Public works program paid folks to whittle

Federal program funded whittlers.

Federal program funded whittlers.

Did you know back during the Depression our government spent money to kick start our economy by hiring the unemployed to whittle? I’m serious.

President Franklin Roosevelt responded to the crisis with a series of programs to put the 10 million able-bodied unemployed to work with the “alphabet” relief programs- the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), the Public Works Administration (PWA) and the Civil Works Administration (CWA). In 1934, these programs were replaced by the Works Progess Administration (WPA).

The WPA was distinguished from the earlier programs by its inclusion of the unemployed writers, teachers, librarians and artists. Federal Project Number One of the WPA was designed to document American art and culture, and included paying painters to paint our history. Part of “Federal One” was to celebrate and legitimize American art- homegrown art, including folks art, murals, theater and music.

Farmer & his dog- Fred Myers Whittler

Farmer & his dog- Fred Myers

Fred Myers- Historic Figures and Common Men

This artist participated in federal art programs in the 1930s and early 1940s. Myers was a coal miner, who began his artistic career by whittling. When the mines closed during the Great Depression, Myers worked to perfect his whittling skills. He was one of several artists the University Museum hired through the Works Progress Administration. He worked for the museum from 1939 until 1942, carving historic figures and prehistoric animals. The museum has 25 of his sculptures.

YOU’RE FIRED-The heads of the knife companies might be next

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Stop the presses.

Can you believe what is going on right now in Washington?

If you can believe it or not, the current administration fired the CEO of one of the Fortune 500 companies today. Doesn’t it feel like we are in the Twilight zone or what?

Unreal things are going on. First we had the congress wanting to put a salary cap on what a business can pay its executives. Then we had the government taking the bonuses back that were paid pursuant to a contract between a company and its employees. On Monday, we witnessed a CEO being taking out by direct government interference. There is no way a bunch of bureaucrats can do a better job than the private sector. No Way!

Unbelievable. I can’t sit back and quietly watch this happen. Before it is over, we’ll be told which of the government run businesses we have to work for, or worse our kids will.

All I can say is this- Arrowsmith watch your back. Now that we have the administration removing folks who are running businesses, no one is secure. Heck, before we know it we’ll be having to ask the government to be able to buy a pocketknife from a government controlled knife company, that is assuming they don’t shut them down totally.

My Favorite Knife YouTube Video Contest

youtubeUPDATED: Thur. April 30, 2009

The deadline is today for entering your video! Put it up on YouTube and send me your link. Thanks to the contestants who have taken the time to enter. Good luck!

Check out Cutlery News Journal’s YouTube Channel for the entries as they come in. I’m linking them to the 2009 My Favorite Knife Video Playlist.

The rules and instructions are linked below.

Everyone has a favorite knife. And I haven’t met a knife owner who doesn’t get excited and want to tell about it.

(more…)

Batson Bladesmithing Symposium

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Weekend Edition

Our Weekend Edition called for CNJ to send a reporter and video crew to cover Baston’s Bladesmithing Symposium near Birmingham, Alabama today. Serve weather is coming through now, so we’ll see.

Demonstrations run til noon, then a show, followed by an auction. Maybe we could cover it for the Weather Channel while we’re there. It should clear up later today, but right now it is just a matter of going from Point A to Point B.

The event is going on at Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park.

Later that same day…..

tannehillironworksI have good news and bad news.

The Good News is about mid-day, I finally got the all clear on the weather, so took off for the hour and a half drive to Tannehill Ironworks State Park.

The Bad News is once I got there I found out it was not this weekend, but the next.

Normally, I would be a miffed doing something dumb like this, but it was OK because it gave me a chance to spend some quality time with Shelby.

The tale of two knife sales- Conclusion

This is the tale of two knife sales.

Knife #2

The WR Case Jumbo I bought to sell on eBay for a test

In the Introduction, I shared with you rarely do we have a true comparison of two virtually identical knife sales to provide us with the buyers price differentiation between knife grade conditions. And that I bought a knife to put up on eBay to see how it would compare to a better quality one that was already up for auction on the same site.

Then we saw in Part I- the challenges we collectors face trying to value knives and why this test would be so interesting. Part II- established why past sales are the best gauge of value even though it is so rare to have identical knives being sold at auction at the same time.

These auctions will also provide us a snap-shot of value in the current economic conditions and then to be able to compare them to same knife sales of the last few years.

