Posted by Mike Latham on August 17, 2016
I got sick of having a blog that never had updates; but I needed somewhere to just jot down periodic general updates or thoughts about what is going on around CollectorKnives. So here we go.
5/10/17: Wow, it has been a long time since I "rambled".... Today I just read a competitors blog and it reminded me of a scene in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High". Greasy little Mike Damone in giving dating tips. He advises his friend "Rat": "Act like wherever you are, that's the place to be." He turns to the vast emptiness of the local shopping mall, face lit with enthusiasm and says, "Isn't this great?" It is amusing to me how many businesses will disguise one thing as another while acting like they wouldn't do one thing different. And, in the meantime, sliding in little disparaging remarks towards other dealers or even other dealers' customers. My opinion is that every dealer has to make their own decisions; just as every customer does. But you don't improve yourself by finding ways to tear down others - even if you disquise it well.
6/6/16: So, just got back from Blade 2016 - WOW!. Who knew there were so many knife nuts? It is amazing to me how many custom makers have to sell their knives by lottery drawing because of the demand. Put your name in a hat with a couple thousand other guys and if you are lucky enough to get drawn - then you can pay $1000 for a knife. The number of knife factories is small and getting smaller; but there are a lot of family sized (10-20 employees) business trying to fill the void. My apologies up front; I am just not going to go into the $1000 knife business. Not that they are not great; but Lion Steel, Viper, Maserin, Zero Tolerance, etc. are all making really nice knives in the $150-300 range. This is higher than I was comfortable with until this weekend. I saw custom mid-techs with open bid sheets that went will over $3000 FOR A KNIFE!! Talked to a couple of makers that can help me fill some voids and slots that there is a lot of interest; so hopefully the follow-up with them will be fruitful. But I just received my first box from Viper (Tecnocut) and these things are sweet...
5/25/16: As I have discussed before, there is a real shortage of traditional and simple modern folders these days; especially with steels that have a large following. D2, Elmax, etc. are just tough steels to work on the older equipment used by most traditional factories in the U.S. There are some nice looking knives coming out of China these days, but I get real heartburn supporting a country that makes no excuses about their attempts to destroy the dollar and the U.S. businesses in general. But I have discovered some real gems in Maniago Italy. We started looking at Lion Steel and have been pleasantly surprised. So we are expanding this channel a bit more and will bring in a handful of Viper (Tecnocut) and Maserin products. The main goal is to bring knives to our customers at a value. You can find $400-750 knives with premium or super steels everywhere; but that is getting north of the price range we want to provide. Other retailers, that haven't tried them yet, will follow suite and this will be good for everyone.
5/20/16: It is sad to see factories these days caught in these self fulfilling prophecies, Sales slow a bit so you start cutting costs, which costs sales..... Are they blind to the example that is working gangbusters for GEC? There is a huge move toward quality; and those that want quality do not mind paying for it. But instead some of our mainstays seems to be increasing the price at the same time as the quality is allowed to slip. Not a good combination..... But maybe it is like the old buggy whip - it is only successful in smaller and smaller quantities. Maybe GEC is just taking a larger portion of a smaller market.
3/23/16: I see a lot of aggravation on the forums / social media about the lack of information on the Early Reserve items. Many times they are using words like "order" or "pre-order", instead of the correct term of "reserve". From time to time GEC releases the model and configurations without specifics as to the slabs. Just "wood" or "jig bone", etc. Although I would not want to put money down upfront with only this bit of information; I don't blame GEC for not planning exact slabs 2-3 months ahead of time. That is why CollectorKnives has put a lot of time and money into creating an Early Reserve system that allows the customer to modify most reservations right up until the factory ships them. So, plan optimistically and keep an eye on the factory "What's Happening" pictures to see what the final decisions will be and make adjustments accordingly. Easy enough....
3/2/16: You create a tool for Early Reservations; a customer uses the tool to put their name on a short run knife months ahead of time; you notify them and they make their purchase. Then right after checkout they leave you a 4star review; or a review that says "So far, so good - we'll see". Or they put a laundry list of the character they want in their knife even though they bought the last one available. C'mon friends. I don't ask them to get on social media and sing praises, but don't sandbag or overly complicate my life; makes it seem like a waste of time. May go back to fighting tooth and nail for knives just dropped on the website in an instant. At least that way they will be so happy to get one maybe they will be in a better mood for the review. I do everything I can to make the process simple and efficient, please don't ding me for it.
