An informational and price guide to the knives of W.R. Case & Sons, loaded with full color illustrations of hundreds of Case knives. Special emphasis on explaining the evolution of Case knives and familiar patterns, particularly from the CASE XX era to the present day.
reviewed by Knife World staff
Think about it: W.R. Case & Sons is the biggest name in collectible knives, but when was the last time that someone published a completely new collectors guide for Case knives? Yes, there have been a couple books of historical interest (Lockwood’s Case Cutlery Dynasty and Boser/Sullivan’s Images of America book), and the price guides that cover Case (such as Sargent’s, Price’s, and the new Pocket Price Guide from Parker’s KCS) are constantly being adjusted and refined. But finally, here we are – a brand new book called Collecting Case Knives recently hit the streets, and it’s significantly different than anything else on the market.
Author Steve Pfeiffer has been a Case enthusiast all his life, and will be known to many by the “handle” he goes by on websites like AllAboutPocketKnives.com: knifeaholic. Understanding that older Case knives are a complex and sometimes intimidating field and that a large percentage of Case collectors focus on the company’s more current collectibles, Pfeiffer decided that his book should aim to introduce beginning collectors to the joys and complexities of older Case knives in a way that isn’t overwhelming.
As a result, the new book contains detailed sections on every conceivable aspect of vintage Case knives, from the obvious (like tang stampings, pattern numbers and shields) to the less obvious (liner and pin materials, backsprings, and the 1980s “new grind” knives), and devoting nearly 50 pages to Case handle materials and their variations – the identification, time frames, origins of, and any other aspects you can imagine. This is really great stuff, and the author is to be praised for his willingness to challenge a few long-held but probably less-than-accurate notions about Case knives.
What follows is even better: a pattern-by-pattern walk through the Case catalog in the same type of detail, highlighting the evolution, quirks, and rarities of each pattern. Aside from a few articles on particular patterns in Knife World and other publications, this sort of thing has never been attempted before, and the result is a simply fantastic resource.
To top it all off, the book is jam-packed with high quality full color photographs – a country mile better than any heretofore published on older Case knives. About the only illustrations that aren’t in color are those from the late 1950s Case catalog reproduction in the back of the book – after all, the original was in black & white.
If the above is conjuring up the idea of a book that weighs 20 lbs. and costs a small fortune, well, it probably should. So in order to keep things manageable, the scope of the book was limited to what was deemed most important. With a handful of exceptions, all of the Case patterns that were produced at some point between the XX era and the first Dotted era (about 1940 through 1980) are included from the time of the pattern’s introduction up to the present day (or their discontinuation by Case). [For example, the ‘52 Trapper was introduced in the 1920s, so it is covered from the 1920s to present; the ‘15 pattern Gunstock was discontinued before 1940 and not reintroduced until the 1980s, so it is not included.] The handful of 1940-1980 patterns which were not included are mostly less popular patterns like budding knives, office knives, and lobsters. If you’re curious, a complete list of them can be found here (see below).
While the publisher promotes Collecting Case Knives as a price guide, the book’s strength really lies in information, not current collector values – the price guide is limited to knives made from the XX era up through 1989, tends to be less detailed than the other price guides (not listing bone color variations for example), and it takes me longer to locate knife listings in it. Overall, the values seem a bit more conservative than Sargent’s and Price’s books, and much more conservative than Parkers’ – but proportionately higher on ‘70s and ‘80s dots than earlier knives. Not that it’s not useful – particularly the introduction – but I don’t recommend buying this book just for the price guide.
What you should buy this book for is the incredible amount of information that Mr. Pfeiffer has carefully assembled into a single reference, the attention to detail, and of course the fine full color photographs. If you have even the slightest interest in this fabled old brand, Collecting Case Knives is an essential reference, and if you’re new to Case knives it’s the very first book you should purchase. It will see a lot of use in our offices.
A complete list of Case patterns that are covered by this book (pattern number digits only):
00 (melon tester), 01, 02, 05, 07, 08, 009, 11 (11-1/2), 011, 14, 16, 17, 18, 20, 25, 27, 028, 29, 31, 031, 32, 33, 35, 0035, 37, 38, 042, 43, 44 (incl. 0xx44), 45 (both cattle and scout), 46, 47, 048, 49, 50, 050, 051, 052, 053, 54, 055, 58, 59, 61, 63 (incl. 0xx63), 063, 64, 65, 67, 69, 71, 72, 75, 78, 79, 80, 83, 85, 087, 88, 92, 093, 94, 095, 96x, 97, 99, 102, 105, 109x, 131, Muskrat, Fly Fisherman, S-2, Sidewinder, Texas Lockhorn.
Patterns produced c.1940-1980 that are NOT included:
00 (slideout), 04B (budding), 06-1/2, 09B (budding), 10 (speying), 36 (budding), 39 (pruning), 57 (office), 058 (pen), 60 (pen), 088-089-090 (lobsters), 91 (anglo saxon whittler), 098 (budding)
Collecting Case Knives: Identification and Price Guide
by Steve Pfeiffer
Softcover, 304 pp.