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.



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