2/10/16: OK, so two Viper stories. Last Wednesday all my Green Bone and Rosewood Vipers leave GEC. On Friday I received the box with the Rosewood, but not the box with the Green Bone. Call Chris on Monday and she tracks them, but they still haven't left the PA sort facility - so she puts her postmaster on it. No word, but they show up last night smelling like I shoved lemons up my nose. There is a note taped to the top of the box explaining that there was leakage from another parcel and they had to hold my box until they confirmed the leakage was not hazardous. It was Lemon Grass Oil and didn't get past the outer box other than to leave all the tubes smelling very strongly of lemon. So, sorry they are late - but enjoy the aroma.... Second story is not so funny. GEC called and they are having a lot of pin cracks on the Snakewood Vipers. Thus we are going to be left receiving about half of our promised allotment.....
2/5/16: Competition is a funny thing. And those I consider competition, may not even have CollectorKnives on their radar. But every once in a while you know people are paying attention. Last year I came out with the premium Pocket Slips. Now these are not something that has never been seen before; but I am having them made by the best craftsmen and out of the best leather in the world. So when they showed up selling for less than $10, the competition took notice. Nearly immediately I had orders from the competition. I guess they wanted to verify what I was saying, because you wouldn't need to buy one to reverse engineer it - they are fairly simple. Then a few months ago I posted my prototype Fixed Clip that would allow small fixed blade knives to be held in the front pocket, boot, belt. This one was a little more interesting as there was not anything terribly similar on the market. Well, they went to work right away on this one and have recently released a very similar idea. Now theirs does come in the typical "rawhide" look and has a magnet instead of a clip; but the concept is suspiciously close. Knife nuts need as many options as they can get, so I have no problem with all the products in the world being available. But what is more humorous is that the one main difference is the clip versus the magnet; so what does the competitor do? You got it, attack the clip by labeling it as an "eat your pocket" clip. Their magnet limits the use to pocket only, and I am not sure how well it will stay in your pocket if walking thru a thicket. But the clip allows mine to go inside a boot, on a belt, etc. And if clips are so bad for your pocket, why do so many sites sell hundreds of variations of modern knives with the exact same pocket clip? I guess "imitation is the best form of flattery".
12/17/15: People wonder where I come up with some of my policies and why they are so restrictive. Today I am dealing with two credit card chargebacks that are very interesting. I have noticed that since I do not ship internationally, many international customers had started using re-shippers. These are companies inside the US, that just gather parcels for customers abroad and ship them on demand. Well this week I had two orders from folks in Turkey that were disputed. I suspect their credit cards were stolen and used to purchase items that were sent to a re-shipping firm. One of these orders had not been re-shipped, so I will probably get it back - the other I will have to eat. Even though the credit card processor verifies the billing address, the thief uses the re-shipper to hide the fact that it is going somewhere else. So, new policy: No credit card transactions from foreign countries.
11/18/15: News broke this week of Canal Street Cutlery's closing. It is heartbreaking to see another great group of folks concede the cutlery business to other countries. But, I must admit, not surprising. In this day and age, if a company is not getting a significant amount of chatter on the forums and facebook, you can assume their sales are equally as quite. Then factor in how hard is has become to produce anything in America and how competitive the quality of pocket knives has become today - I'm not sure it is a profitable venture anymore.
11/6/15: It feels like the knife world is forming a union. MAP (minimum advertised pricing) and a required storefront are two trends that are sweeping through the industry. Both seem to be put in place solely to protect the profits of the larger online retailers by excluding those online entities with significantly less overhead. You build a storefront for foot traffic. Now if you can also benefit from a successful online business that is a bonus. But don't require a successful online business to build a storefront just to qualify for your products. And why set up MAP pricing? Let the competition and free market decide what your products are worth? The makers will sell the same number of knives at the same price. As Gordon would say, why not just make us sell buggy whips as well.... Welcome to 2015!
