How to collect antique pocket knives

Written by john vancott
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How to collect antique pocket knives
Multi blade pocket knife (pocket knife image by Pix by Marti from

Collecting antique and vintage pocket knives is a fun, rewarding hobby enjoyed by millions. Many collectors remember pocket knives they carried everywhere as kids. Some have fond memories of grandpa teaching them to whittle on a summer evening. A pocket knife is the one tool almost every gentleman or labourer had with them at all times. The value of an antique knife can vary from pocket change to a price only a serious collector would consider. Pocket knife collecting is a hobby that can grow your investment money or simply provide the enjoyment of finding a rare example or of rediscovering a childhood memory.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Guidebooks

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  1. 1

    Educate yourself as much as you can on pocket knifes. There are many great guidebooks and price guides for the beginning or advanced pocket knife collector. Good books will help you learn about types and styles of knifes. Price guides will help you spot sleeping gems at a yard sale or antique show. Older price guides can help identify upward price trends or drops in value. There is much to learn in any collecting field. Knowledge will help you add the right pocket knives to your collection or teach you how to spot repairs or damage that affect value. Buy and read every reference book you can find on antique pocket knives.

  2. 2

    Join pocket knife collecting clubs and online forums. You can gain valuable knowledge from other collectors and develop ready resources to ask questions or learn about current trends. Newsletters often have pocket knife repair tips as well as classified ads. Experienced collectors are also a good source for the novice to buy from and sell to. They often have duplicates and may sell lower-end finds to beginners to fund their advanced collecting tastes. Experienced collectors can teach a beginner what to look for in a pocket knife. As a beginning collector, you will need to know how to spot repairs, damage, and even counterfeit knives as you deal with people who have years of experience. Much of your knowledge comes from interacting with other pocket knife enthusiasts.

  3. 3

    Scour antique shops, flea markets, yard sales and other venues where antique pocket knives are for sale. The more you handle pocket knives, the better you will be at spotting hidden treasures. Become familiar with the look, feel and weight of particular knives. Learn about materials used over the years and when changes were made. Early knives look very different than more modern examples. Bone and ivory handles gave way to modern plastics. Stainless steel blades replaced iron and steel alloys. Some examples used brass pins while others had polished nickel. The more knives you handle, the more knowledge you gain.

  4. 4

    Learn all you can about common repairs. Often knives were repaired to make them more serviceable. Other times parts are replaced to fool a collector and sell a inferior pocket knife for a inflated price. Old farmers and factory workers were very good at grinding broken tips on a blade that was abused or replacing a damaged blade from one knife they loved with a blade from another. Any repairs or damage will lower a collectors value. Over-sharpening a blade will lower value when compared with a pocket knife in pristine condition. Rare examples of early pocket knives will not be as affected by damage and repair as a knife that is common enough to be found quickly in better condition. Again, handle as many pocket knives as you can to learn about them.

Tips and warnings

  • If a blade looks shorter than it should be, it was probably ground down to even out a broken tip. This will affect value.

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