THE SMART COLLECTOR

Commemorative knives seldom have serious value

The ceramic pug boxes and figures from the estate of Lena Horne sold for $1,250 recently at Doyle New York.
The ceramic pug boxes and figures from the estate of Lena Horne sold for $1,250 recently at Doyle New York.
Posted April 08, 2011, at 3:58 p.m.

Q: I’m asking about a knife made by Red Horse Cutlery in Oklahoma. The blade is engraved, “Bill Tilghman, Okla. Territorial Marshal,” with his signature. Cannot find any info on Red Horse, but research indicates a knife of this type was displayed in the Smithsonian.

A: The reader is one smart collector, but his research has led him down a wrong path. That’s the thing about the Net; while it’s a great source of info, a lot of it is wrong.

We won’t dwell on where his research went astray — all the way to the Smithsonian. What readers need to know is that this is a pocketknife. More to the point, it’s a commemorative pocketknife. And that should set reader antennae all a-quiver.

Those who follow this column have read — many times — that 99.9 percent of goods made as commemoratives or collectibles never have serious value. Not when new, not on the secondary market.

Kentucky knife collector Ron Stewart has forgotten more about knives and straight razors than most will ever learn. His book “The Standard Knife Collector’s Guide: 6th Edition” (Collector Books, $16.95) is the bible on the subject.

Stewart calls commemoratives “artificial antiques.” Low-cost to produce, they’re a gimmick to lure hobbyists. “Depending how you dress a knife up, you can make it a commemorative,” he adds.

That said, there are positives to this particular knife. Read and learn.

Starting in the late 1960s, knife collecting grew from a group of hard-core collectors to a universal hobby. Stewart calls it “one of the hottest new hobbies, compared to coins and stamps.”

The granddaddy of this knife was the three-bladed “Kentucky Long Rifle” pocketknife by Schrade. Produced in the early 1970s, it sold for $12.50. We found recent eBay sales listed on www.worthpoint.com for $21 to $76. Top dollar was for a never-used model.

Second generation was the “Granddaddy Barlow,” a commemorative that was not a hot seller. Stewart speculates that the maker of those knives ended up with unassembled knives that an entrepreneur bought and reassembled as the Tilghman commemorative. That explains the mysterious Red Horse Cutlery, which you must admit is a colorful tag for the enterprise.

Commonly, individual entrepreneurs who make commemorative knives use quality knives as the base, Stewart told us. Once “the new wears off,” as he put it, a knife may increase in value 25 years or so down the pike simply because the knife is good.

Because the parts used to make the reader’s knife were good, it may gain value in time. But don’t expect a windfall.

FYI: Stewart’s other titles are “Standard Guide to Razors: 3rd Edition,” “Remington Knives Past an Present” and “Big Book of Pocket Knives: 4th Edition.” All are available from the author at R and C Books, P.O. Box 2421, Hazard, KY 41702. Stewart also does certified appraisals, for a fee.

The National Knife Collectors Association, www.nkcaknife.org, has links to makers, area clubs, and dealers.

Q: We bought this diamond pendant in a jewelry shop about 20 years ago. The owner said she bought it as part of an estate. After we bought it, I saw it had a Tiffany mark on the back. Would an auction house such as Sotheby’s be interested in selling it?

A: I’m astonished that you discovered the Tiffany link only after buying. Normally, a seller would have that fact front and center.

There are red flags all over this sale. Consider the photocopied appraisal sent with the query. There is no G.I.A. certification — actually, no information at all. No name, no address, no contact, nada. Wonderful words such as “platinum” appear, but there is no grading of the stones. Several misspellings include “old eureapen” diamonds.

The Edwardian lavaliere is attractive. Whether it’s genuine Tiffany is another matter.

Tiffany diamonds are numbered. The company will validate their pieces as authentic. I’d take the piece to customer service and inquire, or have a certified gemologist do the digging for you.

As for selling, if all checks out, it’s in your interest to place the necklace where it will sell best. Sotheby’s and major houses won’t look twice at anything below mid-four figures. And their seller premium (taken out of your total) is higher than that of regional auction houses. Fashions change, and period necklaces such as this are not as hot today.

There are many things to consider before selling, but first, you have some serious homework to do on that necklace.

AUCTION ACTION: Pugs were singer Lena Horne’s favorite dogs. When her estate sold recently at Doyle New York, a group of seven ceramic Pug figures and boxes brought $1,250. Pieces included Meissen, Staffordshire and Majolica-like dogs.

COLLECTOR QUIZ

Q: What do these terms have in common? For bonus points, name the most sought after.

a: Melo

b. Queen conch

c. Pleuroploca

d: Gastropod

e: Helmet

A: All are types of natural pearls. Melo are the most coveted. Source: “Pearls” by Hubert Bari and David Lam (Skira, $85). A sumptuous, beautifully illustrated explanation of the history, appeal, gathering and marketing of pearls. Explains the best and worst of freshwater pearls, as well.

Danielle Arnet will answer questions of general interest in her column. Send e-mails to smartcollector@comcast.net or write Danielle Arnet, c/o Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 60611. Include an address in your query. Photos cannot be returned.

SEE COMMENTS →

ADVERTISEMENT | Grow your business
ADVERTISEMENT | Grow your business

Similar Articles

More in Living