What’s my knife collection worth? That’s one of the difficult questions I run up against. While I’ve bought and resold quite a few collections over the years, I promise you I still haven’t come up with a perfect formula that’s 100% accurate. I’ve lost money on some collections, broke even on some and made a nice return on a few. When it comes to buying and selling collections on a regular basis, it’s a matter of balancing the win and loss columns with an emphasis on the ‘wins’ while playing fair.
Knives are no different then any collectibles. The collection is going to have a retail ‘fair market’ value as well as a wholesale ‘liquidation’ value.
The retail ‘fair market’ value can be the price you paid for a current production knife or the average of the actual sale prices on a secondary market. Bear in mind, the sales prices have to be as current as possible. The secondary market might be through Ebay, one of the forums or knife shows. You have to bear in mind that just because you paid $100 for a knife doesn’t always translate into a $100 valuation when it comes time to sell. A lot of Case collectors who paid premium prices 10-20 years ago haven’t seen any appreciation in value on a lot of their pieces.
A big mistake collectors make in placing a value on their collection is watching the “ask” prices on Ebay. We all like to believe our stuff is worth more than it really is and “ask” prices feed that desire. If three guys are asking $200, $150 and $100 for the same knives, what is that knife really worth? Most of us would probably say our knife must be close to the $200 figure.
When I value a collection or try to price pieces I’m selling, I use the Ebay “Sold” listings as one guide (but use caution with that as well). You can find Sale prices for the same item differ by 2x. When a couple of people get into a bidding war prices can spin out of control. So just because you find a 46 Whaler that sold for $500, don’t assume that’s the ‘going’ price. Keep looking and find the average.
Just a quick story about Ebay selling. I have close to 6000 Ebay transactions but haven’t sold on Ebay for a number of years. It’s where TSA Knives got it’s start. I’m not a huge fan of selling on Ebay due to cost, Ebay’s sometimes capricious approach to what they allow to be listed and their feedback system. Anyway, a number of years ago a fellow bought a CRKT M16 from me through an Ebay auction. This was a $26 retail knife at the time. I had started it with a penny bid to open but the final sale price ran north of $40. I was stunned and ecstatic.
About a week after the auction I received an email from the buyer absolutely ripping me a new one for taking advantage of him. It seems his buddies were having a good laugh at his expense telling him he could have picked up the knife for around $25 instead of the $40 he paid. Even after explaining that HE was the one that determined the final sales price through his bid, NOT me, he still left a scathing negative feedback on Ebay about what a crook I was. It was good for a laugh and drove home the fact that fair market value isn’t always determined by an individual sale.
Another source I personally use to determine fair value is a website called Worthpoint. I really like this site as it not only records EBay sales but also picks up other auctions as well. Worthpoint is a subscription site but well worth the money if you’re evaluating a larger collection of mixed makers. This was the only place I could find any sales info on the Brandstetter Bowie as well as some great background info.
The other thing that’s helpful, Worthpoint will typically have records of sales that can cover a broad range of sale dates. By looking at info that might cover a 10 year span, you can get a sense of which direction the prices have moved. You can also find pricing for items that haven’t sold on Ebay recently. Seeing these trends can help give you a sense if your collection hass appreciated or depreciated with time.
In some cases it gets frustrating as you can find radical price swings in both directions for no apparent reason. That’s when you have to flip a coin and decide how to interpret that. Once you’ve established a current sale price profile, you’re on your way to having a handle on what your collection is worth. At retail.
Let’s assume you’ve reached a point in life where you want to simplify your life and the knife collection has to go. (Or maybe someone else has made that decision for you) Now what? You’ve got a pretty good idea what the collection is worth at ‘retail’ but what can you reasonably expect to net.
If I’m buying a collection one of the first questions I ask after I know what’s being offered for sale is…how much are you hoping to get for the collection. Of course everyone wants and expects to get the fair retail market value but good luck with that. If the anticipated expectations are too high, I won’t spend much time wasting each others time.
As a seller you’ve determined what you feel is a fair retail value. Now you have to take a number of things into consideration to come up with a realistic sale price so ask yourself the following questions.
- How much time do I want to spend listing each knife on an auction site. Figure at least 15-30 minutes per knife.
- What are the listing, transaction, credit card, PayPal fees and postage going to cost?
- Do you have shipping envelopes/boxes/tape/packing material
- Are you going to accept returns
- What are you going to do with the items that don’t sell
- How much time and effort are you willing to commit to the project
Disposing of a couple dozen knives isn’t that big an issue. But when you have a collection of 50, 100 or several hundred knives, it gets to be a major project. Also understand you can quickly lose anywhere from 10-20% in costs related to selling the collection. The good stuff will sell with ease, the others will take some time and possibly deep discounting. And the buyer of a collection is going to be considering the same issues when they’re putting together an offer.
Then the desire to sell off the choice pieces on Ebay or to a dealer becomes tempting. You may have a couple of pieces that have doubled or tripled in value since you bought them and you want to maximize your return. Consider that if you sell off the prime pieces it can/will diminish the overall desirability/value of the collection to a buyer.
If I’m evaluating a collection, I will pay more for it if there are higher end or key pieces that will help offset the lower value of some of the other pieces. There’s no way I’m interested in buying a collection of Farm & Field tools in different handle colors. Now if the other half of the collection is made up of Randalls, older Stag GEC’s etc, that’s a game changer.
I like higher quality merchandise but if a seller hopes to optimize what they get for their collection, I don’t recommend selling off just the choice pieces with the hope of moving the others later on. Very few buyers are interested in a group of ‘average’ knives unless they can be bought on the cheap. Personally, I’d rather buy a mixed collection of 100 nice knives than a small group of 10 choice knives. If one of those 10 choice knives has a flaw it’s harder to recover the loss with the remaining 9. It’s a numbers game.
I’m always interested in buying collections and hopefully this info will help some of you out if you’re thinking of selling. We all know our stuff is worth more then somebody’s willing to pay us but we have to stay grounded in reality.