Collecting Pocket Knives


This guide is meant to be a brief outline for the novice collector of vintage pocket knives. I'll try to describe some of the more common mistakes that new collectors can make and give some basic outlines for helping to spot a problem knife or an outright counterfeit.

Collecting vintage folding knives can be a fun, educational, rewarding and sometimes profitable hobby. Many times, half of the fun is in the hunt itself.searching every sale in town, Grandpa's tackle box, or any other nook or cranny.always in search of that undiscovered treasure to add to your collection.

Occasionally, new collectors will be so anxious to purchase an old knife for their collection, that they will overlook obvious signs of problems with a knife. Some of these problems are just general wear and tear that will greatly reduce the value of a knife. Other problems are not so noticeable to a new collector, but will greatly affect the value of the knife.

Before I go any further, please remember that I am writing this guide for the less experienced collector of vintage pocket knives. I'm aware that I am overlooking an entire book full of crucial tips on helping to spot fake knives, counterfeits, and repaired/altered knives. I'll try to touch on some of the basic rules (that apply to most brands) and describe some of the more common problems that a novice collector may find with a vintage knife. Unfortunately, many new collectors find out the hard way that they have a problem knife, after it is already purchased. Be cautious.if a knife seems too good to be true.it very well may be the case. Find out a little history on a knife, if you can, before you buy it. Ask questions.

As a seller, the most common question that I receive from newer collectors is "Where can I find a good price guide for old knives". My answer to potential buyers is always "Buy every guide that you can find - even outdated books." With any type of collecting, you can never know enough. As well as some very enjoyable reading, the outdated price guides are a wealth of reference material on old knife companies, blade stampings used, and knife identification. The out of print guides offer an important look at price trends for certain knives, over the years. Some knife brands and specific patterns seem to increase in value almost every single year, while others remain nearly unchanged over the last 10, 15, or even 20 years. Collect what you like.but learn all you can along the way.

Personally, when it comes to fake, altered or problem knives - I group these into two specific categories. Those which have been honestly repaired to make the knife more useful or (less broken) and those which have been altered with the intent to defraud or cheat an unsuspecting (or uninformed) collector.


Re-Shaped Blade - Probably one of the most common repairs to find in an old knife. Probably, at some point, almost everyone has used a knife blade to pry a paint lid or to use as a screwdriver, resulting in a broken blade tip. The owner would usually put the knife on a grind wheel or on a stone and re-shape the broken tip back to a useable state. This shorter, re-shaped blade reduces the value of a collector knife. The easiest way to spot this is in the blade having a shorter or more rounded appearance. When the blade is closed, the tip won't fill up the space in the handle as far as it should. As a (general) rule, the master blade or largest blade should come to almost the end of the handle, when closed (or within 1/4 to 3/8 inch on some models).

Replaced Blade or Blade Pin- This is a very common repair on older pocket knives. Many times it is done to repair a broken blade or pin, to make the knife serviceable again.other times it is done to sell the knife as a more desirable brand for more money. It is fairly easy to change a blade and no special tools are required. Basically a small punch and a good hammer. The most obvious signs of a blade change in an old knife will be the blade pin not matching the bolster, as far as the metal used. Many old repairs were made by a farmer or handyman, using a steel nail to replace a broken blade pin. The steel nail will be dark, while the front bolster will most times be made of nickel-silver. Very obvious that the pin is darker and does not match. Most times the person making the repair didn't have access to a nickle silver pin, so grabbed the first thing that would fit - generally a nail. Early cutlery companies spent alot of profit using nickel silver and other semi-precious metals for bolsters, liners and shields. They polished them to a mirror surface, to hide the pin holding the blades in place. They would not go through such cost and labor, to put a dark or rusty pin in place to hold the blades.

Dinged, damaged, smashed, or drilled holes in a metal bolster are of course signs that someone may have either attempted a blade replacement or poorly repaired a broken blade pin.

Putting an entirely different blade into an old pocket knife is a little tougher to spot, if someone took the time to correctly replace the nickel-silver pin and polish it afterward. Look to be sure that the very back of the blade, when opened, is basically level with the backspring (bottom edge of knife). Sometimes, you will see an obvious stair-step from the back of the blade, to where it meets up with the spring. On 99% of the older knives that you see, the back of the blade will be generally flush with the backspring that works that blade. If there is a noticeable difference, a large gap, etc it could be a sign that the blade is not original.

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