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What are the best knife maker artists to invest in?

jdeangelis May 17, 2010

  1. jolut

    jolut Little member

    I go for Walter Brend, George Herron and Randall's :ssmile:
  2. Ronlad

    Ronlad Vox Diabolus Administrator

    Buy high and sell low?

    We need to focus on the important issues today. Today is a bumpfest of good, on topic discussions. Feel free to bump some too, Les.
  3. AJD1

    AJD1 Prince Of Darkness Brigade Member

    Jeff Harkins gets my vote,by far...
  4. Les Robertson

    Les Robertson Guru of Steel Knife Maker or Craftsman

    9 years ago when I started talking about knives in "investment" terms. You would have thought I was talking heracy!

    Then 2007 came along. Thousands of orders were canceled and many makers went from years worth of orders to months.

    Knife buyers (while still not investors mind you) actually started doing some homework. Tracking models, prices and aftermarket performance.

    Are there good knives to invest in (Im not talking about paying for your kids college)...Im talking about a 10% return over a couple year period. The answer is Yes.

    For those of you who are quick to point out..."It's only 10%...what percentage is your bank currently offering on a CD? And how long would it take you to get that 10% Return On Investment (ROI)...oh and don't forget to figure in the Capital Gains tax. We won't concern ourselves with inflation and fees.

    Now most people are quick to throw out the makers names who have drawings. These buying and re-selling of these knives would be more accurately referred to as an "Arbitrage". That is to say the buyer of the knife knows they have an instant sale.

    Basically you had to do nothing more than be at the show...put your name in the drawing....and win. To reap a nice return on your investment. That boys and girls is called "luck" not investing.

    Now people will come here and throw out names. What I would ask them is why.

    Im not picking on Onlynewknives....but why Jeff Harkins (other than you love his knives and it would serve you well if they were viewed as viable investments....a little "self-promotion" if you will).

    So ONK....we are going too pretend you are a stock broker. I need to know what information you are basing your recommendation on?

    What I would want to see is proof of his knives consistently going up in value. Not just price increases on Jeff's part. Certainly that could be part of it...but only part.

    As it is in the "aftermarket" where the "Capital Gain" is found.

    BTW, Loveless prices are dropping...guess everyone found out he didn't make his own knives for the last 27 years. However, if you had one that Bob made...it is going up!

    Onion's have leveled out.

    Warenski prices have leveled out.

    Herron prices on rare pieces have steadily gone up.

    Brend's prices have leveled out....but Im starting to see a little bit of an uptick in his work.

    Boguszewski's have leveled out and are dropping from the heights of their aftermarket prices of a few years ago. Due directly to the main buyer getting out of Phil's knives. He was also one of the two people who drove Onion's through the roof.

    I think Rhino-Ranch sums it up best for most collectors:

    Most collectors if not all feel they have made a good "investment" every time they buy a custom knife.

    Truth is 80% of all the custom knives out there are overpriced for (primarily the makers position in the market). As such the investment potential on most these knives has been returned back to the maker when you purchase the knife.

    There are plenty of knives out there that have investment potential...but it requires homework. And like most of us when we were in school....we prefer not to do it.

    With regards to custom knives.....you get your "grade" when you go to resell the knife.

    Homework assignment...go to the knives for sale forum right here on JD. Pick the the first 20 threads that have custom knives for sale in them. Note how many dropped the price at least once!

    What was the percentage?
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 16, 2011
    OnceBitten likes this.
  5. LorenzoL

    LorenzoL Rampaging Devil

    I think that the most important aspect when buying custom knives as an "investment" is the entry point.
    For example, buying a Hinderer directly from Rick at $385 or from Les for $500 is not the same as buying it on a forum or eBay for $700-$800. Same knife but very different entry points. Les makes a comparison with stocks, then it is a little like buying shares of a hot company in an IPO as opposed to buying them on their first day of trading. That spread is a safety cushion that will make a huge difference the day you cash out.
    Going back to the Hinderer example, chances are that if you pay a reasonable price for an XM-18 you will be able to use it and still make a profit the day you decide to re-sell it. If you overpay for it, I am not so sure.
    The same goes for any "hot" maker with huge aftermarket premiums, guys like Burch, Cook, Rexford are the ones that come to mind.
    On the other hand, it is sometimes preferable to buy on the aftermarket when the maker is not so hot, meaning you can save maybe 10-20% from the original price.
  6. Kevin Jones

    Kevin Jones CKCA

    To make it even more difficult, I know of no maker (alive or dead) whose every knife is or will be a good investment.

    right maker* + right knife** @ right price*** = investment potential, is pretty much the theme of my knife collecting/investing seminars.