Now in the conclusion of my experiment, I want you to see the knives and the auctions results. Then we’ll end with my observations.

These knives- two W. R. Case  Jumbo Swellcenter Elephant Toenails (sunfish) offered me for the first time since I started knife collecting a real apples-to-apples sales comparison of two identical knives each with a different grade condition and the buyers’ judgment of their price differences.

And now for the knives and their auctions

These two knives represent one of the most sought-after styles of the elephant toenail pattern.

Veteran knife dealer, Mr. Joe Seale said in an interview I conducted with him in June of 2003, that he usually doesn’t keep a Swellcenter for more than two months- even though this style toenail represents the highest price of the three different styles.

In case you have wondered why I chose to run the test on this knife, well, it is my most favorite- that’s why. I have tracked this style toenail closely over the years. This test also allowed me to see what is happening to values as we go through the worst economy since the Great Depression.

The Two Knife Sales

Knife #1– W R Case & Sons Cutlery Co., Bradford, Pa  Jumbo Swellcenter Elephant Toenail. Excellent Condition

Knife #2– W R Case & Sons Cutlery Co., Bradford, Pa  Jumbo Swellcenter Elephant Toenail. Very Good Condition

Note: The significant masterblade wear on Knife #2 compared with knife #1 and yet, Knife #1 is about 87-90% full. Knife #1 was cleaned. Knife #2 is a real example of a used jumbo (they were hard-core work knives, you know).

Auction Results

  • Knife #1-the Excellent condition knife brought $2595.
  • Knife #2- the Very Good condition knife brought $1200.

Wrap up & General Observations

Clearly we find a measurable difference between the conditions of these two knives and their prices/ values. Originally, I thought Knife #1 would go higher, possibly to $3000. My guess on Knife #2 had it bringing $1300 to $1500.

If the EX brought two times plus more than the VG one, that the grade condition discount is 50%. I’m not willing to go that far and apply that ratio across the board.

While the demand historically has been strong, Mr. Seale also shared with me that only 2% of collectors buy knives over $500. This tells us these knives have a limited buying market than a more affordable pattern or style. I tend to agree with the position he holds regarding high-end knife buyers-

“High-end knife collectors as a group have the where-with-all to be able to purchase the rare ones in the best condition.”

Translation- The discount for less than EX is going to be greater for high-end knives, not just in dollars, but as a percentage. I believe this was evident in this test. There is weaker price support for knives in “marginal” collector condition. This may, or may not, be the result of the heavy emphasis on the “Buy Only Mint Condition” mantra I have seen preached and heard ever since I started collecting. But I don’t know.

The result of this test provides good news for knife owners and potential sellers. It demonstrates there is good demand and price support in the market right now.


FYI- I know of a Near Mint condition W. R. Case Jumbo Swellcenter with the exact same handles and jigging that sold for $4000 in 2004.



The tale of two knife sales- Part II

Part II of The Tale of Two Knife Sales

If you are just joining us, we are looking at an experiment I ran recently with a knife I purchased to auction at the same time an identical knife was also being auctioned. I wanted to gauge the prices for the different grade conditions for this 100 year old knife pattern, as the only difference between the two knives was mine was in Very Good condition and the other Excellent.

In Part I of The Tale of Two Knife Sales, we examined the challenges collectors of old knives have when trying to gauge values, especially between the different condition grades. Today, we are bringing it all together and setting the stage for this controlled experiment, in addition to explaining why an auction is the best environment to run this test.

Tracking sale prices

In Part I, we concluded price guides offered us little help in determining values for 100 year old knives and their variations, including condition. The prices are for Mint condition (as in new out of the box) knives only. They are out of date once printed and then, those preparing the guide may not be experts on many of the brands or patterns in the book, unless it is a specific brand guide.

So that leaves collectors needing to track actual sales. Sales are the best gauge of value at a given point in time. And yet, obtaining actual sale prices on private transactions (non-auctions), is virtually impossible. So, auctions tend to be the most readily available price information.

The differences among the same pattern

The differences among the same pattern

We also want to understand the variables affecting a knife’s value. A challenge we face is there aren’t enough of a given pattern sold to include all the different variations, in order to gauge price differences of each variation. For example, the knives are of a different era, different handle material, different brand (but same pattern), condition grades, or something else that would cause the results to be unquantifiable.

