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The First Rule of Investing in Custom Knives

August 24, 2011

Text By Les Robertson

Perhaps the strongest indicator for the author about Tim Britton’s work was that other knifemakers were not just talking about his slip joints; they were buying them! Knifemakers aren’t known for buying knives. (Chuck Ward photo)

“What I thought was ‘homework’ was in fact doing a lot of research to pick out what was really my favorite knife.”

Most custom knives are both made and bought with little or no thought given toward being something with investment potential. Collectors collect. Collectors buy what they like, and for many of them, there is no such thing as “investment”-grade knives.

Several years ago, on an internet knife forum, someone asked if custom knives are good investments. The answer from the majority was no. Most of those belonged to the IBWIL (I Buy What I Like) Club. They were quick to point out that mutual funds, stocks, bonds, etc. were better investments. Given their performance in the past couple of years, perhaps an argument can be made for having some investment-grade custom knives in one’s portfolio.

I know this will sound obvious, but dealers are not collectors. Dealers are professionals who, in theory, do not get emotional about a purchase. Truth is, that is not 100-percent accurate, as my collection will attest. As someone who has bought and sold custom knives for a living for the last 16 years, I feel I have been an investor for some time now. Regarding any type of investment, the phrase that pays (literally) is: Return On Investment (ROI). This is your net profit…that is to say what you made on the investment after all the expenses have been accounted for. There are five keys to investing with and in custom knives.

When Les George’s knives show for sale they sell in the aftermarket, almost without exception, in less than 24-hours and always for more than his retail price. (BalanceDigital photo)

1. Due Diligence

Do your homework; learn everything you can before you buy. There is no excuse for not knowing about a maker and his or her knives before you buy. Magazines such as Knives Illustrated are a wealth of information. Perhaps the greatest ally of the collector today is the internet. Searches can provide you with an insight to makers and their knives that can give you a competitive edge with your investing. One caution: A majority of people who participate in online forums do not use their real names. Subsequently, any and all information they offer should be subject to extensive scrutiny. Always check your sources for accuracy.

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