9/9/15: I was raised in the era of Case, Bulldog, Fight'n Rooster, Eye Brand, etc. The knives that were once my only interest are these from the 1970's, 1980's, 1990's. But today I get out a collection of these style knives and think to myself that anybody just starting our hobby is going to give me fits. Even the best of these do not compare to today's GEC or Lion Steel offerings. I love these old knives and they have earned their collectibility, but they can't compare to an Arno Bernard.
8/29/15: These days knife dealers are caught in the middle of a war. The customers want perfection, or at least a level of quality that has not been seen in any historical aspect of the pocket knife industry. And some factories are trying to adjust their cost to a level they can profit and keep these quality hungry customers happy. My opinion of the quality of various brands over the last few years has not been a secret. You see other dealers carrying, and actually going on and on about how high their opinion is, of the latest release of this or that series. As quality starts to wane, I just look at every shipment that comes in the door and think to myself; "Is there a price point that I can sell this run of knives and consider it a value?". If the knife is not a value at any place on the scale where I can actually make a profit, even if minuscule, I feel compelled to send it back to the factory. Some factories don't like this! They want you to take their product and keep your mouth shut. Just pass it on to the customer and accept all the condemnation and customer loss that will surely come your way. I see blogs on other sites praising the latest release of this or that, even as I am sending the entire run back. Did I just get all the culls or do some dealers actually think you cannot make your own, contradictory, judgement once you have the knife in your hand? How much credibility does a dealer have that sells you a pig with lipstick?
8/28/15: SEO. Do you know what that stands for? Search Engine Optimization. Ever wonder why some of the larger dealers post so many FAQ's or blog articles with strange subjects? Or post links that seem almost unrelated on forums and social networks? They are like little honey bees working on their SEO behind the scenes. The more links they can get to their website, the higher google/yahoo/bing will rate them. Especially if their links are to keywords that are pertinent to the search entries they want to show up. So, if you see an article labeled "Where to buy Great Eastern Cutlery?" with just some minor verbiage that really doesn't say anything - it is because they are building links to their site for anyone that searches on google for "Where to buy a Great Eastern Knife" (which is a popular search). You will also see them infiltrating as many related facebook groups or forum threads as possible and occasionally dropping these links to their site in posts there as well. It's all good and fair, but I just see a lot of very out of place links these days and wanted to take a second to explain why they are there. Yes, there are those newbies that go about it the ham-handed way like "Hey look at this knife, you can buy it on my website" - but they just haven't paid thousands of dollars yet to manipulate people to their site like the big boys ;>
8/20/15: You want to talk about night and day.... I have been putting Lion Steel knives on the site for the last few days and today got in my first shipment of Lon Humphrey. OK, these are rustic pieces of art - and a long way from the smooth lines of a Lion Steel. Makes you feel like you just walked in the wrong bathroom!
8/13/15: Yesterday I got my first Lion Steel order... Folks these knives are outstanding. They are not perfect, but I have not seen one that is. If you put them under a microscope you can see a machining mark here and there. But, for the money, these are as smooth functioning and physically appealing a knife as I have seen. I feel a bit like I am betraying my slipjoint roots; but many of these truly feel like a crossbreed between traditional and tactical. And it is exciting to be able to offer premium steels that are simply not available in the slipjoint lines these days.
7/7/15: I had mentioned some time back that I was looking to expand my selection to a little wider audience. At the time I had added ESEE, Arno Bernard, and Hess, but was still looking for one specific type of knife that was alluding me. The semi-tactical folding knife is one that there seems to be a lot of interest in; but Zero Tolerance, Benchmade, Reeve, etc require a storefront and saddle the seller with a MAP pricing policy that demands more of a margin than I am comfortable with. Finally I have settled on Lion Steel knives. They are made in Italy with modern steels and at a price point that I can bring a great value to my market but also make a little money. They should be showing up this summer. Another brand that I didn't know I was looking for, but that seemed a good fit was the custom line of Lon Humphrey knives. A bit rustic, and hammer forged in small numbers - I am very excited about these. They should start showing up in a month or so.
