What's in a Name...Or a Stamp???

Jun 5, 2002
I realize that there is a whole lot that goes along with becoming a JS then a MS, but, my question is much more narrow, and a little mercenary, but so what. :)

Readfing Jerry's post on Terry passing a portion of his JS test got me thinking, no easy task, me thinking......

How much of an effect do you think becoming a JS, then a MS has on the value and collectability of a maker's knives? ls a knife I bought last month from Terry Primos, for lets say $400, worth more once he gets his stamp?

How about a guy like Don Hanson. His work is already at the top of the heap in my opinion, and, let's face it, his knives, both folders and fixed aren't cheap to begin with, how much effect if any, does his earning either stamp have on the value and collectability of his knives, both short term and long term? I will say that most makers as advanced as Don, who make, forge and heat treat all of their own steels and damascus are already deep into the ABS and have a stamp, and Don is something of a rarity in that he seems to be well qualified to be a JS or MS, pending actually being tested of course, yet has not yet elected to do so. I do know he is thinking about this issue though.

Obviously, a lot has to do with whether the maker decides to raise his prices once he gets the stamp, but, it certainly seems to me that makers who have one of the 2 stamps can and do charge more, and their knives seem to hold their value a little better and are sought after a little more, though of course, as with anything, there are exceptions.

Any thoughts?


Second Degree Cutter
Jul 15, 2003
if someone has the stamps or not. It used to, but doesn't anymore.

I have two knives from Phillip Baldwin. One is pattern welded steel, one is Carbon V, that he got from Dan Maragni. Phillip is not a member of the ABS, but is a member of ABANA. His knives were not inexpensive, but are rare.

Having his work was crucial to me, for a number of reasons.

I have knives from Don Fogg, Kevin Cashen, J.D. Smith, Al Pendray and a few others. I got the particular knives because they were/are brilliant examples of metalsmithing. That they are created by ABS Master Smiths is nice, but if they had been a whole lot more expensive, I would not have bought them, because it would not have been worth it to me.

I have two knives on order from Nick Wheeler. He was tacitly recommended to me by Don Fogg, and I don't know if he has any ABS designation at all, nor do I care. His work is amazing.

It has always seemed a little silly to me to judge how desireable a piece is depending on the letters after the name of a person. You should love the knife first and foremost, no matter who made it. If the price is satisfactory, it's a done deal.

Ari, you do have excellent taste!

Best Regards,

STeven Garsson
Jun 5, 2002
Steven, I agree 100% with you, If I like a knife, I don't care much whether they are a JS/MS, personally, I'd buy every single Wheeler knife I could get my hands on, problem is, there arent any out there! :)

Same with Don Hanson, it doesnt matter to me whether he gets a stamp or not, I love his work, think he's one of the best, and buy his knives based on that, however, the question I'm asking is, all that aside, and all else being equal, does having that stamp make a makers knives more valuable and sought after in the collector market, both short and long term?
Dec 3, 1999
First off, Steve and Ari, thank you very much for such kind words! :)

As far as the stamps, I personaly feel a lot of the drive to get them is just as much (if not more) for ourselves than it is for collectors/selling purposes. It really means a lot to me to see if I can prove myself and get a Js stamp this June, even if it means nothing to every collector in my book (which is okay!).

There are some collectors I've met that will only buy Ms knives, or they at least must have a Js stamp on them. I think this can narrow the scope of their collection, shutting out some GREAT knives...but it is usually their way of assuring quality in their collection.

I think if a maker has priced himself accordingly and has a long-term business plan, a price increase can be incorporated. Now this is VERY rough and generalized---but let's say a guy gets $350 for a hunter as an As, then he integrates a jump at Js to $400, and then $450 at Ms. Now if he was already charging Ms prices at his As level...it would make it much harder (and probably less warranted) to do such a jump. (I thank Jerry Fisk and Brett Gatlin for helping me out with this sort of stuff!).

There are MANY MANY makers out there that continually improve and attempt perfection with each knife (many stock removal makers come to mind) that either don't have an outlet or don't seek an outlet to garner certified recognition of doing so. This is one of the WONDERFUL things about the ABS and its varying levels. You can get hard proof that you were able to pass their set standards as a smith. It doesn't mean that you make a better knife than the other guy that "COULD HAVE" passed if he had tried...it just shows you had the grit and took the time to actually do it.

