow in value year after year. The demand for older knives is a definite reality.

The four main groups that most collectors specialize in are:

  • Patterns
  • Handle Materials
  • Brand Names
  • Specialties

Knife collecting is a very personal hobby where each individual can select his or her specialty. There are knife collectors that search for certain patterns (such as trappers, whittlers, canoes, muskrats, peanuts, folding hunters, etc). Some collect certain handle materials (such as stag, mother of pearl, yellow, rough black, green bone, celluloid, etc). Many collect certain brand names (such as Case, Remington, Winchester, Fight'n Rooster, IXL, Queen, etc). Others collect certain blade stampings (such as Case Tested, Case XX, Old Remington, New Remington, etc). Some collect certain specialties (such as advertising, figural, souvenir, etc).  Regardless of your desires for a knife specialty, you will find buyers, sellers, traders at any knife show and most gun and knife shows.

The most sought after knife in any brand or pattern is a mint one. As a general rule, used knives bring 25-70% of what a mint knife brings. You can usually pick up an excellent condition knife for 50-70% of what you pay for a mint one. Ten to fifteen years ago, all the knives experts preached "Buy only mint knives". Well, in the older knives (1945 and earlier), if you stay with only mint, you will pass up a lot of fine knives. If possible, collect only excellent or better knives. Used knives can have considerable value. But, for the soundest investment, it is more desirable to collect only excellent and mint knives.

Remember to take excellent care of your collection, as you are the curator during your lifetime for future generations to enjoy. Moisture and fingerprints are the prime villains to avoid. Check your collection periodically and keep your knives in a dry location. Make an asserted effort to wipe your knives at least once a month. Your collection can lose value very quickly if you allow your knives to deteriorate from lack of care and maintenance.

The best teacher for learning about knives is to attend as many knife shows as possible. Most dealers and collectors are very patient about explaining the many variations and subtleties that make some knives rarer than others. The more knives you examine the more familiar you will become with them. This experience will also make it easier to spot counterfeits or altered knives. If you are just starting out, take the time to look and talk rather than buying. The next best thing to going to knife shows is knowledge you can obtain from book and magazines. The way to obtain this knowledge is to read books on knives, knife history, knife price guides and knife magazines.

Don't start out hoping to collect every knife made by a manufacturer as that would be virtually impossible. For example, Remington made 1300 different patterns. Set your goals at a more realistic level, such as: one particular pattern, a certain type handle, or a particular blade stamping. A collection with a theme or direction will be easier to sell than one that is simply a conglomeration of everything.

Above all, when you reach the point where you are purchasing knives costing hundreds of dollars or more, make sure that you buy only from a reputable dealer who will stand behind the authenticity of the knife. Beware of 'too good of a bargain' as in all probability you are being taken. As in any hobby, there are always those unscrupulous few who will make a fast dollar in any way they can. Many counterfeiters are very good and only an expert can tell. Simply be as careful as you can and familiarize yourself with manufacturing methods and details.

In any event, get your feet wet at a knife show. Look; ask questions; read books and articles; start small; become a knife collector, and join thousands of us who enjoy this great hobby. Look for a local or regional knife club near you and go there to find other collectors who will reinforce these ideas.

A Knife Value Question: Why does a knife that I purchased, say 10 years ago, cost so much more now than when I purchased it?

What does new, used, vintage, and antique knives mean? 

The system we use for knife grading and describing a knife’s condition is on our Knife Grading System Page. 


Recommended Reading On Knives:

  Books

  • Levine's Guide to Knives and Their Values by Bernard Levine

  • Official Price Guide to Collector Knives by Houston Price

  • Pocket Knife Traders Price Guide by Jim Parker.

  • American Premium Guide to Knives & Razors: Identification and Value Guide by Jim Sargent (Maybe the best for Case knives.)

  • Goins Encyclopedia of Cutlery Markings by John Goin
    This is the best book to give history and general knife info.

  • International Blade Collectors Association Price Guide to Commemorative Knives (1960 - 1990) by Bruce Voyles
    This is the best book to to cover commemoratives, even though it is out of date.

  • Knives Annual (Knives 99, 2000, etc.) This is the best book for custom knife makers info.

  • Collins Machetes and Bowies 1845-1965 by Daniel Henry

  • U.S. Military Knives, Bayonets and Machetes Price Guide, Fourth Edition by M.W. Silvey. The ONLY price guide to U.S. military knives, bayonets and machetes. The low cost of this book is maintained through the fact that it is indexed to nine of the most popular identification guides on the subject (Cole's "Book III" and "Book IV"; Silvey's "U.S. Military Knives 1941-1991", "WWII" and "Vietnam" books; Silvey & Boyd's "U.S. Military Knives"; Henry's "Collins Machetes and Bowies"; Janzen's "Bayonets from Janzen's Notebook"; and Hardin's "The American Bayonet".) This eliminates the need for illustrations and allows collectors to buy periodic updates at low cost. Useful to collectors and dealers alike.

  • The Complete Book of Pocketknife Repair: A Cutler's Manual by Ben Kelly Jr.

  • How to Make Knives by Richard Barney & Robert Loveless 

  • How to Make Folding Knives: A Step-By-Step How-To by Ron Lake

  • The Razor Edge Book of Sharpening by John Juranitch

Magazines

  • Blade Magazine
  • Knife World Magazine
  • Tactical Knives
  • Knives Illustrated

Remember the golden rules of collecting: 

  1. Know your subject. 
  2. Invest in reference material and read them. 
  3. Buy the best quality you can. 
  4. Buy from reputable vendors.

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