Makers and Values

May 31, 2001
This is just my humble opinion, but any knife is only worth what the customer is willing to pay for it. I spoke to a well-known maker from Utah at a show one day, and he asked if his prices were too high. My analogy was if Joe Lunchbox walked in and saw me sitting behind a table, offering an ATS-34 bladed hunter with stag handle, asking $100.00, he would probably think I was crazy. Then he walks down the aisle to "famed Utah maker" and spots a knife of the same materials, same quality. Asking the price, he learns it's $400.00. He chokes! Either Utah is trying to shaft him, or me new maker is offering a knife full of flaws. Why? Because he doesn't know a thing about custom knives, nor does he know us. When Joe Collector walks by the same tables, he knows I'm a beginner, Utah is a vet who's paid his dues. I think there are TWO types of collectors, though. The guy who buys with hope the prices will escalate, and he can sell for a profit. And the guy who buys because he likes the knives. It's your call. If you see a knife that appears to be as flawless as you demand, and you like it, and the price is right, buy it. In closing, I know a chicken farmer in Arkansas who makes pretty decent knives. In fact, he's a friend of the governor, and because of that, he gave me the red shirt off his back, feeling sorry for me.
Hi Bud. I am always in a quandry when it comes to pricing a new style of knife, what will the market bear? If it is a hunter I always ask myself what I would pay for it myself to take hunting and usually under price it because I am basically very frugal. If it is a larger bowie style I usually end up throwing up my hands and let my wife price it because she has a better sense of what the market will bear, I guess that I have to get out of the shop more often to find out what is happening in the real world.
Hi George!
Just keep your prices where they are for a while longer till I can get a couple, then raise "em high :D :D :D

Your knives are some of the best values to be found AND they will provides years of superb use which is one of my criteria for a good knife.

Well said! My feeling is that name(other than Moran, Loveless and others of that ilk) only goes so far - quality has to be there too! I buy what I like not for future value increase - my other primary criteria is that any knife has to be a "USER" - there is nothing better than experiencing a great knife in action - how it handles & cuts!
The financial reality is that you will pay more for a Fisk, Dean, Cook than for say a Jerome Anders who is rapidly coming up but they have earned it through years of dedication to producing the best knives possible but the newcomer producing fine knives shouldn't be overlooked because they are newer & their prices are lower. You will miss out on some fantastic work & great knives.

Good Topic!
Bill :cool: :cool:

You are exactly right. It is the knife education level of the individual that is responsible for how much money a collector will spend and which knife they will buy.

If I have learned nothing else on this forum, it is that there are several different collecting/buying styles.

While money is important to all of us. There are those here in similar income situations, with the similar amounts of disposable income. However, while one of these collectors will put down $500 for a knife and walk away smiling, the other will find his stomach in knots when looking at spending that kind of money for a knife.

It is not the money, it is the knife education level. I have people at every show who walk up to me and show me their new knives. They beam with pride as they take the knife out and show it to me. More times than not my first thought is "what were they thinking". It is not so much the knife as what they paid for it.

When I look at the knife and here X amount of dollars were paid for it, two or three other makers will pop into my head who do superior work for less money.

The difference is the knife education level.

During the seminar at the Blade Show which I was part of. I told the collectors there, "don't reward makers for poor work or mistakes". Do not give them your money.

To the makers out there, yes you have to pay your dues. Regarding the importance of the "name". To the collector, the name is much more important in the after market than in the primary market.

Most of the custom knives purchased today are like cars. The minute you pay for it, it has depreciated. This is due to a combination of factors and not just one.

Bud wrote about the maker asking $100 for a knife and had no takers. The $100 to $200 price range may be the most difficult price range to sell knives in.

Usually, these are new makers, which means you are buying their mistakes. You are paying for them to learn to get to the point like the famous Utah Maker who gets $400 for a similar knife.

Your reward may be, if you hold onto the knife long enough. That the maker becomes world famous and the knife you have triples in value. The reality is, this will happen to very few makers.

Now, this does not mean that your knife will not go up in value, it may. But a lot of that depends on the maker.

Makers who over price their knives will not be around long. The competiton out there right now is at an all time high. You have to do it better, cleaner and for a little less money than the knife should sell for.

Take Jerry Fisk for instance, you can still get a carbon steel fighter from him for under $900.00. Now this is a guy with a 4 year wait, is the heir apparent to Bill Moran and is the only National Living Treasure in the custom knife community.

At this point, you have to ask yourself do I pass on the $375.00 and $475.00 knives and put the money together and get one of Jerry's knives. You do if you are looking at your knife purchases as an ivestment.

Rule #1, buy what you like.

There is nothing wrong with asking a knife maker how they arrived at the price. I do this all the time. I never knew you could arrive at a price from so many different directions.

In fairness to the makers, there are so many variables to take into account that it is very difficutl to come up with a price for knvies.

If you price them to cheap, you get Bud's customer, who after looking at the $400 knife, thinks that the other makers knife at $100 must be full of flaws. If you price the knife close to the famous Utah Maker price, then you get beat up for not having paid your dues.

The answer is the maker must price the knife to make his business pay for its self. You may find two makers side by side with similar knives. One is $50 more than the other, why is that? If you don't know, you need to start doing your homework.

