After I posted yesterday I really got to thinking about the question are GEC knives getting too expensive? What prompted me to think about it were a couple of grumblings I heard about the 15 Bail & Chain knives and a few other comments about some of the recent releases, the Whaler in particular.
There’s no doubt they’ve gone up in price over the past 12 years. Picking up a bone 23 back in the day for well under a $100 wasn’t a real big trick. In fact it was pretty normal. But when I look at the price of a loaf of bread, my house insurance and the cost of going to a movie, it’s all gone up. As material and labor costs increase the finished product has to go up as well unless you’re a genius at efficiency improvements.
When I look at the price of other knife makers out there I don’t really sense a major price move in the cost of the GEC’s. Too me it seems they’ve stayed right in line with the competition and in many cases they’ve actually hung back. Fallkniven is one brand I’ve seen some aggressive price moves in the past 8-9 years but considering the materials and quality still think they’re well in line and a great product for the money.
I think the selection of knives using premium blade steels has exploded in the last 10 years. Not only that, I think there are some great quality knives with premium blades that are highly competitive. I’ll admit to being hooked on the newer powdered steels and for me, the level of performance is well worth the price differential for a serious ‘work’ knife.
I guess the point is, prices have gone up all over. We’ve seen more companies releasing new products with premium blades at competitive prices. But with GEC it seems like we’ve seen some interesting things happen that aren’t quite so obvious. And these changes make me wonder why folks would complain about the price of their knives.
A couple of years ago it seemed that GEC made a commitment to build the simpler, lower cost knives as the core of their product line. The Barlow’s became their flagship pattern with a price point well below the $100 mark. The Farm & Field Tools and a couple others came in at the sub $60 range. Serialized knives virtually disappeared. Mammoth Ivory, Mother of Pearl and other high end handle options are gone.
These changes and the move to lower price point was a smart move from the standpoint it opened up the collector market to a much broader customer base. It’s less painful spending $75 for a knife and being able to pick up several different options. From a manufacturing standpoint, it has to be more profitable building a simpler knife with fewer low cost handle options. Move those production numbers from a couple hundred pieces to a couple thousand and economies of scale kick in.
I think what’s happening is folks are starting to expect the price to stay fixed in that $65-85 range. Add an option, upgrade a handle material, bump the price to account for the change and folks feel they’re being squeezed. A price move of $10-15 is traumatic. Its interesting to watch.
Personally, I miss the variety and creativity we used to see, price be damned. I haven’t carried a GEC for a couple of years now because I just haven’t seen anything that’s caught my eye and I’ve drifted away from the 1095 steels in my pocket knife choices. GEC makes an outstanding knife at what I believe is an outstanding price point but I’d gladly pay the price for some variety!