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Knife Collections, Treasures – Postal Problems

In the last ten years I know I’ve purchased and disposed of numerous Knife Collections.  When I say knife collections, I’m referring to groups of at least 15-20 pieces.  Some ran well over 100 pieces.  Until the last few years, most of the knife collections I bought were primarily made up of GEC knives.

I tended to stay away from collections comprised of random assortment of knives ranging from Rough Riders to Randall’s and everything in between.  The main reason I had avoided those collections was that they fell outside of most of my customers interests.  Great Eastern Cutlery had sucked most of the air out of the room and many of the new GEC collectors were recovering Case, Queen, Schatt & Morgan collectors focusing on the new GEC’s.

In the last year or so, the number of new releases from GEC has dropped off and their ‘allocation’ method of distribution combined with their SFO program really changed the landscape.  The days of getting all the knives needed to fill customer demand are gone.  As a  result, I made a minor shift in the business plan and started getting more interested in acquiring ‘non-GEC’ collections.

It makes life a lot more interesting as I’m often venturing into unknown territory.  Here’s a good example of a head scratcher when it comes to bidding on a knife collection.’

Knife Collection Assortment

From Top left clockwise, there is a “Tell” German Scout Knife, a vintage Winchester Muskrat, a Jack Knife Ben ranchers knife and a vintage Empire, Winsted CT.  Mix 10 similar knives in with a group of GEC’s and pre-1965 Case knives and you’ve just blown the better part of the day figuring out exactly what you’ve got.  It can be time consuming, often frustrating but also a lot of fun.  The challenge comes into play when someone reminds you you’re doing this to make a living and not necessarily ‘have fun’.  Reality can suck.

On the upside, every now and then there are true treasures to be found.  Like mining for gold, all it takes is the occasional bit of ‘color’ to keep you coming back for more.  In the last couple of weeks I listed several knives that I felt were real finds.

Western Knife Co Lever Lock

Case Trapper 6254 Stag 1965-69
Al Mar Fang
Al Mar Fang
Larry Brandstetter Bowie
Larry Brandstetter 1850’s Sheffield Bowie

As a result, it’s brought in a number of new collectors to the storefront looking for more of this type of item.  There are also a few GEC collectors getting bored and starting to look at different collectibles.  If you’re thinking of selling your collection or just getting rid of your odds and ends, let me know.  I’m willing to look at most anything but prefer to stay with higher quality collectibles.

On a side note, I’ve had some problems with the USPS of late.  Tracking information has been somewhat spotty in actually following a packages progress.   Packages have traveled from the midwest to the East Coast and back to the West Coast for delivery.   Some packages hit the distribution center in Chicago where tracking seems to fall into a black hole.   Worse, a customer recently lost a knife with tracking info showing it supposedly had been delivered.

What makes this particular incident frustrating is that the post office uses Geo Tags which shows the exact physical location when a delivered package is scanned at your door.  In this case, the PO said there was a substitute mail delivery person that day that they couldn’t identify.(?)  Second, the package wasn’t actually ‘scanned’ at the delivery location but a ‘note’ was made the package was delivered.(???)  And somehow the info on the ‘note’ was added to the tracking info showing the  package as delivered. (?????)  I’m calling BS on this one.

After several phone calls on the part of the customer he was told he could file a complaint with the Inspector General but it was ‘doubtful’ anything would come from the complaint.  I strongly encouraged him to file the complaint anyway.  If any of you have worked for the Federal Government you all know the last thing any department head wants is an IG investigation.  While it probably won’t find his knife, I’m hoping it puts some heat anyone that may have misappropriated it.

The really sad thing about the situation is that insurance wouldn’t have made any difference as the Post Office is standing their ground that the package was delivered.  Likewise a claim filed with PayPal would have the same outcome.

I wish I could offer up a solution to avoid situations like this but short of requesting a signature for deliveries…  That’s not something I want to do as I know how difficult it can be for me to always be available to sign for packages and I’ve had customers specifically tell me NOT to request a signature for deliveries to them.  I may however, add “signature requested” as an option when you place an order.  It adds about $2.50 to the cost of an order delivered within the US.  I’ll see.


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What’s my knife collection worth?

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.

  1. How much time do I want to spend listing each knife on an auction site.  Figure at least 15-30 minutes per knife.
  2. What are the listing, transaction, credit card, PayPal fees and postage going to cost? 
  3. Do you have shipping envelopes/boxes/tape/packing material
  4. Are you going to accept returns
  5. What are you going to do with the items that don’t sell
  6. 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.


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Weekly Update 7.22.16

These weekly updates seem to come closer together every week!!  I’m not sure if we started shortening the weeks to 6 days instead of 7 but it sure feels like it.  It’s another case of summer sliding by before we know what’s happening.

The GEC 14’s continue to trickle in and hopefully should finish up fairly soon.  I know there are a ton of SFO’s coming through so it’s going to take a while.  It’s starting to look like GEC may have finally come close to matching demand with production.  From the looks of things most dealers have extras in inventory.

As promised, I did get the rest of the knives from the collection I picked up listed in the store this week.  There were some really incredibly nice pieces in this group like the following.

GEC #23 Good N Plenty
GEC #23 Good N Plenty
GEC 362208 Jumbo Stag
GEC 362208 Jumbo Stag
Tuna Valley / GEC Cotton King
Tuna Valley / GEC Cotton King
Schatt & Morgan Presidents Choice Proto
Schatt & Morgan 2002 Presidents Choice Prototype


This is rather neat Prototype as I don’t believe this was the final version that was released for the President’s Choice Knife in 2002.  It is indeed a ‘prototype’.   The shield is different and the laser etching on the back didn’t make it to the final run.  If you look closely at the pins in the second photo, you can see they had lasered a spot where the pins were to be set.  I’m not sure if the intent was for this to act as an outline around the pin or why it was done.

It’s hard to find a quality collection like this for sale with any regularity.  And it’s really fun to be able to actually get to buy a group of knives like these.  If you have a collection you’re interested in selling, know of anyone wishing to liquidate their collection or if you here of an estate situation, drop me a note.

I had a short conversation with Chris this past week and it sounds like there’s an outside chance they may get to the 15’s before late fall.  They have a bunch of SFO’s to run but most of them are single blade projects which go together fairly quick, so with any luck…