You as a collector need to understand the multitude of variables and how they will affect price in the primary market and in the secondary market.

Question, you have three identical hunting knives by the same maker on the table. All three are the same price. One knife has Mastodon Ivory Scales, One has Elephant Ivory scales and the third as Fossil Walrus Ivory Scales. Which one, long term is the better investment?

Yes, the apperance does come into play, but only to the point where some people prefer white, some carmels and some blue/green.

Why is Fossil Walrus or Mastodon with a "pink" hue to it, the rarest and some of the most expensive Ivory in the world?

This is just a small example of why you need to know cost of materials. Did you know that Ivory takes about 4 times as long to work as wood? Do you know why?

So not only does Ivory cost more (material wise) it is more labor intensive. So how much more should Ivory cost than say Stag? The price difference between the two is changing all the time, do you know why?

Ok, Ill get off my soap box. The point is, you as the collector will ultimately make the determination of which knives will make you get your wallet out.

Rule #1, Buy what you like.

But also, know what you are buying.
I doubt there is a person on BFC who doesn't already have more knives than he/she actually <i>needs</i>. This from a purely utilitarian view. As you point out Les, there are many many reasons for buying yet another knife we don't actually <i>need!</i>.

I have a collection which to me is incidental to the desire to experience <i>using</i> different knives. Different in over all design, and different (within general design parameters) from maker to maker. Most important is that:

1. I like the knife - absolutely
2. Fit and finish are up to my now elevated discrimination.
3. I can afford not only to buy the knife, but to use it for that price.

I look for makers who share my values in a knife. Makers who intend that their knives be used. I don't look for handles of rare mastodon ivory, I'm perfectly happy with black micarta. If my collection rises in value, it will only be because these "user makers" become well known enough and their philosophy of making real users in style enough, that people will one day pay more - even if only a little more - for knives that have been used. This becomes more likely the more of these knives I have because they all end up being rotated and thereby used relatively lightly.

So while I may go to a knife show with my heart set on that $400 knife from the well known maker, I will forgo that purchase and pick up the $100 knife from the new maker in a heart beat if the workmanship of the knife meets my minimum standards (which may take some faith where the heat treat is concerned) because I'm really going to <i>use</i> it.

Indeed, George Tichbourne has given me something of a dilema in this regard. I have ordered from George a real custom - one of a kind - knife. I ordered it intending it to be a user, and George abligingly priced it that way too, but now I'm thinking that this really is a true custom and from a knife maker who is becoming more and more widely known. Do I use this knife, or turn my knife affectation around another cycle and begin a <i>real</i> collection, of knives I <i>don't</i> use?

I can see your problem, from all I have heard and seen, George makes a heck of a knife. In your sense, I may not have a problem...but I am conflicted.

A local maker I know makes only custom knives, if he has not met you he wants to know: how large your hand is, if you are left or right handed plus all the other usual things. He would rather talk in person and doesn't have a computer.

He has made excellent knives for forty years or so and has made hundreds of knives, but is unknown in the knife world as far as I can see. He seeks no business, does not advertise, goes to no shows...for him it is a hobby, but he is always busy. He only makes 440C blades, but everything else is negotiable. He makes custom sheaths of deer hide, (with inserts) that are shrunk to the knife. He also has a ironwood stump the size of a bathtub.

He is unknown, but in the future? Each knife and sheath is a treasure, who knows? His knives will live on, with or without fame.

When asked a price for a blade, his stock answer is..chuckling..."Materials plus $2.00 an hour. It's only a hobby".

Hope that this doesn't help...:)

Steve I can appreciate the materials and $2.00 per hour, a lot of times it seems that is the case.

Whenever possible I make knives in the $100-$200 range because there is a market there, not exactly Les' clientel but they are there none the less. Because I design knives to sell in this niche,am I giving a less than acceptable quality?...definitely not. Those knives do not have engraving, exotic handle materials, and usually do not have guards or bolsters but are simpler well made knives meant to be used.

I like making larger knives but the pricing eludes me, when I apply the same formula as for the smaller knives I usually overprice and Carol has to adjust pricing for me, that is why I usually leave pricing of these larger more expensive knives to her.

Matthew your knife is back from heat treating and polished ready for the handle insert but will have to wait until next weekend, things have been busy around here the last week or so. It will be pretty but the integral design is tough and meant to be used.
First of all, I'm happy to see you, Bud, posting on here more! This is a great place with greap people here.

Also, I am very much interested in this topic right now. I am a newbie hobby maker who has yet to finish a knife ready to sell. But soon I will be ready. This is great info.

And lastly about Les' #1 rule, that is spot on! Well done Les! This year I started trading on the forums here. Les' Rule #1 has kept me happy in my trades.
Steve-O I'd like to have a friend like that! You are certainly correct in that there are talented people doing things for which they never become famous even within their community of interest. It is partly a matter of self-marketing to be sure. If you don't care, you just don't care, and there is nothing wrong with that, absolutely. No one should force you to exploit talent. Sometimes people have a lot of talents, and you can't always exercise them all.

Your friend is apparantly well enough known (you say he stays busy making knives, and presumably makes something of a living off of it) in his circle to put him where he wants to be in life. Its good to know some people make it into such places.

George, thanks for the news. I'm sure the knife will get used some. I'm going to have to play with it for a while after all!