I couldn’t hand my money over fast enough. I hurried to my car with a rush of exhilaration and just a bit of guilt. It felt cold in my hand and I didn’t dare take another look until I was safely buckled in my seat.
I slowly opened my hand, daring to take a look at the Ames 1849 bowie knife I just paid $10 for at a yard sale. I thought I hit the knife collecting jackpot.
But like far too many knife collectors, I later found out that windfall knife was in fact, a modern counterfeit.
Counterfeit knives are a significant problem for the knife collector. Well done remakes are used to swindle thousands of dollars from the collector who doesn’t understand how to identify a counterfeit.
Counterfeiting knives started in earnest back in the 1950’s and became a shady submarket for the less scrutable knife seller. With uncounted numbers of fakes out there even the honest seller and collector can be fooled into passing on replica knives as an original.
Due to the increasing popularity and value of collectable pocket knives and fixed blades, counterfeits are being produced in higher numbers today.
It is ever more important for you to understand how to identify a counterfeit to avoid losing out on real money.
Understand Where A Knife is Made
To better understand the provenance of a knife you must learn to identify the country of origin. Many counterfeit knives are produced in countries other than where the original was produced.
While the surge in counterfeiting took hold in the 1950’s, fake knives were produced as far back as the 18th century. A number of Sheffield based cutlers faked London knives and German makers produced knives they marked with English names in order to fool the knife buyer.
Many faked knives have come out of India in recent years using the same tactic.
For many American produced knives, their counterfeited versions are produced in Japan or Germany. Therefore the first step to understanding how to identify a counterfeit knife is to learn the telltale signs of what country a knife was produced in. Each country has unique tells you can learn to identify in time.
The key to telling the difference between knives of different origins is to study known originals from as many countries as possible.
Hold them and know how they feel. Learn how they are constructed and the materials used. There is no shortcut to this, it takes time examining as many knives as possible for you to begin to know where a knife was produced.
3 Types Of Knife Fakes
When looking at knives that have been faked there are three primary categories we place them in. Learn how to identify each to avoid investing in a knife you do not want.
1. Counterfeit Knives
Fake knives made for the purpose of imitating a specific, authentic knife in order to fool others is a counterfeit knife.
The vast majority of counterfeit knives you will come across are of inferior quality to those they are imitating. These knives prey on the ignorance of the knife buyer who has not had the opportunity to examine an original. These poorly made copies are easy to identify if you have held the original.
There are counterfeits being produced that are themselves, high quality knives. But they are not the knife they pretend to be. These knives are much more difficult to identify due to their craftsmanship. It takes a well trained eye to identify these fakes so a professional will likely need to be enlisted to verify the authenticity of your knife.
2. Fantasy Knives
A fantasy knife is a made up design marked with a well known makers name. These knives are not trying to imitate a known design and are instead attempting to capitalize on the maker’s name or even to pretend to be a rare, previously unknown design.
These knives are easy to identify by the trained collector as they generally come in oddball shapes and use strange materials that the maker being imitated never used. The most extreme examples are impractical in use as a knife due to their unorthodox design. The beginner knife collector is more prone to fall for these fakes so if you come across an unusual knife marked with a well known maker mark get the opinion of an expert before dropping any money on it.
3. Reworked Knives
The most difficult type of faked knife to identify is the reworked knife. These knives use genuine, old knife components but is improved in condition with modern means.
A reworked knife may have a small change or be almost completely rebuilt, but no matter how much has changed, a reworked knife is not as valuable as a complete original.
Restamping is a common fake you will run into. An old knife of lesser quality will have it’s marks ground away and re-stamped with a more desirable stamp.
Restamping is difficult for the beginner to identify but in time they are relatively easy to spot. The easiest restamping to identify is an etched mark that should be stamped.
Blade replacements are another frequently found form of reworked knife, but springs, handle covers and bolster are reworked as well.
Keep in mind that an authentic knife can be restored in a way that is not considered reworking but even a pro restoration will effect the value of a knife.
The beginner knife collector must take extreme caution when investing in high end knives. The art of identifying fakes and counterfeits takes time and experience so purchases should be made from trusted knife sellers only. Take time to visit other collectors, knife shows, and museums to better acquaint yourself with what legitimate knives look and feel like. Before too long you will know enough to skip the same mistake I made. That counterfeit bowie I bought still sits in a drawer in my house laughing at me. But luckily my lesson was relatively inexpensive, you may not be so lucky if you don’t teach yourself how to spot a fake.
For more knife tips check out these articles
- Pocket Knife Collecting Tips: Be A Better Collector
- Traditional Pocket Knife Handle Designs
- Case Blade Tang Stamps: How Old Is Your Knife