How to Tell the Age of an Old Timer Knife: A Collector’s Guide

There is a sense of mystery and allure surrounding vintage knives, especially those from the esteemed Old Timer brand which has been a mainstay in the pantheon of American knife-making for generations. These knives are not merely tools or everyday carry items; they are pieces of history, emblems of craftsmanship, and talismans passing through time. For collectors and enthusiasts alike, the ability to accurately tell the age of an Old Timer knife is a key part of the appreciation of these fine blades. It involves a fascinating combination of historical research, attention to detail, and a touch of detective work.

Understanding Old Timer Knife Markings

To begin your journey into aging an Old Timer knife, you must become conversant with the language of the knife – the tang stamp. Located on the knife’s tang (the part of the blade that extends into the handle), these stamps are a sort of identification code that provides clues to the knife’s origination date.

The Evolution of Tang Stamps

  • Schrade Cutlery Company: Early Old Timer knives were produced by Schrade Cutlery Company, which was founded in 1904. These knives can be recognized by the “Schrade” stamp without the addition of “NY” or “USA” which came later.
  • Location Indicator: Post-1946 production saw the inclusion of “N.Y. U.S.A.” to the tang stamp, indicative of the company’s Walden, New York origin.
  • Serial Numbers: Later on, Schrade introduced serial numbers alongside the stamp which can be particularly telling of the manufacturing year.

Decoding the Tang Stamp

The stamp is not just a brand mark; it is also encoded with information about the knife’s production. To decipher it, one must consider the font, the arrangement of the stamp, and the presence or absence of specific characters like “LTD” or additional lines of text.

Numerical Tang Stamp System

In the 1980s, Schrade moved to a numerical tang stamp system that provides direct clues to the year of manufacturing. The system involves a number, for example, “Schrade 34OT” wherein “OT” stands for Old Timer and the number indicates the model of the knife. This may not tell the age directly, but the model number can be cross-referenced with historical production data.

Examining Knife Characteristics Beyond Tang Stamps

Aside from tang stamps, various physical attributes of the knife offer insights into its era. Over the years, changes in manufacturing processes, design adjustments, and material alterations have left their marks on these blades.

Handle Materials

Old Timer knives have used a variety of handle materials over the years. Early models utilized materials like bone or Staglon, a plastic that mimics stag antler. Later they transitioned to other synthetic materials like Delrin. Identifying the handle materials can help date older models.

Blade Styles and Material

The Old Timer repertoire includes a variety of blade styles: clip point, spey, and sheepsfoot, to name a few. Additionally, the shift from carbon steel to stainless steel occurred in the mid-20th century which is an important consideration for aging the knife.

Construction and Quality

Old Timer knives are known for their robust construction. However, scrutiny of the build quality, including the fit and finish of the knife’s components, can indicate its vintage as quality and construction methods have evolved through time.

Identifying Pinned or Painted Shields

An often-overlooked characteristic is the shield on the handle that carries the Old Timer logo. Earlier models would typically have a pinned shield, whilst later models have painted shields. This nuance in craftsmanship is another telltale sign of the knife’s era.

Archival Research and Community Knowledge

Consulting Collectible Guides and Books

Guides, books, and collector manuals can be indispensable in providing information on production years, models, and changes throughout the history of the Old Timer brand. These resources often come with pictures and detailed descriptions that can help you cross-reference and identify your knife’s details.

Connecting with Knife Collector Communities

Knowledge-sharing platforms such as forums, clubs, and online communities bring together enthusiasts who possess a wealth of information on the Old Timer brand. Engaging with these communities can provide personal anecdotes and collective wisdom that books may not offer.

Professional Appraisal

When all else fails, or you encounter a particularly difficult-to-identify knife, seeking the counsel of a professional appraiser who specializes in knives may be the best course of action. These experts have vast experience with knives of all ages and can often provide an accurate age assessment.

Final Thoughts on Drafting the History of Your Old Timer Knife

By delving into the rich history and distinctive qualities of Schrade’s Old Timer knives, enthusiasts can unearth the age and stories behind their cherished collectibles. From scrutinizing tang stamps to analyzing material compositions and engaging with knife communities, each route offers pieces to the puzzle. While we may conclude without a definitive ending, it’s the pursuit of these small historical triumphs that enrich the blade collector’s journey.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How old are old timer knives?

Old Timer knives were first introduced in 1958 by the Schrade Cutlery Company. They have been manufactured for over six decades, making them at least 60 years old as of 2021.

2. Are old timer knives collectible?

Yes, old timer knives are highly collectible. Over the years, they have gained a reputation for their quality craftsmanship and durability, making them desirable among knife enthusiasts and collectors.

3. How old does a knife have to be to be vintage?

The term “vintage” typically refers to items that are at least 20 to 30 years old. Therefore, to be considered vintage, a knife would generally need to be from the 1990s or earlier.

4. Where are old timer knives made now?

Since 2004, the Schrade brand, including Old Timer knives, has been owned by Taylor Brands LLC. Today, Old Timer knives are manufactured in China, but they continue to incorporate the traditional designs and high-quality materials synonymous with the original Schrade production.

5. How can I tell the age of an old timer knife?

The age of an old timer knife can often be determined by examining its tang stamp. Old Timer knives produced in the early years have distinct tang stamps, while later versions may have different variations. Additionally, specific features and design elements can also provide clues about the approximate age of an Old Timer knife.

6. What additional factors affect the value of old timer knives?

Several factors can influence the value of an old timer knife. These include its condition (such as blade sharpness and handle integrity), rarity, age, specific model, original packaging, and any historical or collector significance associated with the knife.

7. Are there any resources available to help identify and date old timer knives?

Yes, there are various resources available online, including forums, websites, and collector’s guides, that provide information on identifying and dating old timer knives. These resources often contain detailed catalogs, photos of tang stamps, and other reference materials.

8. How should I care for and maintain old timer knives?

To properly care for and maintain old timer knives, it is recommended to keep them clean and dry. Regularly oiling the blade and storing it in a dry environment can help prevent rust and corrosion. Also, using a proper sharpening technique ensures the blade keeps its sharpness.

9. Can I still find replacement parts for old timer knives?

While some parts for old timer knives may still be available, it can be challenging to find original replacements due to the age of the knives and changes in production. However, some specialty knife restoration shops or online auction and classified websites may offer compatible parts for specific models.

10. Are there any particular old timer knife models that are more sought after?

Yes, certain old timer knife models are more sought after by collectors, such as the Old Timer 150T Deerslayer, Old Timer 152 Sharpfinger, Old Timer 33OT Middleman, and Old Timer 80T Cave Bear. These models, along with others featuring unique designs or limited production runs, tend to be more highly valued in the collector’s market.

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