The Collector Knife: Finding History, Function, and Value

Knife collecting is a hobby that is growing in popularity. It involves finding, acquiring, organizing, displaying, storing, and maintaining knives. Collectors focus on defining aspects such as knives from a particular factory, bayonets, Bowie knives, pocket knives, and handmade custom knives.

A collector knife is not just a tool. It is a work of art that holds historical significance and cultural value. Craftsmen or well-known brands make some of the most collectible knives with unique qualities. These qualities include age, rarity, historical importance, and craftsmanship.

BigHorn Steel has done some deep research on knife collecting. Whether you are a first-time knife collector or a seasoned expert, this article will help you find the perfect knife.

Are knives worth collecting?

Knives are very collectible, with prices ranging from a few dollars for a pocket knife to over $100,000 collector art knives. There has been an uptick in interest in Bowie knives, with some of the rarest collector blades going for over $200,000 at auction. Damascus steel knives have been gaining popularity because of their strength, durability and beauty.

What makes a knife worth money?

There are general characteristics that make a knife collectible, such as:

  • Age
  • Rarity or uniqueness
  • Historical significance, e.g., a WW2 bayonet
  • New or used
  • Condition (which is usually relative to comparable or related knives)
  • Craftsmanship and quality, e.g., a 12” full-tang 512-layer Damascus steel Bowie knife
  • Provenance and brand reputation, e.g., who owned it, who made it, what movie it was in, collaborations, Artisan
  • Place-in-production, e.g., first made or last made, or a number within a particular series
  • Certificates of authenticity
  • Knife grading systems or steel grading

The internet allows you to immerse yourself in the world of knife collecting. Set aside time each week to build valuable collecting knowledge and identify your interests and passion for knives. In this way, you will create a collection that speaks to who you are and be proud to display it.

What are the best knives for a knife collector?

A 12" Damascus steel full-tang Bowie knife with a grey handle

Though there are many different types of knives, we focus on four main categories: folding, survival, iconic, and custom-made.

Folding Knives

Folding knives include pocket knives, multi-tools, and tactical knives. These knives can be mass-produced or made to order. In this category, limited edition releases are typically considered collector knives.

Survival knives

A survival knife with significant importance can be invaluable. Look for Ka-Bar, Tom Brown, Morakniv MG, Fallkniven F1, CRKT M16, Buck 11, and Old Timer Sharpfinger knives.

Iconic knives

These knives come from some of the world's most established and respected manufacturers. They include knives like the Victorinox Classic SD Swiss Army Knife, Leatherman Wave, and Buck 110 Hunter. Other iconic knives may include movie and TV show original or replica blades, historical reproductions, and fantasy or Sci-fi knives.

Custom-made knives

Master bladesmiths custom-make knives that feature rare materials or intricate designs. BigHorn Steel has a 7.5” Custom Handmade Folding Knife, an excellent example of a collector knife. Our 13” Custom Tanto Tracker is also an incredibly unique design that combines function, versatility, and collector potential.

Factors to consider when building your knife collection

Many knife enthusiasts collect because they are motivated to preserve the past. Other hobbyists love blades, the manufacturers, and how a collection is displayed in their homes or at knife shows.

Displaying and storing your collector knives

There are many ways to store and display your knife collection. Though we will post another article specifically on this topic, you might consider the following options:

  • Display cases: Wall-mounted display cases, glass display cases, and knife stands and racks.
  • Storage options: Knife rolls and pouches, knife blocks and trays, and climate-controlled cabinets.

Using a knife bag for display and storage

A knife bag is a cost-effective way to display and store your knives. They come in various materials like nylon, leather, and canvas and are a great way to transport your knives.

Choose a bag with thick padding and slots or sleeves to separate your knives and prevent them from rubbing against each other. This will also protect them from getting dull or scratched.

Ensure the bag has a rigid bottom and sides to protect your collection fully. Avoid soft-sided bags. You can display your knives by neatly arranging them in the bag slots/sleeves and leaving the bag open on a shelf, table, or display case. Consider mounting the bag on a wall using Velcro or another detachable fastener option.

Place moisture-absorbing packs in the bag for longer-term storage to prevent humidity damage. Of course, clean and maintain your knives before placing them in the bag to avoid the formation of corrosion and mould.

Caring for your knives

We will post a detailed article on caring for your knives soon. Especially with Damascus steel, it is essential to employ proper cleaning techniques. Regular cleaning and maintenance should include lubrication, rust prevention and sharpening and honing.

To preserve and protect your knives, use proper storage techniques, avoid exposure to moisture and extreme temperatures, and safely handle and use the knives.

Advice for new knife collectors

The following is some excellent advice for our readership new to knife collecting.

  • Identify your interests: Determine what knives you want to collect, such as a specific brand, style, or historical period.
  • Set a budget: Do not blow out your bank account. Establish a realistic budget for acquiring knives and stick to it.
  • Research: Learn about the knife market, join collectors’ groups, visit second-hand shops, attend flea markets, and read books and internet articles (like this one!) on knife collecting.
  • Join the community: Attend knife shows, gun shows, and military shows to familiarize yourself with the hobby, and attend seminars on various subjects related to knife collecting (such as Damascus steel knife manufacturing techniques).
  • Network: Meet with other collectors and dealers to gain knowledge and advice on the market, prevailing prices, and hot bladesmiths and manufacturers.
  • Get organized: Keep records of your collection, including the model, maker, year of production, and purchase price for insurance purposes and maintain the collection’s overall value.

By following these tips, you will be well on becoming an expert knife enthusiast.


An ornate Damascus steel hunting Kukri with a red handle

Becoming a knife collector is fun! You get to source and acquire parts of human history and join a large community of knife hobbyists who are as passionate about collecting as you are.

BigHorn Steel is a Canadian company based in Jasper, AB, committed to the highest quality Damascus steel knives available today. Whether you’re looking for a folding pocket knife, Bowie knife, Kukri, Machete, or a collection of Chef knives (also called French knives), we have something for nearly everyone.

Be sure to check back with us often for more articles on knives and Damascus steel!