Knife Price-Gouging Debate

It seems to be one of the most popular threads…

It seems to be one of the most popular threads on the web: someone posts “I would buy a ‘model XYZ knife’ but it is priced too high! I think it would be a very good knife for $$ but I would never pay $$$.” A debate then starts that can go on for weeks about whether the maker in question is price gouging on that particular knife. It really doesn’t appear to matter what the suggested price is; anything from $10 to $1,000 is fair game for the accusation with these “experts.” What especially amuses me is when a “web-pert” announces he knows all about what it costs to make a given knife because he worked part-time in a tool and die shop one summer while he was in high school. I might be more impressed if he could state he actually ran a manufacturing business. It wouldn’t matter if the product being produced was baby buggies or kitchen cabinets; having to turn a profit to just keep your doors open gives you a radically different perspective on pricing items.

For some reason, the maker that catches the most flack is Chris Reeve and his Sebenza folder. Okay, the Sebenza is a luxury folder. I checked the factory suggested retail price today and found it runs around $385 for a standard model. The first argument against this price is always that the Sebenza is a “production knife” rather than a true “custom.” Why that should determine the cost of anything is never really explained. Given the number of variations and limited editions produced, I would even argue the custom versus production point. If you don’t believe me, go to www.truenorthknives.com and count up how many Sebenza models they offer. I counted 131 variations!

After years of wearing Timexes and Casios, I recently developed an interest in more upscale watch models. While I would like to own a Rolex, I really can’t justify that kind of investment on something to tell time. But understand, I’m not saying Rolex is price gouging, I’m just pointing out I personally choose not to spend that much. My every day watch is a Bathy 100 Fathom and my “dress-up” watch is a Ball Hydrocarbon. I’m sure that most Casio wearers would say I’m an idiot for spending that much on a watch and that either timepiece should not cost more than “whatever” dollars. I’m equally sure Rolex wearers would think something like, “too bad you can’t afford to buy a real watch.” What I have are two watches that cost me more than what is really needed to simply tell time, but as much as I was willing to expend to have high-quality items I personally enjoy owning.

The same can be said of the Chris Reeve Sebenza (and I own two). If the knife wasn’t selling at the current price, they would either have to find a way to lower the cost or discontinue the model. In actual fact, there are enough people out there that can afford a Sebenza and enjoy owning a finely made knife, and that the price hasn’t been a problem for Chris Reeve. If you really want one, you make that expenditure. If you either can’t afford it or don’t see the value, then there are plenty of other knives available to fill your needs. Just quit whining about the Sebenza being too expensive.

If you’re ready to spring for Chris Reeve quality, contact Chris Reeve Knives, 11624 W. President Drive, #B, Dept. TK, Boise, ID 83713; 208-375-0367 www.chrisreeve.com.
—Steven Dick, Editor-in-Chief

Load Comments
  • Michael Archangel

    I own a large number of knives. Most of them were
    purchased to fulfill a specific need, some just because the desire for it was just there. My
    latest acquisition is the High Desert Survivor from Tops. That said, my carry knife is a kershaw 1550 st. It has been a constant companion for years and has fulfilled my expectations and need for a pocket folder and the price is right-around 65 dollars or so. I would not buy either of the above knives, simply because at the current price point, their utility is not close to what they cost, when I can purchase the Kershaw, and back up knives (in case I lose one) for far less than $385, and have everything I need in a good blade, which is made in the good ol’ USA. My Go Bag knives are the Gerber (USA) military knives, again on sale for around 80 per. Frankly I am not impressed by the look of the Sebenza, and would not feel comfortable carrying one. But, are they over priced.. I don’t think so, as if they were, they
    wouldn’t be selling. So.. evidently their price is just fine with some people who are willing to pay for the privilege of owning one. Not for me, but I would not buy a Rolex either. My Casio G-Shock doesn’t scratch the crystal, and tells time just fine. Never understood buying something just to say you have one. My High Desert Survivor will be used as a one of survival
    knife, and the Gerbers as the Go Bag knife for 5 different bags, and my cold steel folders as a secondary go bag knife.

  • Michael Hedden

    Chris Reeve knives are in my opinion a great value for the price. Are they expensive – maybe- but as a knife addict I find the cost one that I will bear for the quality of the knife. When I carry one I never think as I am using it “WOW” this was expensive but “WOW” this is a great knife! I have purchased four of his knives. Three Sebenza’s two large left handed and a small right handed and a Aviator that is in Iraq with a Apace chopper pilot. At the Blade Show this year I ordered a left handed Umnumzaan when the Reeves start making them in lefty versions. For me it is money well spent!

  • gunner

    I like the worn texture of the metal grips.

  • Dominik Lepuschitz

    What exactly is “expensive”? In my opinion its when you get less in return for the amount asked. “Cheap” would then mean getting more in return. It´s not primarily a matter of the sums involved since something for $1.00 can be expensive while something for $1000.00 can be actually cheap. It´s more a matter of affordabilty – not everybody can afford everything – and personal priorities. Nowadays I would think most people can afford anything up to $1000.00 if they really want it badly enough within a reasonable timeframe (how much is spent annually on alcohol, tobacco, entertainment etc… you see my point). Another matter is whether one is willing to risk loss or destruction of a $500.00 knife. What amount are you comfortable with losing in an emergency? Or out of simple carelessness? A knife – anything really – you cannot or will not afford to lose is really too expensive. That is where a balance must be found lest your posessions drag you down with them.

  • Paul Davidson

    The Sebenza is popular and famous for a reason. I’ve never regretted any money I’ve spent on Reeve knives. The times I’ve “had” to sell one, I sold or traded it for very close to its MSRP. None of the major players in knife manufacturing can claim that. The ones that have stayed in business that is.

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  • Ernie Taylor

    I don’t think it is really an issue of price gouging or anything like that. It is simply a matter of cost of the materials, cost of manufacturing and what the designer/owner thinks his/her time/effort and artistry is worth. Most of us cannot afford these high end knives (or many of the upper/middle end, for that matter). So? We don’t buy them! If, after a time, the maker decides he isn’t making enough money, he’ll either lower the price or stop offering the product. I have bought knives from dealer/owners that I think are really good, they are very reasonably priced, have a very good edge and very good handles. You just have to look for them. Ever try Coast? And, there are more. Just stop thinking the only good knife is an expensive one.