Antique Appraisals

What's It Worth?: ‘Hawkbill’ knife, bronze box each have collector value

What’s It Worth?

An early Case brand knife such as this “hawkbill” design will have collectors chasing after it.
An early Case brand knife such as this “hawkbill” design will have collectors chasing after it. Contributed photos

Today we answer a reader’s question about an item that is quite common and can be very collectible and very valuable.

What’s It Worth? explores the world of knife collecting.

Q. This odd-looking knife belonged to my husband’s grandfather. It is marked Case XX Tested and measures about 7 inches long when open. I know it is old, but is it of any value? — Mary in Kennewick

A. Called a “single blade pocket knife” by collectors, the marks on this bone-handled knife date it to the years 1920-40. It certainly dates before World War II.

And it was made by one of America’s most prestigious knife firms. Case Brothers Cutlery was founded in 1889 at Little Valley, near Buffalo, in western New York.

A fire destroyed the plant in 1905 and a nephew of the three original founding Case brothers moved the operation about 30 miles south, to Bradford, Pa.

The newly named W. R. Case & Sons would go on to produce — along with Remington and Winchester — some of the highest quality pocket knives ever made in America. Examples of the work from all three firms are widely sought today.

Case knives have been collectible from the earliest years of the 20th century. Today, there are plenty of knife collectors around who appreciate them and their quality and prices for older examples seem to keep going up and up.

According to The Standard Knife Collector’s Guide, Case products are “... the most collected pocket knife in the American market.”

The blade of this knife is called a “hawkbill.” You can see why from the shape.

Its original purpose was cutting ropes and fishing nets; it was also a good choice for pruning small branches. It later became known as a linoleum cutter.

Value here is determined by condition, age and handle material. These handles — also called the knife’s “scale” — are made from natural bone, dyed red. Real bone handles were discontinued by Case in 1967 in favor of Delrin, a plastic that molds easily.

For a knife that’s perhaps almost 100 years old, Mary’s example is in good condition. There seem to be no cracks in the handle or the blade, and while it has been sharpened quite a bit, it still opens and closes crisply. Though the blade is discolored from age, there is no rust.

Case hawkbill knives in worse shape than this one have recently sold online for $125. For a better example, such as this, our value estimate is between $150 and $200.

Seen & Sold

There are many “sure signs” of spring. Crocus, apple blossoms, lawns being mowed; all are accurate signals for many of us.

Another indication of the certainty of seasonal change is all those “garage sale,” “estate sale” and “neighborhood sale” signs popping up on street corners.

At a Tri-Cities sale a few weeks back, we spotted an interesting French-made item that was probably on a lady’s dressing table about 100 years ago.

A bronze powder box with the bust of a languorous female in Art Nouveau style on the lid, it was made by the Woodworth Company of New York and Paris.

Woodworth was an interesting outfit, a perfume company headquartered in New York that started business before the Civil War. By the turn of the 20th century, they were one of America’s most prestigious perfume houses.

They were direct competitors of such firms as Richard Hudnut and Caswell-Massey.

In 1922, Woodworth opened a Paris branch and this box is from that era of French production.

The estate sale price was $40. This little box is attractive, functional, 3 inches in diameter and it was still available on the last day. The folks running the sale told me no one had expressed much interest in it.

We have seen similarly designed boxes — described as rare and hard to find — offered in online auctions with prices ranging from $50 to several hundred dollars.

Terry K. Maurer, 15-year senior member of the Certified Appraisers Guild of America, is a personal property appraiser in the Tri-Cities. For possible use in a future column, direct questions on your antiques and collectibles to What’s It Worth? by email to tchwhatsitworth@gmail.com.

  Comments