Imperial knives was a manufacturer of affordable American folding knives founded in Rhode Island in 1916. By the 1940s, Imperial knives became the Imperial Knife Associated Companies Group when the company acquired Schrade Cutlery. In 1985, the company became the Imperial Schrade Corporation. In 2004, Imperial Schrade's New York manufacturing plant closed, and all production shifted overseas. Dating the American Imperial knives produced between 1916 and 1988 is relatively simple. After 1988, the Imperial tang stamps were discontinued and replaced by the Schrade name.
Open the main blade of the pocket knife completely, and take note of the stamping marked at the base of the blade where it connects with the handle. Imperial used a number of different stampings between 1916 and 1988, but the tangs were always stamped.
Check the identification guide. Knives produced between 1916 and 1920 bore tang stamps that read "Imperial Knife Co.," "Imperial Prov.R.I." or "Imperial Made in USA." The script came in several different varieties.
Identify Imperial knives produced under the "Hammer brand" by the tang stamp that bears the name as well as the image of a muscled arm bearing a hammer. These knives were produced between 1936 and 1955. From 1946 till 1988, there were only minor changes in tang script design, making the later knives more difficult to distinguish between decades.
Consult the guidebook to determine handle materials. Imperial knives were made with a number of different handle materials including bone, celluloid and black composition.
Shell-handled Imperial knives hold little if any collector value due to the low quality handle composition.