What about the sales method used?

What about the price difference between a knife sold by private negotiation compared with an auction? Being a lifelong fan of auctions, it may surprise you to know I believe you can sometimes realize a higher price via private sale than by auction, like when you have a highly motivated buyer and an unmotivated seller, for example. I realize auctions can achieve a higher price on occasions too, but you need as close to equally motivated bidders to run each other up.

voylesauctionAuctions take several factors out that are present in private sales, like the negotiation skill, or lack thereof, of the buyer or seller. Auctions provide for an equal playing field. Furthermore, the seller is not in the picture and it is down to the bidders to compete in order to determine the winner. This finality simply isn’t present in a negotiated sale.

Personally, I believe a legitimately run auction will realize true market value, more so than a one-off privately negotiated sale.

Running a controlled auction experiment

800px-ebay_logosvg1To control this experiment let’s take the two knives- two knives as close to being identical as can be found, their condition being the only difference. Then let’s put them on eBay. The auctions will run at the same time, with one closing a few days before the other. And, yet the bidders will see both knives for most of the time.

The knives are-

  1. Sold in the same market conditions (not one sold two years ago during the days of excessive exuberance and then the other one sold in today’s turbulent economy, for example)
  2. Sold at the same time (both closed within a couple days of each other)
  3. The same pattern
  4. The same brand
  5. Manufactured in the same time period
  6. The same handle material
  7. The same jigging pattern
  8. Sold by the same sales method
  9. Sold on the same terms of sale

Suffice to say, all the factors are as close to the same as they will ever be. It is very rare to have a situation like this. So, the very day mine came in I listed it. There was still several days left on the better condition knife and it was important for me to get mine listed so buyers could consider and evaluate both, and then factor in the difference.

Introducing the subjects of the experiment:

Knife #1-

frontclosed1

W R Case & Sons Cutlery Co, Bradford, Pa

Jumbo Swellcenter Elephant Toenail (sunfish) knife

Condition: Excellent

Knife #2-

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W R Case & Sons Cutlery Co, Bradford, Pa

Jumbo Swellcenter Elephant Toenail (sunfish) knife

Condition: Very Good

Tomorrow’s edition will provide the results, concluding observations of the experiment and additional photos to demonstrate the differences in their condition.

The tale of two knife sales- Part I

In the Introduction to this post, I discussed running a test with the sale of two identical 100 year old knives.  Again, the only difference between the two was their condition- one was in Excellent, and the other, Very Good.

Allow me to start off Part I of The Tale of Two Knife Sales with this question- How would you go about determining value when two knives are the same, except for their condition?

oregonknifeclubshowYeah, we know if a dealer had both knives for sale at a show, he would price them according to their condition. That I understand, but how exactly is the discount for the lower condition knife figured?

I know it isn’t an exact science, but even still it is all over the board out there. I’m also a believer you can sell anything at a price if you are willing to wait long enough, but a one-off sale doesn’t necessarily represent market value as supported by the market.

Challenges we collectors face in determining a knife’s value

You know the problem all collectors face on a daily basis- Different dealers, and sellers, value knives differently, which poses a challenge when trying to stay abreast of where values are and how much a knife is worth.

Yeah, there are “price guides” out there, but I’m not going to say these guides are an actual reflection of where value is, as opposed to attempting to forecast where values are going, otherwise, the guide is out of date the day it is published. And price guides indicate MINT condition value. Depending on how young the knives are you collect that may work just fine, but if you collect 100 year old knives, a MINT condition value is worthless, cause there ain’t none of them out there.

On top of that, how do you know what the “discount” off of a MINT antique knife is in order to deduct it for the different conditions, ie., Near Mint, Excellent, Very Good, Good, etc. I know folks have opinions on the various price levels based on condition, but I want to test how actual buyers value them.

prismLet’s do the experiment

Two weeks ago, I noticed a particular knife on eBay. Right at the same time I had a chance to buy the identical knife, except the one I bought was in VERY GOOD condition and the one on eBay was in EXCELLENT condition. Other than that the knives were identical. Same pattern. Same brand. Same era. Same stamps. Same age. Same desirable handle material with the same jigging.

So, I bought the one I was offered to put it on eBay while the better condition one was still up for auction. These two sales are an experiment to see a current snap-shot of their values- as determined by actual buyers and how they judge the condition value (or discount) between the two.

