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Knife Grading System




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The system we use for knife grading and describing a knife’s condition is the following taken from The International Blade Collectors Association Price Guide to Antique Knives*. Because Mr. Voyles book is for antique knives only we have added one more category to the following system for "New" current knives. 

These terms may be arbitrary, but whatever terms are employed, they may be useless or misleading unless both buyer and seller agree on what they mean in actually describing the knife. Therefore all the terms we use in grading our knives come from the ones listed below.

Describing old and vintage knives is, at best, an inexact science. We try to be as objective as possible, but we leave the final judgment to the buyer. Our hassle-free return privilege allows you to return any item for any reason within 14 days of purchase. Click here for the details of our return privilege.

The following assumes mint is 100%. 

The pricing of our knives follows the percentages of the 9 categories like this:

  1. New Manufactures Suggested List Price, or less
  2. Pristine Mint 100% plus
  3. Mint 100%
  4. Near Mint 80-90%
  5. Excellent 50-70%
  6. Very Good 40-50%
  7. Good 25%
  8. Poor 5-10%
  9. Junk under $10.00

As an example a near mint knife is worth 10% to 20% less than a mint knife. A excellent knife is worth 30% to 50% less than a mint knife. A knife in very good condition is worth 50% to 60% less than a mint knife. A good knife is worth 75% less than a mint knife. A poor knife is worth 90% to 95% less than a mint knife.

New: Never sold to a customer and never used. New as shipped by the manufacturer or distributor with all original packing (box, sheath, etc.) and instructions. Knives or any merchandise sold as "New" must be eligible for full warranty service from the officially authorized importer, distributor, or factory in the USA. New is what most knife stores sell and they are generally current production knives. 

For years the standard for knife collectors has been the National Knife Collectors Association grading, established in 1973. Basically it is a sound grading standard, but as collecting has advanced many dealers adapted additional descriptions, and the overall collecting field has changed, to the point that many dealers feel there should be a more detailed grading system. The basic grading standards have been left intact, but what follows is a clarification and enhancement of those standards, and also the reasons for the revisions.

Cracks. One important exception: Cracks will occur in mint knives. If it is mint for everything except a crack, the knife is still mint-–it is only mint with a crack. This should downgrade the value approximately 10% on most knives.

New Category:
Pristine Mint: The coin world would call this MS-63-65, the ultimate in quality and condition–not just mint, but mint plus something, good fit, no specks on a very old knife, etc. Suffice to say there are very, very few of these out there. Perfect plus.

Mint: The standard mint, unsharpened, never used, and never carried extensively.
Almost any knife made prior to World War II is going to have some rust specks here and there. If you only wait for mint New York Knife Company knives with no rust specks, for instance, you are going to get very few. Some knives that were mint in 1970 have now been in storage for over 30 years–and they are starting to show some neglect spots here and there as well. I look for this to get worse in the future, since few collectors pay the attention they should to the maintenance of knives in their collection–and at that point the value of even rarer pristine mint knives will increase. Important exception: Case knives still must have no rust to be mint. An old Case knife with a rust speck is not a mint knife. Case collectors are stricter in their grading than other knife collectors.

Near Mint: Nothing wrong with the knife, sharpened but no blade wear, some original polish still visible, carry scratches on the outside, walks and talks, no deep rust pits, full blades. (A mint knife that has rusted and been cleaned back to near perfect shape is near mint.)

Excellent: 5-10% blade wear, blades snap, some tarnish, and light pitting possible. A good solid lightly used knife. On a multi-blade knife, some of the smaller blades may still be near mint. Tang mark clear. Master blade not over 10% short.

Very Good: More blade wear than excellent, 15-25% wear, some blades may be slow, stamping readable but faint, some distinct cracks but no chips out of handle that have not been repaired. Blades still sound but may be slow. Some rust pitting and tarnish. Master blade may be short.

Good: NKCA standards refer to this as Fair, which I always confused with poor. Simply Good is worse than Very Good. 25%-50% blade wear, maybe a chip missing, replaced handles or blade is evident, but still able to identify maker, still useable as a working knife. Blades may be very slow. Deep pits and rust. Still has all the blades, even though worn and short.

Poor: Blades over 50% gone, usually short, handle may be chipped, one blade broken, blades lazy, tang mark just barely readable. Still useable for parts.

Junk: (Not priced–no one I know collects them, but you do see them traded for $1.00-$10.00 each) Blades broken, one handle missing, all that is useable is bolsters, liners, and back spring. Maybe an old name or style.

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Many domestic knives can be dated by a U.S.A. patent number which happens to be stamped on the blade. Click here for the patent numbers and years.

Read more about how to determine the date of a Case knife
By learning the simple Case dating system, you can easily determine the year a Case knife was manufactured.

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Knife Collecting Information

Our master list of past Blade knife magazines for sale. Looking for a back issue or year? Blade knife magazines.

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

New knives: Never sold to a customer and never used. New as shipped by the manufacturer or distributor with all original packing (box, sheath, etc.) and instructions. Knives or any merchandise sold as "New" must be eligible for full warranty service from the officially authorized importer, distributor, or factory in the USA. New is what most knife stores and knife websites sell and they are generally current production knives. does not normally sell new knives.

Used knives: Any knife that has been owned by a customer, even if it is like new. Used knives may not have the sheath, accessories or box that they came with. They vary in condition, from like new to completely worn out. By this definition most knives are used, including vintage and antique. This is what sells.

Vintage knives: Knives made after World War II (1945), but not still in production. They are no longer made. A vintage knife will usually be higher in cost than when it was originally produced, but many times it will not cost any more than a similar made knife today if you can find one. This is what sells.

Antique knives or Old knives: Any knife made before World War II (1945). This is what sells.

Rare knives: A very uncommon knife, unusually great, unusually excellent, admirable, fine. Very hard to come by or find. Not many knives are rare as most can be found if you are willing to pay the price and take the time to look. We feel the word rare is over used today by too many when they describe their knife. There is a difference between uncommon and a truly rare knife. A good way to look at this is the difference between Pristine Mint and Mint. Both are not common but to a different degree. This is what sells when we can find them.

See above for grading and condition advice.

  *Used with permission. The International Blade Collectors Association Price Guide to Antique Knives 2nd Edition, by J. Bruce Voyles, Krause Publications, 700 E State St, Iola WI 54990, 1.800.258.0929

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