With the California Custom Knife Show now behind us and the NYCKS on the horizon, we’re right in the middle of Custom Knife Season. The work on display at these shows will define trends for years to come in the production knife world. But an expert tells us 2017 could be a very different year for custom knife makers. Expect a greater emphasis on value and softer demand for premium tactical knives.
“The ease of flipping highly overpriced tactical folders has basically come to an end,” says Les Robertson, Field Editor for BLADE Magazine and Knives Illustrated and a custom knife dealer. Robertson explains that the custom knife scene is in a transitional phase, with the market for tactical-style customs contracting. Speculators who were accustomed to buying knives to resell them for a guaranteed profit are learning that flipping knives is less of a sure thing than it once was.
Robertson says that many high-end collectors are even finding the $600-800 bracket hard to swallow. Without the assurance that they can get their money back out, buyers are growing more cautious. “People have become educated that a very basic knife, whether a folder or fixed blade with nothing more than a blade and a pair of synthetic scales, is not worth $600- 800,” Robertson says.
Custom makers should brace themselves for a more competitive market and lower prices in 2017. Trading is becoming more prevalent among serious collectors, contributing to less liquidity in the market. “Makers who were enjoying getting $1,000 or more for a basic folder have seen the demand for their knives decrease,” says Robertson.
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Does this mean that the custom knife market is in trouble? Makers like Andre Thorburn and Brian Nadeau of Sharp by Design are seeing great success producing custom knives at a sub-$1000 price point. According to Robertson, trends rise and fall just as they do in the production knife market. “Custom knives are a constant ebb and flow of what is and is not in demand.”
Knife featured in image: Sharp by Design Hurricane