Are Custom Knife Dealers Still Relevant?

Are Custom Knife Dealers Still Relevant?
David Broadwell makes some of the finest knives in the world, including this 14.5-inch dagger dressed in a Delbert Ealy “wanderer”-pattern-damascus blade, a carved bronze guard and fossil walrus ivory handle. (Nita Broadwell image)

Answer: Even in the age of Instagram knife photos, online knife forums, and tweet-first-think-later social media, there is still a need for experts like custom knife dealers who stand behind their experience.

Editor’s note: An expanded version of this article appears in the book, KNIVES 2020.

It Takes a Certain Kind of Person to be a Custom Knife Dealer

Custom knife dealers must develop a unique skill set. Unlike knifemakers who, for the most part, only need to be concerned with their knives, custom knife dealers must familiarize themselves with hundreds of makers and their knives.

Through sheer repetition, custom knife dealers come to know more handmade knives and their makers than any collector can ever hope to achieve.

If you were to stand behind my table at a show, after three days of listening to me answer questions about the 50 or more knives on display, you’d have the handmade pieces committed to memory. Years later, you could still answer questions about any of those knives. Now imagine doing it for 34 years.

Something Only Time Can Give You: Perspective

This is what gives the purveyor of handmade knives the advantage of understanding what the market is truly about. The better-known dealers will buy and sell more custom knives in a year than most collectors will own in their lifetimes.

This should not be a revelation to anyone. If it were your profession or obsession to buy and sell handmade knives daily, developing a sense of “who’s who” in the market would be inevitable.

Generally, the custom knife dealers who are known as experts in certain knife styles have gained this reputation due in no small measure to longevity. Most of the nationally recognized dealers have been around for more than 10 years.

They Can See What’s Coming Before It’s Popular Elsewhere

The interesting thing about this expertise is that, for many of the dealers, it follows the trends. As with makers, many of the custom knife dealers are extremely versatile. Because of their unique perspectives of the entire knife market, some can move from specialty to specialty while still maintaining their reputation or even further developing their position in several areas.

Custom Knife Dealers Spread Knowledge

A custom knife dealer’s expertise is often sought out for a myriad of reasons. Magazines, such as BLADE, will solicit their expertise when researching stories on individual makers, trends or market sectors. In some cases, purveyors are commissioned to contribute or write articles based on their areas of expertise.

Expertise is further sought for seminars at knife shows like BLADE Show and BLADE Show West. Because of the spectrum of handmade knives submitted for judging at various shows across the country, a dealer is often called on to judge the pieces in these competitions.

They Increase the Return on Your Investment, Because They are Also Invested

For the more serious custom knifemaker and collector, custom knife dealers’ unique insights into the market are invaluable. Custom knife dealers can provide guidance with regards to pricing, position and potential return on investment.

I have given these words of advice to thousands of custom knifemakers and buyers: “Do your homework!”

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