What makes the task that much more daunting is that if you took all of the SAKs ever owned by every member of SOSAKOnline (including the dealers and their inventories!), SOSAK, and the Victorinox Collector's Society and added them all up, it still would not come close to equaling one day's production of either Victorinox or Wenger. Consider that these companies have both been at it for well over a hundred years and you can see how there is a vast untapped market out there, ripe for collectors to ferret out interesting new, and possibly unheard of models and tools.
The drawback is that SAKs were never really considered collectible until fairly recently. For the most part they were tools- tools of exceptional quality, but tools nonetheless, to be used and used hard. Because of the quality and low price of these tools they were rarely, if ever, returned for the ironclad warranty repair or replacement and so the vast majority of these knives are in very sad shape.
The upside of that, and the fact that even though more people are collecting than even 5 years ago, is that prices on various specimens are still quite affordable. Some vintage Soldier models (50+ years) sell for upwards of $150 on average, while most can be had for a fraction of that price. There is also a few models like the XXLT or the Mauser that have fetched exorbitant sums on eBay, but even so, compared to virtuall;y every other collectable, the prices are quite fair. Try looking for Beanie Babies, antique lighters or original automotive parts for vintage vehicles and you will see what I mean.
As one of the premier SAK collector (and user) reference tools available, members of SOSAK have taken the time to assemble the following guidelines for collecting SAKs wisely.
knockoffs is not recommended. Unless
you are following a certain scheme (like Spork's GAK collection) or find one
you are particularily interested in for whatever reason, purchasing anything
other than Victorinox or Wenger is almost always a waste of time and
money. Knockoffs are virtually
worthless, especially to collectors. Some similar type knives (not considered knockoffs) are acceptable
however. Manufacturers like Aitor for
example, produce a decent product and have their own fans. A collector should be able to tell the
difference between similar type knives and cheap knockoffs.
2. Try to specialize
as much as possible. SAKs come in a
very wide variety, from different eras, tang stamps, colors, sizes etc and it
is difficult and expensive to try to collect them all. Some folks like 2 layers, some like 4
layers, some only like Victorinox, some collect Champs. Each member is not limited to those but it
does help them look in a specific direction.
3. Remember, there
is little to no collector value on SAKs. No matter what the seller says, that "discontinued Champion"
is not worth $50, and neither is that special Wenger for the "elite ski
patrol." Are there SAKs worth $50 or more? Definately, yes, but the coveted Yeoman or Scientist models
aren't, unless you really don't mind spending the money on them.
4. If they don't
have "Victorinox," "Elinox," "Victoria" or
"Wenger" stamped on the tang of the main blade, they are probably
fakes. Neither Wenger, nor Victorinox
makes knives in a factory in Beijing or Huntsville, Alabama. Victorinox makes them in Ibach Switzerland,
and Wenger makes them in Delemont Switzerland ONLY. They do not contract work out to the Phillipines, Mexico or Hong
Kong, no matter what the description says.
5. Join a
respectable discussion or reference group. SOSAK and SOSAKOnline are always accepting new members, as is the
Victorinox Collector's Society. When in
doubt, ask around and see what others have to say on the matter. If it's a convincing fake, someone else has
probably already fallen for it, and will happily help steer you clear. For SOSAK and SOSAKOnline members, we even
manage to play by some rules of conduct so you don't have to worry about
another member stealing your find away from you. Just check the eBay list on SOSAKOnline for details.
6. Keep your eyes open. SAKs are sold almost everywhere. I have even seen them in small fishing and convenience stores in the middle of nowhere. Often a sales rep will convince the owner of a Mom & Pop shop to buy an initial order of $1,000 or so, and those knives will sit on the shelves for years collecting dust until a collector comes by and see bnib (Brand New In Box) examples of knives that have been discontinued for years. Usually, a very good deal can be arranged on the whole lot of them, and the cost can be quickly recovered by selling off the extras within groups like SOSAK or the Victorinox Collector's Society or on eBay.
yourself. The minute you realize you
are not having fun, stop it. Wait a few
weeks and see if you feel like going back to it. If not, consider selling your collection to finance whatever else
you may have gotten interested in. If
you do come back to it, enjoy it. There
are literally billions of SAKs out there. You won't miss that much by stepping out for a while but you will miss
alot if you force yourself to stick with it. Hobbies are ways to relax, and if it isn't relaxing then it isn't worth
8. Take chances on
knives. Both Victorinox and Wenger will
repair knives that are sent in to them. It is a lifetime warranty on the knife, which means if you are the 16th
owner, who bought the knife used from an estate sale, and it turns out it was
run over by a steamroller and dropped in the septic tank and left for a few
years, they will fix or replace it at their discression. If you include a note telling them that the
knife is important to you, they do try to be accomodating in returning it to
you after repair, rather than replacing it. I bought a destroyed (utterly destroyed!) red Pioneer from eBay for
under $1 and sent it to Victorinox for repair. Brand new red Pioneer in box in less than a month. Don't take advantage of Victorinox or
Wenger's generosity but feel confidant in taking chances.
9. Store your
collection properly. SAKs themselves
are virtually impervious to most forms of corrosion but the boxes, instructions
and other accessories may not be. Sheaths, special scales (wood especially), as well as delicate parts
like springs and tweezers are all susceptible to moisture, mold or rust. As
with any collection or investment, it pays to look after them. There are a variety of ways to store them,
but the easiest way is to just keep them in a box or drawer. I use a plastic (Rubbermaid style) drawer
rack for all boxed SAKs and a fishing tackle box for SAKs without a box. The individual sections are the perfect size for storing a variety of knives,
and can easily be fitted with felt or foam for an added degree of
protection. Also, a small package of
silica gel like the ones found in electronics boxes can help keep moisture from
Those are the basic "do's and do not's" of SAK
Collecting. It is by no means a
complete list, nor are the rules airtight. There are always going to be exceptions that don't seem to be covered by
this, and those that fly in the face of most things written here, but those are
situations to be decided on by each individual collector when the opportunity
presents itself. This list should be
regarded only as guidelines for the serious SAK Collector.