If you are into knives, you will probably start your own collection at some point. In that case, it is crucial to determine ways of antique knife identification and price guide to avoid possible fraud. The next step is to decide which collectible knife category is the right option for you.
Once you have mastered the theory, it is time to find the first piece you want. It is not a simple task since numerous antique knife types available on the current market have different quality and a wide price range. Plus, you need to learn what to do with imperfect and damaged knives since fixing their value requires patience and dedication. Let’s go!
What are Antique Knives?
Knives are early tools humans invented centuries ago and have existed for at least 5,000 years. The first models had stone, wood, or bone construction with random shapes and weren’t overly sharp.
Improvements in the manufacturing process meant using stronger and more durable new materials. People used iron, steel, copper, bronze, ceramic, and titanium to create the blade, depending on the historical period.
On the other hand, the knife handles were typically made of wood, ivory, metal, and bones. Their purpose was to facilitate the knife use and beautify it.
Things That Make a Knife Valuable
Numerous factors will add to the knife’s value, so you should consider more than one before buying a desirable model:
Seller’s price – Regardless of the particular knife model’s estimated value, the seller can determine his price regardless of anyone’s opinion. Any price the seller deems fit is acceptable for some buyers, so the knife is not necessarily over-valued. It is on you to purchase it or not.
Knife age – A well-made vintage knife is always worth something. Richly decorated and excellently preserved antique models can be costly.
Knife era – Most collectors prefer knives used in the war, so you can expect such models to be costly.
The brand – Collectors favorite some knife brands, particularly those famous for making top-notch pieces. Therefore, models from manufacturers like Ka-bar, Marbles, Camillus, Case, or Schrade are typically expensive.
How to Identify Antique Knives
Since people have used knives for over 5,000 years, you can be sure that numerous types and variations have appeared over time. That makes an antique knife identification pretty challenging, and the price range is a few dollars to several thousands of bucks for a piece.
Most knives you can find on the US market come from the 1600s to the 1900s, so you should concentrate on that period. Let’s discover how to determine your knife’s origin and price precisely.
Geographical origin and production era
Since people from different cultures have made knives for thousands of years, their styles and quality significantly vary. Always check for symbols, inscriptions, and production years to determine their origin precisely.
Company name and logo
Carefully check the manufacturer’s name, imprinted logo, symbols, or identifying hallmarks on the blade base or a metal plate inside the knife handle. Any font type or symbol change can help you date the knife.
In most cases, it is impossible to find a model without a distinctive mark on the blade, so it is the first place to look for information. Remember that a knife without confirmed origin never reaches high prices.
Knife’s size, type, and shape
Features like size, type, and shape always affect the knife’s value, particularly when they are non-standard. Collectors who look for military knives are prepared to pay more for models with unique or distinctive dimensions.
You can find antique knives of different styles on the current market. Some come without a mark, but experienced collectors can recognize them by the style. For instance, manufacturers used various materials and decorations for a handle or had a unique way of creating the blade.
Knives are an inevitable part of modern military training or kitchen prepping, so you should know everything about the particular piece’s purpose. Some collectors like all knives, while others choose to collect only one category, depending on their preferences. You can find a few types based on their purpose:
Military knife – Its unique appearance is created to meet combat requirements. Collectors often pick out collectible pieces connected with an army division or particular war.
The most popular are trench knives from WWI with finger-hole grips, Russian trooper’s daggers used in the early 1900s, and Kukri (Gurkha) knives, the national model of Nepal.
Switchblades knife – This model with a wide throwable blade is prohibited in many states.
Gravity knife – This exclusively designed piece has the blade fully embedded into the handle.
Bowie knife – The fireless Colonel James Bowie created this large-sized hunting knife primarily used for knife fighting.
Fantasy knife – This vintage piece with unbelievable shapes resembles fictional-inspired designs. Interestingly, there is no specific rule that determines this category range.
You can also find pocket knives, kitchen knives, and folding knives, but collectors who prefer antique pieces are rarely interested in them.
Knowing your knife’s age is vital, but models from the same year won’t be worth the same. For instance, some pieces are unique, making them precious despite the average quality and possible flaws.
Others were made in limited editions, while some models were mass-produced, affecting their prices.
Sometimes, you can’t find the engraved date or specific symbols to determine your knife’s origin and age. In that case, it is possible to narrow down possibilities by checking the knife quality.
For instance, a specific lock type will simplify determining the period when the knife was manufactured.
The first thing to check is always the blade’s material, but its quality will differentiate antique from modern models. A more primitive manufacturing process means lower precision and an imperfect blade.
If you have a blade made of iron or steel, you will know that this piece is from a later period. On the other hand, a copper, bronze, or ceramic blade is a sign that you have an antique knife model. You should also check the edge sharpness and aging signs on the material.
The material used for the handle
The material design used for the knife creation is one of the precise ways to determine its quality, age, and value. For instance, antique pieces have handles made of precious materials, like ivory, silver, or saber teeth.
Remember that early wooden handles have barely comfortable outside finishing. They were made for everyday use and typically came with minimal details.
A knife with a rare and unique handle in excellent condition will be worth a fortune. On the other hand, damaged material will significantly reduce the price except in the case of antique and rare specimens.
The owner can prevent most flaws shown with age by proper maintenance. Therefore, chips, broken scales, or rust on the blade are unacceptable for serious collectors. You can expect any damage that distorts the mark or spoils the knife’s beauty to lower its value.
