A chance phone call out of the blue leads to the author’s opportunity to see and hold the iconic Warenski King Tut Dagger.
While in San Diego in summer 2015 for a work conference, I saw a flyer advertising a King Tut exhibit at the San Diego Museum of Natural History. The exhibit focused on recreating the experience of Howard Carter, the British archaeologist who found the lost tomb of Egyptian King Tutankhamun in 1922.
The promotional materials advertising the exhibit indicated it would feature recreations of many of the artifacts found in the original tomb. Having been exposed to custom knives all my life through my father, Rick Royster, and being familiar with BLADE Magazine Cutlery Hall-Of-Fame® member Buster Warenski’s work, I wondered if Buster’s famous reproduction of the King Tut Dagger would be part of the exhibit.
I called the museum and asked the young lady who answered if Buster’s reproduction was in the exhibit. She said it was not, but my inquiry grabbed her attention. She didn’t go into much detail but alluded to the fact that the owner of the reproduction lived in the area. We hung up and I went about my trip not thinking anything else of it.
Later that day while visiting the San Diego Zoo I got a call from a strange number, and it was Cutlery Hall-Of-Famer Phil Lobred, owner of the King Tut Dagger reproduction. Apparently, the young lady from the zoo knew Phil and had reached out to him. Phil and I talked on the phone and I told him how my father had worked closely with Buster through the years on several custom pieces, and Phil invited me over to look at the knife. I told my girlfriend we had to hurry up at the zoo because I had somewhere more important to go.
Visiting The King Tut Dagger
I went to Phil’s house that evening. His wife, Judy, let me in and took me to him. We went upstairs to what must have been Phil’s corner of the house. Not only did he have dozens of knives, he also had tons of collectibles. What I remember most were the Eskimo artifacts. He knew what everything he had was and had a story to tell about how he got each one and what it was used for.
Then we got to the knives and finally the most extravagant of them all—the Warenski Tut Dagger. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was a marvel to behold, a true masterpiece, something not many people in the world would ever have the opportunity to see up close. I was shocked when Phil asked if I wanted to hold it. He even photographed me holding it, the image of which appears with this story.
I must have been at Phil’s house several hours with him showing me all of his collectibles and talking about them. It was easy to lose track of time. He was a very nice man. It was very gracious of him to invite a total stranger to his house, and let me see and hold a one-of-a-kind piece of art.
It was a once in a lifetime experience.