Continuing this discussion I remind everyone again, the following is info shared from my personal experience and not necessarily a reflection of GEC sales nationwide. Agree or disagree, you’re encouraged to join in the discussion.
Let’s talk about handle material first. Without a doubt, probably one of the most erratic selling handle materials for me has been the acrylic/perylic handled knives. Only a few acrylic offerings were available in 2007 but the numbers have climbed ever since. In 2008 GEC ran a number of interesting acrylic handled 25’s for the open house with a lot of them limited to just 1 or 2 pieces per handle material. An assortment of Northfield 73 and 23 Factory Test Production Run knives were also released in extremely limited quantities. Since then, we’ve seen more of the serialized runs come through. Pictured is a 4 blade Congress Tiger Lily, one of just two made in 2010.
I think the swings in interest in the acrylics are due to a couple of issues. The first of which is obviously the color combination and pattern of the material. Without a doubt, the color that got kicked around the most was the “Dead Skunk”. Not unlike any other handle material, everyone was looking for that perfect balance of colors. The problem was, unlike stag or jigged bone, the dramatic color swings from red to black to white were a whole lot more obvious then a subtle shift in a dyed bone. Getting the right balance isn’t always easy in any of the acrylic patterns.
The second issue is the fact that acrylic isn’t a natural material. While there are collectors only interested in stag or bone or buffalo horn, etc, there’s never been a large contingency of collectors just focusing on acrylics. To a certain degree I think this limited interest is based on a concern collectors have of the acrylics falsely based on past experience and stories about some of the older celluloids that dissolved in front of our eyes. While a lot of the problems associated with the older celluloids have foundation, the new acrylic/perylics can’t be compared to them. Totally different characteristics in the two products.
The wood handles have been somewhat of a paradox. Cocobolo and Snakewood are the hot wood products for me. Bubinga and Bocote are excellent movers and a lot of credit goes to the much beloved “Christine” for their popularity. A big surprise, however, has been the mixed reaction to the American Wormy Chestnut and Curly Maple. Both are great looking and the Curly Maple is just outstanding. The biggest problem is getting a photo to show the ‘depth’ of color, just like some of the acrylics.
Like the acrylics, I think some of the interest in the wood handles is driven by the fact a lot of collectors don’t consider it a ‘traditional’ handle material even though it’s been around for years.
Then there’s what I’ll refer to (for the sake of this article) as ‘exotics’, Caribou, Mammoth Ivory, Mother of Pearl, etc. Interest is typically high for these, but the number of buyers are limited. This is particularly true of the Mammoth Ivory primarily due to cost. So far, we’ve only seen one run of the Mammoth Ivory and the numbers were small with, I believe, only around 50 total made in the different patterns. We’ve only seen a handful of Caribou and those have gone fast.
Next is the Genuine Stag, Burnt Stag, American Elk and Primitive Bone. These probably draw the most attention of the new releases. Anytime a new pattern is announced one of the first questions I hear is: “when is the Genuine Stag going to be released”. There aren’t many if any respectable knife makers out there that don’t offer a stag. The Primitive bone is unique in that you’ll see a lot of variation with some having gorgeous natural fractures. So while we’re all aware of the stags and what they look like, the photo of this Easy Open 25 is a good example of what can get overlooked in materials such as the American Elk.
Finally, the biggest seller bar none are the bone handles for some very good reasons. Bone is as traditional as it can get for a handle material dating back to the days when are relatives crawled out of the caves. Great things can be done to colorize it, it wears excellent, and above all, it’s an affordable, good looking end product. As a result, the bone is and no doubt always will be the most popular handle material.
On the other end of the spectrum, the acrylics can be some of the most challenging to sell. I qualify that with a ‘can be’ as there are some color combo’s that have been knockouts. In fact, one that I totally forgot about was the Copper Snake. Outstanding!
The Stags and Primitives basically sell themselves. They probably draw more attention then the bone handles, but due to the high vloume of bone in comparison, based on numbers, they’re right behind the bone.
Most of the bone is well received, but every now and then a color comes through that just doesn’t seem to catch everyone’s attention. An example that comes to mind is the Midnite Jigged Bone. It was so dark that it just doesn’t have a lot of character. To the right of it is a Black Cherry released in 2008 and has been slow to move. The Black Cherry puzzles me as it’s a great color, similar to some of the to some of the other darker reds we’ve seen. It’s either and example of a knife that’s been overlooked or the color/jigging/knife pattern combination wasn’t just right. Can’t explain it.
So what’s really hot??? It is and probably always will be the Genuine Stag. Passion can run high with Genuine Stag collectors and if you want to get a Genuine Stag collectors blood pressure up, just tell him the only decent handle material you’ll consider is a Genuine Micarta.
What’s not hot? That’s a lot tougher and it varies from day to day. As I said early on, the acrylics can pose the greatest challenges. The Acrylics have to be the right color on the right pattern. The interesting thing about the Acrylics is that sometimes the items that get ignored today turn into the hot commodity tomorrow. I’ve had knives sit for months with zero interest and suddenly, they’re in demand. The Bronco Charlie’s were a great example. I had a fairly large number of them that sat for the longest time and the interest suddenly took off.
Where does bone fall in the ranks? It can fall into the hot or not group. It seems like the popularity of the color can be driven by the pattern of knife it’s on. Fuschia might not work on a Sunfish, but it went over great on the 73’s.
Right or wrong, that’s how I see it.
Next time around, I’ll share what I’ve seen happen to popularity of some of the different patterns.