With knives, my Father, brother and I started with just buying anything because it was hand made, and we liked the maker. After about $60,000 worth of knives bought, we thought we would try to sell some and move up the ladder to the more prominent names. We just assumed that because it was hard to do, or that it was in a magazine, it was well worth the money. Which, to a point is accurate; however, the money side of that was a bust. We did not understand the secondary market back then. It does not matter if the item is excellent or the only one made. If there is no secondary market, chances are you will have your collectible forever and never see a profit. That is why you really need to buy it because you like and don’t mind living with it for centuries.
I have seen early cars produced by Ferrari that only a few were ever made, as in 50, which is a low amount of production in the car world, yet, it would not bring much money. Why did these old cars not carry the high prices that vehicles from the early ’60s? It has to do with history, looks, condition, and how desirable it is. Even things like are the mirrors and trim chrome original. There are better-made cars than Ferrari, but they don’t have the history, looks, or active secondary market that Ferrari has.
With Loveless knives, they have history, great looks, super design, and is the desired maker to collect — the best part, a robust secondary market that has thrived for decades.
It seems that everyone around the world that has ever thought about hand knives has heard of Loveless. The large population of knife makers wanted to make a knife look and feel like a Loveless.
A.G. Russell told me this decades ago, and that is, “There is no other knife maker like Loveless, he is on another planet.” A.G. said that Loveless knives had the good fortune of going up every single year since Loveless started making knives. That is a massive statement from the man that is the father of the modern knife trade. So we began to pay attention to what made us like a knife. Was it the shape, blade, handle, what was the eye-catching part. Well, this took some time as every knife we saw looked great. Just go to the 2020 blade show and try to find only one knife you want, not two but just one. That is almost impossible for most mortals. We looked at shows and magazines. The funny thing was when we found a knife in Blade magazine we were skimming though, we would take a closer look, and it was usually a Loveless knife. That was just strange, and this was before we had even gotten into the Loveless world. It seems that for a small photo in a magazine to stand out, there must be something exceptional about it. Designed by the most excellent knife designer, R.W. Loveless, ever to walk the Earth is what made it unique. The same thing goes with painting, pottery, Kachina dolls, cars, watches there is some common thread that makes them all great. It is the design, and function along with something else that you just can’t put your finger on.
I am always amazed when a collector or just a person in the Blade Show will stop by the table and look at the knives. It is most interesting to see what his wife thinks about knives, most don’t care, some do, but most could do. In the early days, when we had a table full of knives by other makers in with the Loveless knives, maybe 12 different makers. The non-knife person would usually pick up a Loveless. Now, why was that, and I would ask, “What did you like about that knife?” the response was often something like “I just like the looks.” But, that was only part of the story, after picking up the knife it was about the feel and balance. Most were shocked at how it balanced in hand, the ease of holding the knife, the smooth handle.
I could hear Loveless saying in my ear, “ I make a knife that looks so good you want to pick it up, and feel so good you don’t want to put it down.” In theory, this would be great, of course, who doesn’t want that, but with Loveless, I could see his thoughts and wished transferred to the knife. Sort of like a song that sells 10 million copies, what is it about a particular song by Elvis, Sinatra, Santana, Clapton, the Eagles that made millions of people want to spend money and buy the record, and keep on listening for decades, to the same song and even other songs by the band. These artists struck a chord with the human ear and set off charges in the brain that welded together to make a song part of your life for the next 50 years.
Same way when you see a Rolex Submariner, it just looks like what you think a watch should be. The Porsche 911, 50 years later, it still has that classic design that we all know as a Porsche. Loveless is the same way when you think of a drop hunter; you don’t think of one with a skull cracker, or a double guard, it looks like a Loveless drop.
You can’t copy a Picasso painting, and say “well, my paints will last longer, and my brush is different” it just does not work in the collector field, you have to have the original spark, that is what Loveless, Ferrari, Rolex, Porsche, Picasso, the Beatles all had. It was the original from which others could stand on and build off of that and open up a desire with the public to buy their products, whatever that product was. You want original Tiffany Glass, not someone that is “Just as good,” the same goes in anything you collect. Find the pioneer, look at Jackson Pollock, wow did he break away from the crowd by dripping paint. Rembrandt could put in that little extra light that makes a 400-year-old painting come to life even today. These people had “it,” whatever drove them to find it I will never know.