6/25/15: GEC had an entity come to it wanting some versions for the Ben Hogan and French Kate knives for a local novelty, since these personalities were local to the area. So they did what most companies would do for their community and worked it out. Of course, in trying to keep the cost reasonable, they made more in case their normal customers would want some. Now, admittedly the Lady's Leg knives are not my cup of tea. But I listen to my customers and order what they want. Not every person is going to froth over every knife that comes out of PA; but it is funny how those looking for the negative crawl out of the woodwork when they have a pessimistic opinion to lay on anyone that will listen.
6/9/15: I realize there are a lot of folks that are agnostic, and even more that take our Creator (and his creation) for granted. But I can't help but be in awe on these mornings when the sun comes peaking over the treeline. Makes me feel guilty for not praising Him all day long.
5/5/15: Cinco de Mayo!! You ever get the feeling you are being watched online? Marketing has now gotten so complex that retailers can pay big money to make sure once you have visited their site - you will be subliminally nudged back there. I don't know what this cost them to help us make our mind up, but rest assured they get the money back in the markup of the products. If you want to know who is doing this, keep an eye on the right hand side of your facebook page or check out the weather here in Sulphur by clicking this link (there is usually one or two of these advertisers on the right side of the screen. Seems like a good idea for them, but personally I like to make up my own mind without someone following me around the internet....
4/23/15: The man that got me started back into pocket knives 17 years ago has passed away tragically this week. Thus, I will be in and out trying to assist his family / friends with this process. He was a master a machinist and a grand collector of all things that interest him. He has been like a second father to me for many years and he will be missed.
4/9/15: A year or so ago I had rough times getting product (pre-paid) from Landi Knives. Come to find out, John Landi had a sales manager that was less than scrupulous and was causing both ends problems. I worked and got my money back and walked away from the relationship. A few weeks ago John Landi called and apologized for this personal issue that seems to have caused way more problems for John than he did me. I have never had any issue with Landi knives, nor have I heard of anybody else that did. The problems that I am aware of have always been logistics. Thus, I am going to try and carry the line again, but will not have any set timelines and will pay once the product is received. Thus, start looking for me to add a few recent variations. I have never received anything but stellar feedback from customers that tried them.
3/24/15: Today is truly a ramble, so if that does not interest you - stop now. I have been reading on forums and on dealer blogs a lot of complaints about SFO (special factory orders) and split production (where one individual gets a large subset of the run while the factory flows the rest thru the distribution channel. So, let's clear up a couple of things first. The distributors and collectors alike do not want the factories (to the point, we are talking about GEC) to be consumed by big money that can keep them making knives 40+ hours a week. But I have talked to GEC many times about this and that is not their desire either. But there has always been a market for SFO's alongside regular production. They are a guaranteed sell for the factory and they do not have to be concerned about the popularity of the pattern. So, I don't necessarily like it when I ask Chris what is next and there is a 500pc new pattern run for someone else. But that is probably more envy on my part than having more money in my pocket than I know what to do with that week. And GEC doesn't dream up a great new pattern and go to their favorite dealer to see if he wants them all! The person contacts them about a pattern and if their order is not big enough, or if Bill likes the idea, the factory will tack on their own. A good example is the #38 frame. GEC announced a split back clip main whittler. A couple of individuals heard about the offering but wanted to resurrect the Farmer Jack (pattern made by Queen a few years ago for a contractor), which is a pruner main and spey or some such secondary. They asked if GEC could make them in the Northfield brand, but they didn't need a ton of them, so the factory allowed them to use the Northfield brand and they kept the Tidioute brand for their distributors. Now I have seen this twisted to read like GEC come up with this new variation that they knew would be a hit and called one of their good old boys and offered him all the Northfields - hooey. Any distributor could add to an upcoming run if they can meet the minimum quantity required. Individuals or knife clubs are also welcome to contract SFO's at any time. But I can't for the life of me figure out how an American company in a niche industry doing their best to stay busy, is subject to this misrepresentation of why/how they are handling their production. A couple years ago the on-hand list (list of factory inventory) got so exhaustive that I was worried about GEC's cash flow. Would it be great if GEC was making all they could make and every distributor buying all they wanted and the customers getting every knife they requested - yes. But that is not realistic in a competitive market with little guys and big guys playing on the same playground. Rambling over.