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What Makes Custom Knives Appreciate in Value
March 02, 2009by Les Robertson
If you ask most custom knife buyers, they will tell you that they “buy what they like,” with all other considerations being secondary—including the knife’s ability to appreciate in value.
Being a custom knife purveyor, one of the ways I stay in business is by buying and selling knives that appreciate in value.
That being said, what is it that makes a knife appreciate in value?
First off, innovators and innovations always find their way to the top. If you look at the majority of the “in-demand” work today, the makers of said work have in some way made major contributions to their particular categories of knives.
Four Innovation Categories
Innovation comes in four basic categories: design, utilization of materials, a combination of “art” styles, and craftsmanship. Definitions of each:
•Design is composed of both the actual two-dimensional knife design and/or the realization of the design in the form of a working knife;
•Utilization of materials is the ability of a maker either to create or work with new materials previously unused on custom knives. Examples include the first uses of damascus, titanium, carbon fiber, etc.;
•A combination of art styles is the ability of a maker to incorporate other art forms into his/her knives. Examples are engraving, scrimshaw, semi-precious gemstones, etc. The maker’s ability to actually do the work is often referred to as sole authorship; and;
•Craftsmanship goes beyond a maker’s ability to build a custom knife; it refers to a high level of knifemaking proficiency that is recognized not only by collectors but the maker’s peers. Such craftsmanship is reflected in a great variety of knife styles and encompasses skills with hand tools, other machines and the ability to incorporate natural materials into the work.
One thing all such makers have in common is they think “outside the box” when it comes to their knifemaking. Many become makers after handling a knife and thinking “I could make that” or “I could do better than that.” However, for a maker’s knives to rise to the level where they will appreciate in value, the maker must explore both the artistic and business sides of the equation. Ultimately, the maker’s ability to create “buzz” about his/her knives will be essential to his/her success.
Exposure Early On
Prior to the internet, makers were limited in the amount of people they could meet. Knife shows and knife magazines were almost without exception the only ways to see knives. While some makers offered catalogs—most did not—the catalogs almost always contained black and white photos. The notable exception was Dave and Grace Harvey’s Nordic Knives. The Harveys offered color photos with thei...