What you see above represents just a fraction of my collection, and holds only my small pocket folders I don't put to regular use. Frankly, very few of them have or will ever see any real use. They are eye candy - to be held, admired for their fine workmanship and unique design or construction elements, then to be put away for future admiration sessions. And so it is with most of my Case pocket knives. About half of this collection is made up of Case knives, most of them higher grade examples with exotic handle materials or limited edition designs. There are a few 'workman' grade Case blades in the picture, ones I hold in reserve in case I lose my daily carry knife (which is the one knife in the picture with the blades opened).
I've carried a knife of this style for most of my adult life and think there's no finer example of a classic American pocket knife pattern. That's why my collection tends to focus on stockman pattern knives. All of the knives in the bottom row are stockman patterns by different manufacturers.
Looking over the collection a few observations struck me beyond my obvious slobbering admiration for Case products.
- Country of origin is not an indicator of quality. I have examples from the US, Germany, England and China in this collection. Some American knifes are the worst executed of the bunch. Some of the best executed were made in China. In fact, the knives in this collection that were made by Buck are an interesting example of what I'm talking about. The folders made in Buck's Chinese factory are better fitted and finished than similar knives produced in their US factory. Now, the US produced Buck folders are not bad, it's just that their Chinese knives are clearly better. And cheaper.
- There are huge holes in my collection - time holes that is. I've been interested in knives most of my life and I've been 'accumulating' since I was a teenager (back when teenagers could legally buy knives). The holes represent two factors. First is available cash. Providing for a growing family is expensive, particularly on the paltry salary of a junior Army officer. As the kids were growing up there wasn't much spare cash to put towards knife collecting. As I needed a blade I'd pick one up cheap at the PX, or go haunt places like the late, great Cumberland Knife & Gun shop in Fayetteville, NC hoping to grab one of the less expensive production blades by talented designers like Al Mar. But the real hole was created by loss and theft. At one point I had a whole duffle bag full of knives 'disappear' during a move from Fort Belvior to Germany, and I've lost perhaps a dozen knives during the normal course of my military duties. I have, quite literally, dropped knives around the world. Perhaps it's my way of dropping bread crumbs to make sure I can find my way back. I dunno. But on the training grounds and battlegrounds of Germany, Korea, Central America, Saudi Arabia and Iraq I've managed to lose something close to a dozen knives. Some were lent out and never returned, some fell out of the sheath during late night road marches, some decided they'd try to beat me to the ground during parachute jumps, and a few were actually broken in use. So what I have today is a collection that mostly reflects my collecting activity of the past decade. I remember many of the knives that are no longer with me. Most had a good story to tell.
- I'm clearly a traditionalist at heart. The world is full of folders designed on state-of-the art CAD systems and constructed using materials more suited to the Space program than pocket knives. They are great products, but I'll have none of that in my collection. If a pocket knife isn't made of steel, brass, wood, bone or stag I won't even give it a passing glance. Gimmie' my knives just the way they were back in the good old days, when John Wayne was making westerns, you could still buy 100 octane gas and taking a pocket knife to school wouldn't get the SWAT team called out.
- And last but not least - it's a great time to be collecting knives! The availability and quality has never been better (really, it hasn't). The Internet, on-line shopping and on-line auction sites have fundamentally changed knife collecting. It's just a lot more fun today than it was 20 years ago.