What we're talking about here are intangibles. Something well made and elegantly done is always worth more than the "standard" but cheaper alternative. Perhaps they will both perform for a while, but which will hold its value better? Which will fetch a better resale/auction price? Does the sum involved in a higher price always equal the total value of the parts? Not usually. Then again, such a calculus is rarely made in this world. If it were there would be one knife in each category we would all covet at the expense of others.
I think the primary question is does the end user get the satisfaction of believing they have done better for themselves by going for the upmarket item? You bet. You might not get better representation from a lawyer costing $300/hour than one costing $150 per, but you sleep easier at night if you have the ability to pay the freight. Any of my Macintoshes are easily worth $500 per machine to me rather than having to deal with the ordeal that is Windows on a daily basis. I think a Sebenza is worth every penny over a Gerber Gator at one sixth the price point. The same premium goes for any Porsche over any Chevrolet car, inclucing the Corvette.
Quality is both objective and subjective. It is also worth a premium, just as excellent service is worth a generous tip or a premium price, and excellent service is something else you get with a custom blade if you choose wisely.
You can talk about money or you can talk about value, but only rarely are cheap and value properly in the same sentence. Expensive and value more often then not go hand in hand when one is talking about an item that will be seeing everyday use.
Please don't take me wrong, there is a threshold where expense and quality diverge again. Then we are talking ostentation. A Bently is a fine automobile, but it isn't worth what they are asking for it, because many comparable cars do its job more functionally and more elegantly at a better value, any one of which would be an equally satsifying choice. On the other hand, at the fourth basecamp on Mt. Everest I want that seemingly overpriced Bibler Bombshelter, which all of a sudden would seem inexpensive in that environment rather than any one of a hundred decent tents I could name. I believe knives are closer to that calculation than they are analogous to cars. What do you want in your hand if all of the chips are down and you find yourself in a survival situation? Go and pick your folder, your fixed blade, and your multitool on that basis and you will find yourself checking out customs or highest end factory products.
IMHO, there are precious few truly satisfying knives at a price point below $100 in the fixed blade or folder categories. It may be a cliche, but oftentimes you really do get what you pay for. It is too late to find out whether saving a few bucks was really worth it when everything is on the line.
IMHO, someone who is a serious user of knives and not merely a hobbyist, will at worst be able to count all of their knives on their fingers and toes. Why? 1) Because the original purchases were carefully thought out and researched. 2) Anything ultimately found wanting has been sold off to raise cash for more adequate replacements. I have no room in my safe for a knife or multitool I do not trust completely, whatever it cost, (Range: $25-450 and primary reason I do not have an MD TUSK or ATAK at the moment) Thanks Cliff!
[This message has been edited by lawdog (edited 14 September 1999).]