They Don't make'em like they used to
Fortunately and unfortunately this is true. Back in the day, knives weren’t made for collecting but were made to last and became collectible. Today, many knives are made to collect but are not made to necessaily last a life time. Many collectors believe older Case knives were a better quality product than those made today. In some instances they may be correct. This is partly due to stiffer competition from the overseas market where production costs are cheaper; allowing comparative quality knives to be made at a lower price. But the fact of the matter is knife production has changed dramatically in the last 30 or so years and there is more to the story than meets the eye.
I think the major demise contributing to the failure of many American cutlery companies was the inabilty to adapt their factories quick enough for new knife designs. In short a new knife style came along that could not be produced using their tooling methods. The better known traditional pattern makers survived while the lesser known companies, failed. Cutlery giants such as Camillus were also hamstrung as military contracts dried up due to a lack of need for new knives.
The never ending evolution of steel alloys as well as the invention of various types of thermo-plastics and other space-age technology has caused a major changes in knife concepts over a very short time. This has led to a wide variety of new pattern knives flooding the market.
These new pattern knives such as tactical folders and SAR (Survival and Rescue) have a generational appeal which severly hampers manufacturers of traditional knives. Furthermore, most tradtional pattern makers are not tooled to make these new pattern knives and therefore have nothing to offer for the market.
Among the fixed blade market, the old western bowie as well as hunting and combat knives are being replaced with a new era of sleek looking functional knives with new style blades, new handle materials and design concepts based on the needs of today's hunters and survivalist as well as the needs of the military, police, and fire & rescue personnel.
While is has been difficult for some of the established American and European knife makers to adopt their production lines to make these more modern knives, a different picture emerges for overseas production. Many American knife makers and importers have taken advantage of cheap Chinese labor and have implemented strict quality control standards which has resulted in a thriving market of good quality low priced knives that are successfully competing with American made standard bearers. As these facotries are less costly to run, they are also more flexible with production lines, meaning they can compete against both tradtiional and new pattern production knives with little or no difficulty. Even some of America’s best known knife makers such as Gerber, Buck, and Kershaw have turned to China for the manufacturing needs of some of their knives. Other Companies, such as SOG and Spyderco, have moved some of their off shore production from Japan or Taiwan to Mainland China.
As China’s reputation for quality products grows, the new market for cheaply made knives appears to be Pakistan. Today, it is safe to say, that some of the poorest quality knives made are being made in Pakistan and these cheap knives are flooding flea markets all across America. At the same time, there are companies that set strict quality standards and quality knives are also made in Pakistan. Will Chinese and Pakistani made knives become true collectors? Only time and quality will tell. There are many older American made economy brands knives still floating around. 50-60 years later, however they fetch the same price now as when they were first made. The same may be true for any economy brand knife bought and sold today, regardless of country of origin. This, above all other reasons, is why the savvy knife collector will buy what he likes and not what he thinks will be worth something in the future.
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