    It's by no means easy to successfully invest in custom knives, especially while only buying the knives which interest you. However, many do it by (as Les said) doing their homework.
    It takes a tremendous amount of hours studying the makers the knives and the market.

    Most are not willing to invest enough time and effort as it's much easier to just say custom knives are a poor investment.

    * makers who possess excellent design and knifemaking skills, are good business people and promotes themselves and the custom knife community in general.

    ** quality knives which have time-proven classic designs that stand out among others over time.

    *** knives purchased at knifemaker price or below. Avoid paying inflated prices. The "right" makers will have usually maintained stable pricing structures that have appreciated modestly over time.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 17, 2011
  7. unreconstructedgordo

    unreconstructedgordo Level: True Devil

    I really shouldn't say this but ;
    Stephan Fowler gives the best bang for the buck I have found. His work is sure to appreciate in the future when he is awarded his Master status (his ability shows the rediculus nature of the system) . He gives top quality forged knives, light as a feather from wonderful choice of steel. He does detailed executin of guard and handle in an ergonomic design he has developed. I'll put his hamons against anyone in the world. His grind lines are very good and he has learned to put a razor edge on them. His hardening skills are superb - and he does them himself! His knives have no embellishments other than craftmanship, like most of the very top Masters. His current prices are extremely low and when he is producing his wait is under a year which is good. This gentleman is pretty much undiscovered which means his creations are gonna go up in the future IMHO. I collect MD knives,I still have a few vintage Randalls (sold the 80s up ones for profit) , a few Daltons and other maker autos, couple Bauchops and a couple Stephan Fowlers with more on commission. Between the stock removal MDs and the Fowler forged knives I really don't want any more others.
  8. Kevin Jones

    Kevin Jones CKCA

    I agree Stephan has great potential as a knifemaker. I have enjoyed examining his knives over the last 3-4 years and have noticed a good and steady progression which I don't always see in newer and/or younger knifemakers. I haven't heard if he will test for his "JS" ABS Certification at Blade Show this year. I had examined several of his last year's test knives, but he ended up not testing. More important than what I've said above, I've found him to be dedicated, a gentleman and a fine young man.

    Back to your post, I found your first bolded comment above interesting and wonder if you could expand on it, especially the part in ( ).

    Also, I don't agree that most of the very top masters don't embellish their knives (if that's the way you meant it). I find that even most of the mastersmiths who are recognized by many as creating the finest, most ergonomically correct and functionally fit for purpose knives utilize some degree of embellishment. I fact, some of them utilize quite a bit.
  9. Ernie Swanson

    Ernie Swanson knifemaker Knife Maker or Craftsman

    If I had to name just one maker thats new to the game I would have to say............... Ernie Swanson :semper::bwah: J/k

    Ken Erickson would be the one I choose!
  10. Les Robertson

    Les Robertson Guru of Steel Knife Maker or Craftsman

    Hi Ernie,

    Great that you have a choice....however you are providing no reason to buy his work.

    Like saying I have a car to sell you...just give me the cash...honest it runs.

    Sorry, I would need more than just a name to buy his knives.

    Now, tell the mighty JD...Why....they should buy his knives! Don't forget to address the tangibles and intangibles that will insure his knives will provide a ROI in the future (what percentage would be nice as well).
  11. Les Robertson

    Les Robertson Guru of Steel Knife Maker or Craftsman

    Hi Ernie,

    Just did a google search of Ken's knives. They look nice.

    However there is virtually no information on his website about the knives.

    He does not have the;

    Model names or numbers

    Materials used.

    Price (most importantly).

    You can click "HERE" and that takes you to an email box.

    What that is telling me is that he is spending time answering emails instead of making knives and improving the quality of his work. All he would have to do is put a caption on each photo. Name (model)...materials and price.

    If each model is different in price because of the materials used...then you address that by saying just that.

    Almost without exception makers who do not post prices do this for one of two reasons:

    1) They don't know how to price their knives (and there fore are afraid people will see the price and go to the next site)

    2) They know their prices are high for their position in the market. Subsequently they want to explain to you why they are higher. Fair enough.

    However, more times than not people will not send that email.

