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Rule #5 of Investing in Custom Knives

August 31, 2011

Changing of the Guard 

Daniel Winkler and Karen Shook’s knife and sheath combinations own their market segment. (SharpbyCoop photo)

Text by Les Robertson

Over the course of makers’ careers, some will emerge as the market leaders. As demand increases, so does the delivery time and, deservedly so, the price of the knife. Collectors, by their very nature, collect. If they cannot collect a maker or their work, they will look for a suitable substitute. While getting a knife directly from the market leader will provide the buyer with an opportunity to sell the knife for a profit in a very short period of time. This demand by so many buyers will decrease your opportunity to obtain one of these knives.

As one door closes, another opens. Such is the case with ABS Mastersmith Russ Andrews. He is known for his exact, clean work. Having been a Mastersmith for only two years, Russ has moved into the top 10 of desirable ABS Mastersmiths. The same holds true for fellow ABS Mastersmith, John White. John’s work has always been top-shelf. 

The slip-joint/multi-blade world has recently made welcome Bill Ruple as one of its premier makers. Bill’s work is crisp and clean, and he has made the business decision to continue with his value pricing. This combination has lead to an ever-increasing demand for his knives.

As some of the pioneers of tactical folders reach a position of a prolonged delivery time, makers like RJ Martin are moving to the forefront of that market. If you want to talk precision tactical folders, then you are talking RJ Martin. With RJ, the opportunity to purchase an investment grade knife from him presents itself every year as he adds a new model every year!

In the financial world there is a saying: “Never fall in love with a stock.” Doing so can cause you to miss an opportunity to sell. This happens routinely in the custom knife market. We all know someone who has bought a knife and now cannot get anywhere near what they paid for it, should they chose to sell it. Often the blame is put on the economy or the so and so who sold me the knife, etc. It is best to sell the knife and then hopefully not make the same mistake. You pay to go to school. Sell the knife, take the loss, and learn the lesson moving on to the next knife.

Bill Ruple’s work is crisp and clean and he has made the business decision to continue with his value pricing. This combination has lead to an ever-increasing demand for his knives. (J.Bruce Voyles photo)

What many call volatility, I call a “fluid” market. If you pay attention to the totality of the market, it is easier to know which knives to buy and more importantly when to sell to maximize your ROI. Investing and collecting custom knives are not mutually exclusive. They can work hand in hand to develop a collection that becomes an investment when the collection is sold. Even if you do not consider yourself an investor, following these five guidelines will enhance your collection and, ultimately, your enjoyment of custom knives in general. If you are a collector in it to just enjoy the knives, it is much less complicated. Simply forget everything you’ve read so far. But remember, if you do decide to sell a knife down the road, forgetting what I have written here will cost you.

Authors note: For the purpose of full disclosure, I have worked with every maker I list in this article and have done so for between three and 15 years. I write this so you will understand why I have used them in this article. I have been able to witness firsthand how their market position has helped them and their collector/investors.


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