We could use past sales to do a comparative analysis, but are 2, or even 1, year old sale prices still relevant in today’s market conditions? But even still past sales of different knives won’t quantify the price difference by condition grade of two identical knives. That’s also why I wanted both knives sold to see their real-time value established by auction.

testresults2The test results

Typically, I devote an entire post to a single article, but The Tale of Two Knife Sales was simply too long. For this reason, I decided to break this story into parts. In Part II, we’ll examine the two knives and their sale results, as well as why an auction was the best environment for this test.

The tale of two knife sales- Introduction

experimentLast week I ran a test- an experiment- to see the effect of a knife’s condition on its price.

What made this such a good test was it involved two identical knives, except for their condition. You know the commonly accepted condition grades- Mint, Near Mint, Excellent, Very Good, Good, etc.

Yes, I know we have resources to “tell us” what values should be, like dealer’s asking prices, price guides and previous results- all to help us know about values and the discounts off of Mint Condition to subtract, but when it comes to old pocket knives, for example, I’ve found prices and values all over the board and very subjective.

Because of this, I wanted to run a test and this week I’m going to tell you the tale of the sale of two knives. The two knives were both 100 years old and identical in pattern, era made, brand, handle material, method used to sell them and both were sold at the same time. It is rare to be able to have a controlled test with this many common factors.

So, if you are like me and wonder if there is any rhyme or reason as to how a knife is valued relative to its condition, then stay tuned.

Published in: on March 24, 2009 at 5:24 am  Leave a Comment  
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Early American cutlery manufacturing from England’s perspective

sheffieldsteelamericaSheffield Steel And America- A century of commercial and technological interdependence 1830- 1930, by Geoffrey Tweedale.

If you enjoy learning about the early cutlery days, then here is a book you should add to your library, plus it is written by a Sheffield cutlery history expert.

I wanted this book because it discusses American cutlery history- from England’s perspective.

You will find the early steel and cutlery industries go hand in hand. Sheffield never considered the US cutlery manufacturers a threat until it was too late and by then our knife companies had captured the US market. This was about the same time America’s steel output, and quality, rivaled Sheffield’s. The combination of lack of demand for Sheffield’s cutlery and steel by America devastated Sheffield’s economy at that time as we were their largest customer for both.

Mr. Tweedale is a Sheffield cutlery expert and author of The Sheffield Knife Book. I was pointed to him a couple of years ago while researching a C & X Lockwood Brothers elephant toenail in my collection.

Don’t expect this book to be a riveting page turner, like a John Grisham novel, but it is a BUY recommendation for students of early American cutlery history.

Publisher’s overview and table of contents.

Cutlery News Journal’s Entire Staff & Production Team

Weekend Edition (continued)

I reserve the right to write about whatever I want in the Weekend Editions. Sometimes the stories are off-the-wall, a bit eccentric, but usually follow a lighter, less serious, tone than in the weekday editions.

But today, I must come clean with you about something, especially if you are a regular reader.

One of the prerogatives of a writer is to add humor knowing the reader may or may not catch it. I do this often and my references to the CNJ staff is an example. I chuckle when I write about them in my posts. This tongue-in-cheek humor isn’t intended to mislead anyone, instead it is added because I think it is funny.

You may recall in the last post of 2008, the entire staff of CNJ wished you a Happy New Year. In the 2009 Shot Show post I mentioned that all of the CNJ reporters were out in the field on assignments, therefore we weren’t able to cover it and in the Dalton Show post, how excited the staff and crew were about going to work our first-ever table at a knife show.

CNJ Group photo taken at the NKCA's Dalton Knife Show

CNJ Group photo taken at the NKCA's Dalton Knife Show, and yes, I am the only exhibitor with a computer on my table- and no knives

Well, if you don’t know by now- then I must confess- I am the staff, crew, roving reporters, researchers, workers, publisher, editor, writers and janitor here at CNJ.

Yes, it is a lot of energy, but my reward is knowing you are finding the site useful, humorous, informative and sometimes even thought provoking, as we travel down the path of life together.

And to you who have wondered- I do have a full-time job, along with a wife and 4 kids, plus I try to remember to stop and smell the roses everyday too.

In the future, when you see a reference in one of my posts to the CNJ staff,  reporters or production team, then you can chuckle with me too.

Enjoy the Day!