"Value is in the eye of the beholder" is never more true than when buying collectibles. Follow these suggestions to assist you when attempting to place a true or fair market value on a knife you are prepared to purchase.
Study available books, price guides, brochures, catalogs, reference books and auction guides to determine current price ranges.
Attend shows and auctions where knives are displayed or offered for sale, noting the prices they bring at sale, not the asking price.
Follow knife auctions on the Internet and track the bidding between other collectors.
Realize that certain brands of the same style or pattern of knife will be valued much more highly than other brands. This has to do with collector popularity, nothing more.
Learn how to tell the condition of a knife, as condition is king with respect to value. A knife in mint condition may well be worth twice as much as one that is near-mint.
Ask other knowledgeable collectors or dealers for their opinions, then heed their advice.
Compare the knife you are considering with knives of similar style, pattern and condition. They should be close in value, but may not be exactly the same.
Examine the knife closely. Look for cracked handles, worn or short blades, or evidence of repairs. Some restoration work is almost impossible to spot, but once a knife is repaired, its value is greatly diminished regardless of how well the repair is done.
Call an expert who offers fee-appraisal services for knives and pay for an appraisal before you buy.
Remember that value is influenced by supply and demand, that price guides are only guides, and that the true value is what you or someone else is willing to pay for the piece.
Never forget that condition, not age, is the key to value when collecting antique knives. Custom or handmade knives vary in price depending on the craftsmanship and popularity of the maker and on the materials used in construction. The bottom line: Knife collecting should be fun, so buy what you like and enjoy sharing with others. You are buying a piece of history, and that is hard to put a value on.
As with other collectibles, the value of a knife may decrease after you purchase it, so don't spend more than you can afford and don't expect to make a profit on every knife you buy.