Buying Custom Knives: Is List Price the Same as Value?

Buying Custom Knives: Is List Price the Same as Value?
Purveyor John Denton said he turned down $60,000 at the 2014 BLADE Show for this Big Bear in sheep horn and Dan Wilkerson engraving. (PointSeven knife image)

List Price is One Thing…

We recently published a picture of a custom knife with a price one observer indicated was exorbitant. This person questioned why we had published it.

When we publish the picture of a knife, we try to include the price. In the instance of a factory knife, the price we list is the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. In the case of custom makers’ knives, where possible we preface what the maker charges for the knife with “The maker’s list price”—for example, “The maker’s list price: $500.”

…And Value is Another

The reason we do it that way is the price is the one the maker is asking for the knife, not the collector value. We are no more going to change the maker’s asking price for a custom knife to reflect what we think the collector value is any more than we would do the same to a factory knife. It simply is not our place to do so. (Besides, it could open us up for legal action.)

We don’t list the collector value for custom knives because:

  • a) such values can be subjective;
  • b) such values are subject to fluctuation, sometimes almost overnight;
  • c) we simply may not know the collector value;
  • d) any number of other reasons; or
  • e) all of the above.

Why Doesn’t BLADE Publish Collector Values?

Now, sometimes we will list prices based on knife-show-opening bids, secondary market values, purveyor’s list and other prices, etc., but we never publish collector values for custom knives.

BLADE® is a knife magazine, not a price guide. Our mission is to show the work of as many makers as possible to as many knife buyers/collectors as possible, and let the latter decide what they want to buy and whether it’s worth the price.

Kyle Gahagan knives are sometimes offered for sale through
Kyle Gahagan made this 10.5-inch blade with forge-welded 1075 and 15N20 steels. The guard uses the same steel, and the handle is ringed gidgee wood. Maker’s list price: $3,500. 

Do Knifemakers Charge Too Much?

The fact that some makers charge too much for their knives is no news flash. The temptation to make as much money as possible from one’s labors is always there and is understandable—if done within reason.

However, to do so beyond reason not only is unfair to buyers, it also is likely to backfire on the makers in question by turning off buyers, thus dampening the makers’ future knife sales. In some cases, it may drive the makers out of business.

How to buy a custom slip joint knife
Stan Buzek based his slip joint on a Bill Ruple two-blade trapper. The hollow-ground blades are Damasteel damascus and 3.5 inches each. The fileworked liners are 416 stainless steel. Closed length: 4 3/8 inches. Buzek’s list price to make a similar piece: $1,950. (SharpByCoop photo)

On the other hand, if we publish a maker’s knife and list price and the maker gets feedback on how out of touch the price may be, it might serve as a teaching moment and help the maker get his prices more in line with reality—and help keep the maker in business.

Now, there are some makers who charge four, five and, in ultra-rare cases, six figures for their knives—and get it. And more power to them.

However, they get those prices by the grace of their creativity, ability, reputation, knowledge of the knife market and more, not because they simply ask for them.

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