With the Loveless knife, I have always found that I would rather have his knives than money in the bank. It has also come to my attention over the past 35 years, and many collectors feel the same. Believe it or not, when we have a bit of inflation, people come to Loveless knives a bit stronger. When the stock market is spooked, they want a Loveless knife. If you look at the simple drop hunter that sold for $65 in the 1960s, today, that same knife is worth about $5,000 and up.
Most things we buy, we use, throw away, and the “collectible “ term is not applied, except for Vintage Loveless knives. The big bear back in 1974 was a massive $450 knife, and today a big bear is over $22,000 - $29,000 depending on the year it was made and handle material. Just like the Porsche, was it the Longnose 911 or the short nose 911, what is the paint like, is it still the original purple, or burnt orange, or viper green. This all factors into what the item is worth.
Most makers don’t have their work copied, yet most Loveless designs have found a home in most knife makers shop. But Vintage Loveless is worldwide; I sell to movie stars, rock stars, doctors, plumbers, farmers, you name it. What we collect is the Loveless knife, the history, also the fantastic feel and balance. We basically just love the knives. I remember my Dad, J.W., and I were talking about knives in the 1980s, (after we had spent over $60,000 on other knife makers that we soon found out we could not get fifty cents on the dollar) we concluded that “We may not ever be able to sell these things, but at least we love having them.” That is the way I still buy today; I buy Loveless knives that I don’t want to sell, and I’ll want to keep forever. Then they are easy to sell.
I genuinely believe in the value of the knife, I like the design, etc. and don’t mind having it for eight years in the collection or 30 years down the road. I have knives from 30 years ago that I have never offered for sale. So at that point, it is about the knife and not the money. Somethings just cannot be replaced.
The fun of collecting Loveless knives is the hunt. Because just when you think you have seen it all, something amazing appears out of the air, like the time the three Loveless-Johnson daggers appeared after being in a private collection for almost 40 years. Those were the most magnificent knives I had ever seen, it was made up of the smallest dagger ever made, and the most massive dagger ever made, and they were Loveless Johnson. Just know that in your search for Loveless always look at everything, ask questions, and know that you could very well find an unknown treasure that the world has not seen since the day it left the Loveless shop 50 years ago.
That is the reason I wrote the book “R.W. Loveless a Collectors Dream,” this was to show you what is out there, some super prime examples. The book was meant to sharpen your collecting skills, not to learn how to make a sheath, sharpen a blade, or even talk about Bob as a person. I don’t collect Loveless shoes, shirts, hats, socks, his old cars, or the pots and pans from his kitchen; I collect his knives. That is a massive footprint to have put on Earth. Here Loveless takes a simple everyday product and refines it to make it an object of beauty, and a desirable collectible. Bob said, “ I don’t make wall hangers. I make a working knife for the working man.” He left the working man price years and years ago. He shot himself in the foot by making a practical object so beautiful that in spite of why it was designed the way it, this knife became a part of the American heritage of the 20th century. I talked to people who back in the ’60s bought these knives, and they all said: “it was just so beautiful when we got it, we did not want to use it.” Loveless was always just a bit more than you ever wanted to pay. You have to remember that $400-$600 big bears in the 1970s was a ton of money. I remember paying $2800 for a Big Bear, which was the most expensive knife we had ever bought, and we certainly did not buy a bunch of them because it was just too much money. Loveless drops were $400, and Ron Lake had folders for $900 at the 1985 Blade Show in Knoxville, Tennessee. Now you are talking big, big money, and any knife you bought back then could have gone the way of Loveless. Most did not.
It helps the Vintage Loveless market has a track record of selling for the past 65 years. It is a known product, and you can’t pick up a knife publication without reading about Loveless knives, you can’t talk to a knife maker in Alabama, Tokyo, or South Africa that was not influenced by the Loveless design.
Keep your eyes peeled, as you never know what will turn up. Just because someone says they have a drop hunter, take a look, as it could be a real keeper.