So! Where do we start?
Well, I don’t think it really matters. Simply because, as your collection grows and your taste matures you will move into other areas.
What is your key interest right now? Is it Military equipment with blade ware as a component to complete sets of uniforms and equipment? Is it rifles with the correct bayonet? Is it some specific aspect of blade ware? i.e. clasp knives, machetes, commando knives or even bayonets? Are you interested in Australian, British, US or some other countries blade ware? You most likely already have a start to a collection. You might like to start by building on that. If not, a good place to start is the humble Clasp knife. They are readily available and not overly expensive, and enough variations exist to make collecting them very interesting.
There are some points that I would recommend however before you start throwing money around.
Keep your purchases disciplined; if you collect too widely you may very end up with a lot of blade ware with no focus. It’s a good idea to set some sort of focal point with your intended collection. This will help to keep you on track. However, tastes change and once you get involved you might decide to alter your focus.
Once you have some idea of the direction that you want your collection to go, do some research. Then do some more! Never be afraid to ask questions. Try and seek out knowledgeable collectors for advice. Are there any Collecting clubs with members who share your interest nearby? As part of this process there is a whole new vocabulary that you will need to learn.
What resources are available to you? There are books, Internet forums and Collectors clubs.
Among the books. I have in my library are:
British and Commonwealth Military Knives by Ron Flook
Australian & New Zealand Cutlers and Cutlery by Keith Spencer and Joan Renton-Spencer
The Fairbairn Sykes Fighting Knives and other Commando Knives by Ron Flook
US Military Fighting Knives M3's and M4's, Book 1 by Bill Walters
US Military Fighting Knives World War II, Book 2 by Bill Walters
There are others, but these are the main ones. For collectors of Australian Military blade ware the first two on the list are a must.
The internet forum, Australian Blade Forums has a small but dedicated group of Military blade ware collectors. Depending on your focus you might find some of the American or British forums useful. Finding information on the Internet can be a challenge. There are some good web sites with reliable information. There is also some bad misinformation on some sites.
Importantly, always try and examine a knife before you purchase it. If you are purchasing remotely from an Auction site or an advertisement ask for clear photo’s showing all the detail. Ask if they have an approval policy where you may return it if you are not satisfied with it on arrival and close inspection. Importantly; as Bernard Levine, a well respected authority on knife collecting has often said, “Buy the knife, not the story”. A lot of knives get offered for sale with wildly inaccurate descriptions and claims about them. Unless a knife has solid provenance then it is just a knife. If you can get good provenance, then that adds to the desirability of the piece. It is always bonus to place the knife with a particular serviceman or place.
Always buy the best that you can afford. Quality will never let you down. There is always a market for quality blade ware.
Good luck with your collecting!
This information was featured in the Australian Knife Magazine, Issue 2 November 2017 in the Military Collector column.