    So I would like you to do a little "comparing and contrasting".

    What do you feel is his position in the current slip joint/multiblade market?

    Compare and contrast his work from Tony Bose...through Tim Britton consider other makers such as Otha, Ruple, Preston, Chamblin, Shadley, Davison, et al.

    How does he compare to those makers and their prices for the quality of the work?

    Now you are getting into some homework!

    Unless you know all his models and prices...the first thing you will have to do is email him to find out.

    For the makers out there reading this....DON"T MAKE YOUR POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS.......GUESS!

    Before you go to the time and expense of setting up a website....you should have done your homework.

    How do your knives stack up price wise?

    Are you using the most sought after materials at a particular price point.

    Know your position in the market. Price your knives accordingly and provide your potential clients with as much information as possible? Why?

    Because if you don't they will buy from the next maker whose site does.

    The slip joint/multiblade market's cycle has slowed and you are starting to witness slower sales, due in large part to the amount of makers who now offer these knives.

    So many makers talked about how hot and great the market was....so everyone jumped in the pool.

    This is true of a couple of different markets right now.

    So boys and girls.....what are you doing that separates you from your competition?

    Better ask yourself the questions now....Blade Show is coming and gas is going to be over $4.00 a gallon.

    This is going to keep some folks home....this is going to have some folks thinking real hard about reaching for their wallet!

    Talk to some makers who set up at Blade the last time gas hit this price!

    Oh and don't forget they added the "Gear Show" this year! Even more competition for your buck. I know I will be in there for a couple of hours!
  12. Les Robertson

    Les Robertson Guru of Steel Knife Maker or Craftsman


    I blame him for my posts....I was perfectly content to let this thread be! LOL
    Mr.LaBella likes this.
  13. Ernie Swanson

    Ernie Swanson knifemaker Knife Maker or Craftsman

    Les, I am the type of person that buys things because of an ad on the internet.
    Would you buy a car just cause what you see in an ad?, you already know the materials, price, quality, and resale value but that don't mean nothing unless you talk to the seller either on the phone or in person.

    Now, I like some makers do not have any prices on my website do to the reason I do not have any for sale on my website.

    The reason I named Ken Erickson is because of the question I thought was being asked in the original post. If I was to name a maker that I feel his knives are going up in value it would be him.

    He has come along way in a short time. Does unbeliveable work and had an eye for detail.

    Yes, you will not find models or numbers on his knives, or prices on his website. Ken makes traditional folders. The names of the knives are the same as they have been since they were first made years ago.

    I do not know much about buying knives or selling knives.....Heck I am still learning to make them. I do however look at trends, and past sales of things and traditional slipjoint pocket knives have and will always be popular, Customs being even more.
  14. AJD1

    AJD1 Prince Of Darkness Brigade Member

    Hey Les,

    I'm flattered you'd pull my name out of these posts,as there is no doubt, you know more about selling knives while you are asleep,than i ever will while awake,but my comment was based solely on the fact that when i decided to use my collection,as a way to turn parts of it to cash,i found,of the 15 or so makers i've collected knives from,in the years i've collected knives,his were the only ones i could be assured,if i needed a chunk of cash,any given day,w/out losing or at least not losing much,i could sell any given Harkins to about 5 different friends here,litterally,w/ a single phone call.

    That did not hold as true,w/ other makers i assumed were at the same level,although again,compared to you,my level is what it is and yours,is what it is,which is of course,2 seperate plateaus..

    You're a professional dealer,critic,judge,editor and writer and i'm just some guy w/ a modest sized collection,peddling pieces of it when needed,with zero experience,except for what i watch and see others do..

    My post had nothing to do w/ "self promotion", as despite owning my fair share of his knives,for many years,i'm no longer willing to part w/ a single one of them and have no sales thread active,but rather just expressed my opinion,as the topic requested, as to what I found,by my very limited experience,was a solid fact,when i was in a very tough position and decided to turn to my collection as a way to get bills paid,when i had no other resources and needed to learn real fast,what,of the makers i dabbled in,would turn to green the quickest,after collecting knives for years and never selling a single one of them....Take care my friend..

    Thanks for all your insight on these threads Les,as they are informative and helpful..
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 17, 2011
  15. Les Robertson

    Les Robertson Guru of Steel Knife Maker or Craftsman

    hi Ernie,

    I appreciate your position...and like most collectors you buy what you like.

    However, this is a thread about "investing" in a makers work...in order to make a profit.