Customer potential, demand for a particular knife type, and specific findings significantly affect its current value. That is why knives are an insecure investment.
The Most Expensive Knives Worldwide
As you can guess, knives with ornamented handles and top-notch blades can be worth a fortune. Some are luxury items or art pieces, making them highly valuable and desirable collectibles.
The most pricey knives in the world
|The gem of the Orient||$2.1 million|
|Imperial hunting knife||$1.2 million|
|Gold and turquoise-hilted knife||$619,000|
|Chinese imperial knife||$250,000 to $385,000|
|Nesmuk Jahrhundert Messer knife||$98,934|
|Parasol handle knife||$84,000|
|Nesmuk diamond-studded knife||$39,600|
|Naval Dirk knife||$27,000|
|Spearpoint lace knife||$25,000|
|Monarch Steampunk dragon knife||$18,500|
|Gentak Makara knife||$12,500|
|Black Panther knife||$8,150|
|Lancet Ouroboros knife||$5,500|
1. The gem of the Orient
Even though this precious knife set looks like an item that belonged to a king, it is actually Buster Warenski’s creation. He spent ten years finishing this masterpiece.
If you want to set aside $2.1 million, the knife decorated with nine diamonds totaling 5 carats and 153 emeralds totaling 10 carats is an excellent option. An ultimate filigree over the handle made of jade makes this set the most beautiful and most expensive ever sold.
2. Imperial hunting knife
This knife with a rhinoceros horn scabbard from the Qianlong period was made in the 18th century in China. Its blade was forged from steel, while the handle was created of features an antelope horn.
You can open the knife’s hilt base and hold a toothpick and chopsticks in a secret compartment. Sotheby estimates its value to be $1.2 million.
3. Gold and turquoise-hilted knife
This knife with a watered steel blade and gold originated in Ottoman Empire. One collector paid $619,000 for this piece created in the 16th century, probably because the beautiful turquoise handle features intricate details representing flying birds.
4. Chinese imperial knife
This rare Chinese knife with a white jadeite scabbard was created in the 18th century. The design dates to the final Chinese imperial dynasty, Qing Dynasty, and belonged to a Manchu man. Christie’s auction house estimates its price from $250,000 to $385,000.
5. Nesmuk Jahrhundert Messer
Lars Scheidler forged this knife worth $98,934 and created its blade from 640 layers of Damascus steel. He used the finest carbon steel to get a highly sharp cutting edge. The designer used a 5,000-year-old bog oak and a platinum collar decorated with 25 brilliant-cut diamonds to create the handle to add on luxury.
6. Parasol handle knife
Russian jeweler Michael Perchin from St. Petersburg created this unusual knife in the 1890s. It was sold for $84,000 in 2021, probably because of its unique chalcedony hand-carved handle resembling a snail.
7. Nesmuk diamond-studded knife
This Nel and Pieper’s creation is worth $39,600. Its basic form reminds knives forged 3,500 years ago, but designers made the blade of carbon steel and coated it in titanium or Teflon.
The most beautiful part is the handle made of sterling silver with eight added diamonds. A bonus is a precious ring as a part of the packaging.
8. Naval Dirk knife
This knife was forged in the 18th century, during the period of Catherine the Great, when navy officers used it for personal protection.
Its blade made of steel was stamped with the Catherine the Great’s imperial and an anchor. Christie’s auction house sold it for $27,000 in 2008.
9. Spearpoint lace knife
William Henry gave his best to make this luxury knife worth $25,000. The ultimately decorated hand-forged blade is forged in Boomerang Damascus steel, while the hand-engraved handle with a remarkable Spearpoint lace design includes 24-karat gold inlaid.
10. Monarch steampunk dragon knife
This pocket knife with a sharp, functional blade made of Damascus steel will cost you $18,500. It comes with a beautiful hand-engraved handle decorated with 24-karat gold, silver, and copper details, making it a top-graded piece of art.
11. Gentak Makara knife
William Henry created this elegant and expensive knife featuring a hand-engraved handle with 24-karat gold inlays. Thanks to a hand-forged Hornets Nest Damascus blade, its value is approximately $12,500.
12. Black panther knife
This decorative hunter’s knife with a blade crafted from Damascus steel costs $8,150. You can see a sterling silver panther’s head with gemstones on the handle made from walnut. The hand-made gold plated walnut sheath is decorated with sterling silver, making this knife a luxury model.
13. Nenohi Honyaki Dentokougeishi Sakimaru Takobiki knife
Master Yoshikazu Ikeda created this traditional sharp Japanese knife with a white steel Shirogami #1 blade, Corian handle, and hand-painted sheath. It comes with a cover decorated with cherry blossoms and is worth $6,980.
14. Lancet Ouroboros knife
William Henry created this stunning knife worth $5,500 with a hand-forged blade. Its hand-engraved handle shows a three-headed dragon decorated with 24-karat gold and copper.
15. Yoshihiro Mizuyaki Honyaki knife
It is a one-of-a-kind piece with a blade made out of thin first-class Honyaki steel worth $5,300. This beautiful knife has the engraved Hamon (wave) on the blade making the Fuji mountain outlines under a full moon. You can see a phoenix added to the sheath by a traditional lacquering technique.
Antique knives were typically decorative pieces, making them precious collectibles on the current market. Each collector should determine the knife type they want to collect and the budget range. Be prepared that numerous factors affect knife price, so it is advisable to prepare well before taking action.