Pieces of Knife Company History

I’m thankful to be a collector of old knives and knife company memorabilia today.

Why am I thankful? Because I can find things folks are selling so much easier now than I ever could have back pre-World Wide Web.

I’m convinced we now find more of what we collect than ever before. No wonder folks used to quit collecting because they no longer could find knives/memorabilia they hunted.

Think about it- Folks find knife “stuff” that we collect all the time. In the old days, it would get chunked in the garbage. Today, more folks take a few minutes to “research” online first. And as more collectors put up websites and other “flags” folks can find to help them identify the collectiblity of this “stuff,” the more it goes into circulation and makes its way to us.

Here’s a great example of what I’m talking about- A significant piece of knife company history.

Napanoch Knife Company printers block

It’s a printers block used by the Napanoch Knife Company during the years of 1900-1919. It sold on eBay for $261 yesterday.

Napanoch Knife Company ad from 1910

Published in: on February 15, 2010 at 11:34 am  Comments (1)  
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Knife Company Memorabilia- Cattaraugus Cutlery Co. wall display

It’s not everyday we find a true piece of knife company history. Last week an item sold on eBay and it was a true treasure.

Here’s the seller’s description:

c.1920- 1930 36” X 48″ FOLDING ADVERTISING BOARD, made of heavy cardboard, beautiful colors with blue, brown, cream, red and green.  The center picture is of a grey haired gentlemen in suit and tie peeling an apple with his pocket knife with “FRIENDS FOR 30 YEARS” in the frame.  The other two frames are (1) a picture of kitchen cutlery with “CATTARAUGUS –IS A GUARANTEE FOR CUTLERY” and on the other pocket knives with “LITTLE INJUN LINE-A KNIFE FOR EVERY USE.”  At the top center it says “CATTARAUGUS CUTLERY CO., LITTLE VALLEY, N.Y.”   On the top left is a picture of the “LITTLE INJUN” and on the top right is another picture of an “LITTLE INJUN.”  We understand that one is on display in the National Knife Museum.”

Oh yeah, I almost forgot- it sold for $869 plus $150 shipping (proving again, good stuff brings good prices, even in a bad economy).

Published in: on January 6, 2010 at 7:53 pm  Comments (6)  
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1904 Holley Knife, Lakeville, CT Catalog

1904 Orginal Holley Mfg. Co. Catalog

Original Holley Mfg. Co. Catalog- 1904

I don’t know about you, but I love old knife catalogs with all the different varieties of knives. Plus, knowing a catalog is an original edition intrigues me every bit as much as an old knife.

Yesterday early evening a very rare knife company catalog closed out on eBay.  It was a Holley Manufacturing Co. original edition from 1904 with 125 highly illustrated pages. In case you aren’t familiar, Goins Encyclopedia shows their years as c. 1854 – 1930s.

The history of the firm starts back in 1844 when Alexander Holley built a knife factory in Lakeville, CT. He eventually illustrated inside pagestook in partners and in 1854  incorporated under the name Holley Manufacturing Company. They continued enjoying success until around 1900 when larger firms began taking market share. The larger firms mass production methods outpaced Holley’s hand forging. In 1915, Holley downsized, yet continued making knives until the late 1930s.

In Levine’s Guide to Knives and their Values, 4th edition, Holley Mfg. Co. is rated as Very High in desirability.  He also states the firm ceased distribution around 1904.

Inside cover and 1907 price list

Inside cover and 1907 price list

Also included in this eBay sale was a price list and an explanation of their pocket knife numbering system dated March 18, 1907.

I had to run pick up my youngest daughter from practice. When I got back the auction was history.

The catalog sold for $518.88. Good stuff is always in high demand.

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-


W R Case & Sons Cutlery Co, Bradford, Pa

Jumbo Swellcenter Elephant Toenail (sunfish) knife

Condition: Excellent

Knife #2-


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.

Open Letter From eBay to their Sellers & the Internet Sales Tax

Here is an open letter I received from eBay on the Internet Sales Tax

Tell Congress, “No New Net Taxes”

Internet Sales Taxes- Your costs go up. Your buyer’s costs go up. You are required to comply with the same tax laws as the nation’s largest retailers. This scenario could soon become a reality.

