Friday, July 26, 2013

Cattaraugus Cutlery Company

Cattaraugus founder John Brown Francis Champlin first became associated with cutlery at the age of twenty-five, when he became a cutlery salesman for importers Friedmann and Lauterjung. Champlin left his employer in 1882 to join with his son, Tint, in starting his own business. The cutlery-jobbing firm was named J.B.E. Champlin & Son.

In 1886, four of the elder Champlin's brothers-in-law joined in the J.B.F. Champlin & Son business. The relatives were W.R. Jean, John and Andrew, sons of Job Russell Case and brothers of Champlin's wife, Theresa. When the Case brothers entered into the business, its name was changed to Cattaraugus Cutlery Company. Although the case brothers soon dropped out of the new business, it was the beginning of the longtime association of the Case family with cutlery.

In 1890, the Champlins purchased the knife-making equipment owned by Beaver Falls Cutlery Company of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. With the purchase of this equipment and the building of their factory in Little Valley, New York, Cattaraugus had changed from a jobbing operation to a cutlery manufacture.

Under the leadership of the Champlin family, Cattaraugus remained in business until 1963. During this time, the company name was a respected one within the industry as well as with consumers. Cattaraugus made knives for the U.S. Armed Forces and the Byrd Polar Expedition and, in promotional efforts, sponsored whittling competitions, offering up to $50,000 in prizes.

In the early 1970's, knife dealer A.G. Russell revived the Cattaraugus brand name and used it occasionally ever since. These knives should not be confused with knives made by the original company. The markings on these knives usually reference Russell␣s location in Springdale, Arkansas. The Knife Collector Club (KCC), for which many of these knives were manufactured. The Knife Collectors Club knives are of high quality and come in Limited Editions and Commemorative Knives.

The original company's knives were stamped “CCC Co. Little Valley, NY, or the number 3 and a C inside a circle and, most frequently, “Cattaraugus Cutlery Company, Little Valley, New York.

Many Cattaraugus knives were stamped with pattern numbers. The first digit indicates the number of blades (up to five blades were made by Cattaraugus), and the second digit indicates the type of bolsters as follows:

0 - No bolsters 
1 - One bolster 
2 - Two bolsters 
3 - Tip bolsters 
4 - Unknown
5 - Slant bolsters

The third and fourth digits are the factory handle frame pattern numbers. The last digit indicates the knife's handle material as follows:

0 - White Fiberloid 
2 - Imitation Pearl 
3 - Mother-of-Pearl 
4 - Fiberloid
5 - Genuine Stag 
6 - Ebony 
7 - Cocobolo, Burnt Bone or Fancy Fiberloid 
8 - White Bone 
9 - Jigged Bone 
G - Gambier Pearl (Sea Snail Shell) 
OP - Opal Pearl (outer part of Abalone Shell) 
OR - Oriental Pearl (dyed Opal Pearl) 
PP - Peacock Pearl (Abalone Pearl) 
B - Blue Celluloid or Burnt Bone 
R - Red Celluloid 
Y -Yellow Composition

Cattaraugus used a variety of handle material, but the natural handles predominate with ebony, mother-of-pearl, and jigged bone being the most common. Different styles of jigged bone can be found, but the most popular among collectors is the style with scattered long groves, called “Worm Grove” bone. The Little Valley firm also employed exotic varieties of pearl shell more than perhaps any other major manufacture.

Unlike Case and some other manufactures, the Cattaraugus numbers were not consistent to the point that they are a reliable reference. The 20224 pattern will be a different knife than a 22223 pattern, although both knives will be 22 patterns. The company made so many patterns, over 100, that few collectors, if any, have memorized them. I recommend that you learn the pattern number from the knife itself and for pricing reference, find a good knife price guide.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The History of W. R. Case & Sons and Related Companies - Part 2

W. R. Case & Sons Stampings

During the long history of W. R. Case & Sons, there have been more than three- dozen different stamps used on knives.

The “W. R” tang stamp was used from 1905-1915

The “Bradford” tang stamp was used from 1915-1920

The “Case XX” stamping on pocketknives was used from 1940 t o1965 with pattern numbers added to the reverse side of the tang in 1949. In 1965, the company began stamping its knives “Case XX U.S.A.” In 1970; the logo was again changed, this time to “Case XX U.S.A.” but with ten dots under the logo. Each year after that, a dot was removed so that a 1975 knife would have five dots and a 1979 knife would have one dot. In 1980, the stamping was again changed. The dotting system, beginning with ten dots, was renewed, but the name stamp was modified to what was to become known as “the Lightning S’, the “S” in the company name was no longer curved and resembled a lightning bolt. In 1990, the system of dots was stopped and the year of manufacture was stamped onto the knife tangs. The system was revived in 1993 and continues today in similar form.