I think that typically warrants a little clout and USUALLY a little price increase.

Of course you also have the folks that just haven't had/made the time to test.

Man I'm rambling.

I should stick to making knives.... ;)

Thanks Guys,
May 9, 2000
The quality of the knives produced is what should decide how much they sell for. All that goes into the passing of the JS and MS tests does equate, in my mind, to having developed the skills to make better knives and therefore making it OK to charge more for them. However, I believe that there are many bladesmiths that do not get a JS or MS stamp that make knives every bit as well as that do. The value of these knives should be judged by their comparative quality and not by fact that one maker has an ABS stamp and the other doesn't. That's my opinion anyway.
Nov 13, 1998
My hat is off to any 'smith that takes the time, effort, energy, and sacrafice to test for JS then MS. It is an effort worth respect, from both makers and collectors. In general i would say it does help in both overall sales and individual pricing. I have been asked more than once if i had my JS by potential buyers.

Then again, there are makers that dont have stamps that i consider as good as any at the art of bladesmithing, names like Jimmy Fikes(come back Jimmy!), Tai Goo, Tim Zowada come to mind. These guys are as good as anyone on the planet with a hammer.

To me, it boils back down to my initial thought- The effort is worthy of respect, but should never be considered the definitive quality of an indivudual blade. In other words, the stamp doesnt make the knife any better or worse, the knife must stand alone, obviosly.
Dec 10, 1998
There are also collectors who will only buy from makers who are members of the Knifemakers Guild.

If a maker is a MS or a Guild member or both their knives will go up in value. They have paid their dues and put in extra time to set themselves apart from other makers. They also tend to get more recognition and when they make these accomplishments. I do agree that there are makers whou should be members of either organizations who are not yet. Just like if you purchase award winning knives, they will go up in value.

Maybe you can compare it to baseball cards. When you get a 1st year rookie card it might not be worth much, but when that player is the leagues homerun leader his second season, then the card is worth more.

I guess it's like having a B.S. or a PHD, tha tlittle piece of paper or stamp makes you worth more.
Just a few thoughts,


I support this site with my MIND
Sep 6, 2002
Passing a test shows a knifemaker has a basic knowledge and skill base for the intangibles of a well made knife. It shows they know how to handle the steel properly. Whether or not they use this skill and knowledge on the knife you buy is a crap shoot. If you buy a safe queen, you'll never know if that ABS label on the forging was worth any extra money. Many knifemakers are too busy to mess with the ABS tests. They'd rather make the knives they want and love than the knives needed for the tests.

If a knife maker increases their price because they get a piece of paper, but no other value has been added to their product, that's OK. Their pricing is not based upon the value of the knife as a tool or work of art, but the value of the knife as a collectible. I don't buy collectible or investment knives.

That being said, getting the smith designation is important for many knifemakers as a badge of accomoplishment or rite of passage. This is great. Kind of like becoming and Eagle scout. It's an accomplishment but it doesn't mean you're really a good woodsman and many great woodsmen are not Eagle scouts.
Nov 20, 2001
When I look at my collection, I find that most are forged, and most are from ABS members (even though some are from members who are not JS or MS).

Most makers on my short list are not "stamped" (Nick Wheeler, Terry Primos), and some are not even members (Tim Zowada). However, my top priority remains Don Fogg, who's obviously a top rated MS. And I won't turn down an opportunity to buy a Moran at the right price if I get a chance, but it's unlikely...

Nowadays I often find that the stamped blades are not much more expensive than the non-stamped blades. So sometimes, it's actually cheaper to get a blade from a top rated MS (directly) than to buy a non-stamped blade from one of the up-and-comming makers from a retailer. I realize this is apple & oranges, but still interestesting.

I find that an MS stamp given *now* is "worth" to me more than one that was granted several years ago. The ABS constantly raises the bar, and there are makers who are MS who wouldn't get the stamp now. (Nothing wrong with that - this is the curse of success. It just means that all MS stamps are not equal.)

I would like the ABS to create a "super MS" ranking, with people able to demonstrate they can make swords, fillet knives, folders, axes, on top of bowies and hunters. In fact, in a way I wouldn't mind this group to be restricted to a given % of the MS, at any given point in time, and the membership to be valid 1 year only. I don't know what the selection process should be though.