    Most of these threads turn into a "Popularity" contest.

    I asked for the information I did on Ken as this is the kind of information you would need to determine if someone has Investment Potential.

    As I said his work looks good in the photos. However, without materials used and prices he is sending a "red flag" to potential buyers and possibly investors.

    BTW, how many of his knives do you own?
  16. unreconstructedgordo

    unreconstructedgordo Level: True Devil

    I believe Stephan Fowler was not allowed to test because of a snafu on the part of the society which they cared less about to correct. Also I see some "Masters" passed and their work appears second rate (if that) and NO I won't name names! Just my opinion Sir!
    I enjoy craftmanship and the occasional jimping ect. and even elaborate metal work IF it is ergonomic. I feel knife making is knifemaking and engraving and carving and painting ect. is just that, a separate trade. Of course as in firearms there is cross over, but bling on knives doesn't blow up my skirt. Just my taste again and no diss on others. I started enjoying Custom knives in mid 60s with Bo Randall. Then I heard about Moran, Ruana,then Jimmy Lile who lived reasonably close by and I just had to have their work. I used to spend a sizeable chunk in the later 70s and early 80s at Nordic Knives going thru different artists that attracted me.Most have been long sold off and a few at good profit No I never was interested in a William Henry for instance nor silver fillagreed mastodon tooth. I confess to being a hard charging troglodyte perhaps !
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 17, 2011
  17. Les Robertson

    Les Robertson Guru of Steel Knife Maker or Craftsman

    Hi ONK,

    Come on now. You are much more knowledgeable than you give yourself credit for. :D

    Jeff makes an excellent knife and you have some great ones by him.

    It is a very difficult transition from collector to investor. Investors are buying knives primarily make money. Collectors buy primarily to add to their collections.

    The ability to do both on a large scale successfully is very difficult.

    Don't get me wrong, just because I sell a lot of knives doesn't make me an expert on investing.

    The fact that I have the trade in policy that I do...leans me in that direction though!

    Here is the very first question to ask a dealer when you are getting ready to buy a knife:

    If I want to trade this knife back in 3 years from now (the knife will be in the exact same condition that I received it from you). Will you give me what I paid for this knife towards the purchase of a more expensive knife at that time?

    If their answer is "no" (which it will be for all but one custom knife dealer) then what they are telling you is:

    Man, Im just moving knives. I buy what is hot and hope to sell it for a profit.

    Nothing wrong with that....that is capitalism at it's finest! I suspect some of the dealers you bought the knives from that didn't hold their value would not have offered you that trade in policy.

    Now that is self-promotion! LOL
  18. Les Robertson

    Les Robertson Guru of Steel Knife Maker or Craftsman

    Hi Under,

    I agree with you that Stephan Fowler offers a value price. To the point that if you bought his knives two years ago...you could easily make a 10 - 15% profit on them.

    Yes, I buy knives from Stephan Regularly. Ok let me clarify here as several people always get this wrong....I bought his knives because I believed he had/has potential. I am not recommending his knives because I sell them. I recommend his knives because I bought them first!

    Yes, I wrote an article on Stephan for KI.

    Which is why I can recommend him highly.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 17, 2011
  19. Ernie Swanson

    Ernie Swanson knifemaker Knife Maker or Craftsman

    Les, I understand where you are coming from, The reason I named him is because his knives seem to sell incredibly fast, have a lot of so called followers and because he makes a very common collectable knife that usually holds their value and has potential for a profitable resale.

    To answer your question, I only own 1 of his knives. I am not a collector, It is in my pocket everyday, The said knife was made as a teaching tool.

    While I have been taught by Ken to make a slipjoint folder I hold no favoritism toward Ken except for the quality and craftsmanship that he puts into his knives.

    I can name a few other makers that make traditional Folders that I feel would hold their value or sell for more but I named Ken as the one maker I feel would be and investment. Heck even my knives could be an investment as one never knows if in 5 or 10 years they my be of more value.

    I know you know a lot about this subject as it is what you do, I was simply giving my opinion from what I see. Thank you for all the questions on my opinion as I am learning more and more.
  20. Guillermo

    Guillermo 7th Man of the 7th son Super Moderator

    All the easy oils been found a collector once told me. I like Sean McWilliams and Frank Richtig knives if you can find them and in a decent condition.. Investing in custom knives is a easy way to loose money if you don't know what you are doing.

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