Under the present “X’s and Dots” system, one dot was removed after each year from 2000 to 2004, and one “X’ was removed after each year from 2005 to 2009.

On the occasion of some of these logo changes, there were a large number of collectors who bought store displays of the old logo knives. Some of these displays can still be found intact, but individual knives that have been on those boards usually fade on one side and do not bring as much as knives of the same stamping that were not on a board.


With each logo change there were some knives, such as the 6488 and the 64052, which had two blades stamped with the Case logo. Sometimes one blade with the old logo and one blade with the new logo were used in the same knife. These knives with transitory markings can be found in XX to USA, USA to ten dots, and in various combinations of dots, with eight to ten dots being the most common for the 6488. The knife in question would be considered a USA, XX, ten dot, etc. by the tang stamping on the master blade. The large blade attached closest to the shield.

The collector should be aware that minor variations in many of these stampings are not so unusual. Whenever a worn-out or broken die was replaced, the replacement die was occasionally not identical to its predecessor. One may see this variation on some Tested XX knives. For instance, the top point of the large “C’ often varies in its relative position with the top of the “a’. Most knife collectors chose to ignore these small variations as being relatively insignificant as regarding the collector value.

Case Price Guide

“W.R.” and “Bradford” knives are rare; very few of these knives with this stampings will be encountered, so it is hard to develop a reliable price structure on them. On most patterns, a “W.R. or “Bradford” stamped knife will bring 20-30% more that the same pattern with a “Case Tested” stamping.

Tested Knives - all Tested knives are priced as thought they are handled in green bone since that is true for approximately 90% of this era’s patterns with a bone handle code. The remaining small percentage is handled in red bone, brown bone, and rough black. While red bone and brown bone handled knives will sell for only slightly less than green bone, rough black handled knives will generally be valued at 20-30% below green bone Tested knives.

XX Knives - Many collectors prefer the XX era above all others, and with the high quality and the wide variety of handled materials used it’s easy to understand why. Among bone handles, beautiful red bone stands out, but green bone, early Rogers’s bone, and late Rogers bone can all be found and each will bring a premium. Red stag can be found in additional to regular stag, and will bring a good deal more. Both standard yellow composition and “flat yellow” composition can be found on XX knives. Standard yellow is slightly translucent, while flat yellow is opaque. Flat yellow will usually bring a slight premium of no more than 10%. XX era knives with a long pull nicks will generally bring about 5-10% more than the same knives with regular nail nicks.

USA Knives - Some very attractive knives were made during the USA era and interest in the knives of this period is currently very strong.

1970s Dots Knives – Many changes came to W.R. Case & Sons during this era and the evidence is written all over the knives they produced. A ten-dot 1970 knife will almost command a higher collector value than any other dots knives, and knives from the first few years of the era will usually bring a little more than those from the end of the era. Knives with especially attractive bone handles are in particular demand, and will often bring 20% more. Delrin handled knives of this era are usually worth little more than there “using” value, except in the case of a popular pattern in which the rarity of a particular Delrin handled knife has long been established.

“Rogers Bone” handled knives – Occasionally a knife will be encountered with bone handles jigged in a style that seems unusual for a Case knife. On the pre-1920 W.R.” and “Bradford” marked knives, collectors will sometimes encounter bone handles jigged with short, and deep cuts in what appears to be a random pattern. These handles, which were probably jigged by hand, represent the first generation of “Rogers Bone” on Case knives. Tested and XX era “Rogers Bone” is completely different, a machine jigged pattern with shallower, longer jigs that do not line up into discernable rows as much of Case’s jigging does. Named after the Rogers Manufacturing Company of Rockfall, Connecticut, which produced it. This was a standard style of bone handle common throughout the knife industry from the 1930s to the 1960s. Often encountered on knives by Camillus, Kutmaster, and Western, on Case knives it is considered rare and desirable. A good rule of thumb is to add a premium of about 20-20% over a tested green bone or a standard XX bone. Rogers Bone handles were revived on several patterns in 1989.

Linings on Case Knives

Case use iron liners until the late 1920s, when a change was made to nickel silver. At times, the company would substitute brass for nickel silver. The exception to this note of interest is the 6143 pattern “Daddy Barlow”, which was lined with iron until 1973, when the pattern was changed to Delrin handles with brass lines.

Pattern Numbers

Case’s knife numbering system offers the collector quite a bit of information about a knife, allowing one to determine whether the knife has the proper handle, number of blades, etc. These pattern numbers can only be relied upon on Case knives made after 1949. When the pattern numbers were stamped on each knife produced. A Case pattern number usually consists of four digits. The first indicates the handle material, the second digit represents the number of blades and the last two digits are the factory pattern numbers. A one or two between the second and third digits, or a zero before the first digit, represent a variation of an existing pattern.