Old & Collectible Knives – Where should I be looking?
Personally, I would stay away from Craig’s list; however, EBay can be a great source for used blades. Stay AWAY from Damascus deals that are too good to be true! They are! Cheap Damascus is going to be made primarily in India, Pakistan and China, but shipped from the U.K or USA. In a few cases that I have seen, the blades were rushed, resulting in uneven or bent blades and most of the time poorly heat treated. I’m not saying they are all bad, but the ones I have seen and bought are long gone. That said, EBay has a lot to offer in the used department. Many students and industry professionals “hock” their knives for extra needed cash on a daily basis.
Do your homework! Find pricing for the knife, and what type of steel is used. Figure that even in good shape, a typical used knife that would cost around $200 new, should go for about $80 or so. Only custom knives with very light use would actually hold any value close to retail. I always go to bids, over “buy it now.” Most students or line cooks are looking for quick cash and will not be patient enough to let them sit there for a month. Feel free to ask questions about the condition and make sure the seller has detailed photos before you bid.
My all time favorite “finds” were in flea markets, garage sales and junky antique malls. It’s true. Old Sabatier, Henkel and forged USA made knives are all over the place, you just have to dig…carefully. Most of those finds will be carbon steel blades. It’s perfectly normal for these blades to have a grey, blue or even black patina. This is a good thing and is a sign of use and care.
Caring For Your Find
Rust however is bad. A little bit can be removed, but a lot will result in “pitting” of the steel.
Don’t buff away the patina! Put a new edge on it and leave the rest of the blade alone. Always lightly oil these knives with food safe mineral oil and store them where they can breathe. The handle can always be replaced or in some cases restored. If you think you have found something special that a collector would want, DO NOT MESS WITH IT!!! If it’s dirty, leave the dirt, sell the knife, and spend the money on a fancy new blade. Always keep an eye out for “Case” kitchen knives or the old Chicago Cutlery blades.