Long before I attended my first New York Custom Knife Show, I’d heard countless stories about the legendary event. Those not connected to our industry often assume that a sophisticated urban metropolis like New York City would be a particularly poor place to peddle handmade cutlery. But as anyone that has displayed there will tell you, that’s far from the case. New Yorkers love knives, the bigger and “badder” the better. The elite of the custom knifemaking world have always had every reason to expect their tables would be sold clean by the second day. Of course, that was all before the stock market crash of the last few months.
Needless to say, many of us gathered at the Crown Plaza Hotel this November felt a certain amount of impending doom. Would there be any kind of a crowd and, if they did attend, would they actually buy anything? Or would custom knives be the first “discretionary purchase” New Yorkers would cut back on?
There is a popular theory among a few vocal custom knifemakers and dealers posting on the web: Those that buy the really high-end pieces have the kind of wealth that is insulated against minor problems like a drop in the Dow Jones. While it is obvious that some people always manage to prosper through bad times, my question tends to be how large a group do they actually make up in the city? I realistically don’t think it could be more than a few thousand and, as a potential market for a specialty like high-end custom knives, that is a pretty small target.
It is also an established fact that the presidential election this year has driven firearm sales through the roof. I have a personal theory that this will also “trickle down” into the cutlery industry as people prepare for uncertain times and even more uncertain government regulation. All you have to do is look at England to see that as soon as firearms are regulated out of existence, they go after knives.
Enough of the doom and gloom. What really happened at the New York show was that there was an exceptionally healthy, upbeat crowd that cleaned off many makers’ tables by the second day just as they always have. Tactical Knives subscription sales are up over last year and I had felt we did very well in 2007.
I know the ultimate goal of certain knifemakers is to sell a relatively small number of very expensive pieces to what they hope is an ever-expanding group of “art collectors.” It is a nice pipe dream, but I think they would be wise to accept that the bulk of custom sales will always go to average guys that simply appreciate hand craftsmanship and original designs. As long as there are makers at the New York Show offering functional customs at affordable prices, the event will continue to have the same great crowd it has always enjoyed.
—Steven Dick, Editor In Chief