The sales tax laws governing today’s Internet and catalog retailers are simple: If you sell something to a person living in your state, you collect sales tax. If that customer doesn’t live in your state, you don’t collect the tax. However, a number of state governments and the biggest retail giants in America are planning an aggressive lobbying campaign to change the law. They want to require small retailers to operate like the biggest retail chains, collecting taxes everywhere.

We all know times are tough and state governments are looking for more tax money. Likewise, big retailers see an opportunity to gain a competitive edge by imposing new costs and higher prices on their smallest competitors. Luckily, the tax ground-rules can’t be changed without congressional action. There’s still time to stand up and be counted. If you think adding a new tax burden on small Internet retailers is a bad idea, now is the time to make your voice heard. Click here to send a letter to your U.S. Representative and Senators today.”


My take is this: Raising taxes, whether on Internet Sales, or to “reduce the deficit,” that has seemingly become a high priority within the last week, is pure economic suicide right now.

The gov. is trying to get folks to spend money to kick start the economy. It is trying to raise consumer confidence. So, is it a good idea for the gov. to then take the taxpayers’ money-  including the money the gov. is “giving” back to the taxpayers through the so-called stimulus package? Sounds to me like we’re playing the “guess which hand?” game. They hope the taxpayers might eventually get confused enough to actually think it really is the gov’s money that is being taken back anyway….

Maybe one day I’ll tell you how I really feel about this mess we’re in. 


Published in: on February 24, 2009 at 6:23 am  Leave a Comment  
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New Collectible Auction Sites Abound


If you have been following the saga with eBay lately, you are aware some of the changes it made last year angered a lot of sellers, then they shut down eBay Live Auctions. 

eBay Live allowed auction houses to advertise and run their auctions in “real time.” Not only did they get traffic and bidders on eBay, it added an Internet-bidding component to their real-life auctions. 

We follow eBay closely here at CNJ because it is the largest auctioneer of knives. At the time of this writing, there are over 74,500 listing under “knife.”

With eBay angering their seller base and then shutting down of eBay Live Auctions, newly formed online auctioneers are jumping in to grab some of the market. 

  • LiveAuctioneers issued a press release announcing its plans to launch an independent online-bidding platform.
  • Ableauctions (iCollector.com) partnered with the National Auctioneers Association to provide the service to the NAA’s membership of 6000 auctioneers nationally. Their joint venture is called NAALive.
  • worthpointgoantiquesGoAntiques.com  reportedly offered more than 500,000 items from 1,450-plus dealers in 27 countries and logs more than 1 million visits and thousands of transactions each month. GoAntiques was recently purchased by WorthPoint.  
  • WorthPoint.com announced this week a newly designed collectors site emphasizing social networking, member profiles and news from the collector world. It has also integrated GoAntiques into its platform.

It wouldn’t surprise me to see F+W Media try to carve out a niche in the knife auction business through Blade with this online auction platform.

eBay Bans Knife Sales

ebayeBay says it will ban all knife sales, except table cutlery, on its UK and Ireland websites.

eBay’s ban is in response to the BBC ‘s Watchdog purchase of illegal knives on two of its sites. eBay is currently the largest auctioneer of knives.

The knives were purchased by this group from US sellers.

One of the knives purchased

One of the illegal knives purchased

eBay said they had security measures in place to make sure only legal knives are offered by UK and Irish sellers on these sites, however, they have concluded the only way to control sellers from outside those two countries was to ban all knife sales from their UK and Ireland sites.

“Safety is our number one priority and we recognise we need to do more to protect our members. Therefore, we are reviewing our position with regards to the sale of all knives on eBay, including those currently permitted by law,” said the eBay spokesman.


 BBC’s Watchdog Video Report on Illegal Knife Sales on eBay

Published in: on February 9, 2009 at 9:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Largest Online Auctioneer of Knives Cuts Over 1000 Jobs

Like it or not, eBay is a major player when it comes to knives. I know, they don’t make knives, or own them, but they do play what has become an important role in brokering/auctioning knives.

In fact, I would go as far to say, eBay transacts more knife sales on any given day than any other single source. Take for example, go search “knife” and 62,950 auctions show up. Search “pocket knife” and you get 10,008 auctions.

Perry Miller, the NKCA President said here on the CNJ Knife Show, “It (eBay) is the largest knife show in the world and it is open 24/7- seven days a week.”

In its early days many folks didn’t like it. Today folks have accepted it and adapted, and most now capitalize on it. (more…)

Published in: on October 8, 2008 at 7:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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