I have been buying and collecting them since their inception back in 1982. Back then, you could get a 1982, R1123 for $29.95 if you bought a model Four or Six Gun. The poster was an additional $9.95, but heck, back then, no one cared about the posters. Now a 1982 poster in mint condition can command prices as high as $1000 to $1100! This chat is about the condition of the knives themselves, mainly addressing the issues of cracking on the handles. There are many common facts about them that most buyers and sellers are totally unaware of. Nothing is more frustrating than to get that much-coveted new addition in the mail, only to open it up and find a crack in the handles.
Bam, now you are out for the shipping & handling both ways, even if you return it to the seller. Odds are, the seller had no idea that it was cracked either. Now he's lost his profit and listing fees, plus the wasted time of listing it and the cost and time of relisting it plus not to mention, as a direct result of eBay new feedback policies, you as the buyer are safe, but the seller is on the hook for heavens forbidden negative feedback. Oh, wait, here's another one, the plastic or celluloid handles have shrunk over time and pulled away from the end bolsters as does some of the 1988 R1615 Candy Stripe Toothpicks.
Generally classified as a bullet knife with a round Remington shield, as it was one of the original vintage or pre-1940 bullet knives. If you would like to learn more about them, as one should in any collecting, then I will suggest a couple of good books on the subject, the first is "Remington Knives Past & Present", by the authors Ron Stewart and the late Roy Ritchie. The second is "Remington Bullet Knives", by Mel Brewster; both titles have excellent photos and value guides with a ton of good information. It would be nice, if everyone dealing with these knives were better informed. The real key is knowledge of the exact subject that you are after or dealing with. The more you know, will lesson the chances of ending up with a subordinate or lesser knife, possibly even a factory second, as there are a ton of them floating around out there.
In 2007 Camillus, the then current manufacturer at the time closed it doors forever due to a labor dispute. Sometime after the closing, the entire remaining inventory was auctioned off to settle debts. As a result, there are a bunch of factory second knives, we call them rouges, now flooding the market. Myself, as a Remington lover and collector, do not value these factory error/second knives. They used up whatever parts were left to assemble all of the knives possible to sell. You may find a bullet year knife with the wrong year stamped on the blade or different blade configurations not true to the original production knife. Some knives have even been sold that were never finished in the manufacturing process. A lot of the fixed-blades are being sold as knife kits that you put together. Others were either put into the wrong boxes or have no box or collector's tin at all. You don't really have to worry about this with any of the bullet knives prior to 2007. I personally, would like to see eBay start a policy whereby the seller has to list the item as a factory second or with defects, and if it comes in the original correct box with all the right paperwork. Every time I see one listed that doesn't show the box, you have to contact the seller to ask about it.
Now, back to the bullets, lets talk about CRACKS. I will now attempt to list all of the knives that I am well familiar with, that have had problems with the handles cracking. As with any collectible, condition is everything. If that knife has any defect, whatsoever, then in my opinion, it is no longer mint. Many of the Remington's actually left the factory in their current state. Just about everyone, has a different definition of a mint state knife. Some people even take it as far as to say that light-handling scratches on the bolsters can render the knife at less than mint. I've also noticed that many people state that a knife is mint if it hasn't been sharpened or carried. When that knife is not 100%, then it significantly reduces the collector value. I personally strive to get the knife in the most original state with all of the original box papers and documentation. I am also picky as to the condition of the box. No writing, tape or torn/worn/ripped places, no price tags or stickers, except maybe a UPC from the factory, but still would rather the box be free of anything.
Now we begin, I'll start off with the knife that started it all, the 1982, R1123 Trapper. I would say that well over 20% of these along with the others listed, were issued with cracks in the handles. All of these that I have seen, most always, have the cracks at the end of the knife, just behind the lanyard hole. I've heard that the cause was from the hole's placement being too close to the end of the knife, or that the lanyard tube was pressed too much during the manufacture. Whatever the cause, the cracks are usually easily visible. A mint knife complete can bring upwards of $400 to $600! I can remember one instance back in the late 80's, when I bought 2 of these in mint condition from a gentleman for $950, made one phone call and sold one of them within minutes for $750. I've seen them go recently from anywhere between $425 upwards to $500. The knives with cracks are another story. I've seen them go anywhere from $100 to $250. You be the judge. The second knife is the 1983, R1173 Baby Bullet. It too is prone to crack near the lanyard hole. The third knife and in my honest opinion, the hardest to obtain without cracks, is the smaller 1984 knife, the R1173L Baby Lock-back. It and the larger model R1303 Lock-back were both issued in the same year, 1984. Both of these knives also crack in the same area around the lanyard holes. The next knife on the list is the 1985, R4353 Woodsman. It is prone to very small; almost hairline cracks barely visible sometimes. These cracks are located most of the time, at the outside edges of the center pins that hold the handles in place. In fact, I would suggest to all that are dealing with this to purchase a good quality jeweler's loupe or magnifying glass of at least 10X power, as with some of the later models, the cracks could go undetected without one. The next in line is the 1986, R1263 Hunter. It is really hard to see the cracks on these; they are usually located around the center pins too. Another thing to watch for with the longer styles like the Guides, Hunter, Texas Toothpick/Fisherman and the H-T-T's or more commonly known as the Hunter-Trader-Trappers, is that with the longer thinner styled knives, you have to be on the watch for weak back-springs and half-stops. It's hard to find them with good strong springs to where the knife actually talks to you, or snaps shut or open with a good strong audible snap. On rare occasions, I have also seen the 1988, R4466 with cracks near the pins. These are the knives that I am most familiar with, that have problems with or are prone to cracking. I have not really seen any of the later models with the same issues. Maybe they addressed the problem, I don't know. But as with any knife, just slow down a minute, don't get too excited, take a good long look at it and really check it out. I usually try to do it in a fashionable order to check all of my bases. First I check for the correct box, is the paperwork all in order. If it's a Bullet Knife, I immediately check it for cracks. Then I check the fit of the bullet shield itself. Next, I'll check for different coloration of the scales or handles. If one side is lighter or darker than the other, this could mean that it was improperly stored in direct sunlight for sometime and has faded the lighter side or that possibly it has been sent back to Remington to have a previously cracked handle repaired, the newer side perhaps not matching well. They offered this service free of charge, minus the S&H charges. After that, I check the tang stampings and the blade etchings to make sure that all is correct here. Next, I'll check the blades and back-springs for rust, pitting or discolorations of any kind. Once they are there, they are usually there to stay. Then I check the strength of the springs. After that, I check out the overall appearance and fitting of the knife. Was it put together properly, is the back nice and flush. Are there any cracks in between the liners and handles? What about tolerances and openings between the back-springs and the liners? They should be nice and tight with no visible space or openings at all. You don't have to buy anything, there's always another knife around the corner, never truer since the advent of eBay.
Here are a few quick, little known tips on some of the bullet knives. There were two models in the year 1988, the R1615 Candy Stripe with round style shield and the 1988, R4466 Muskrat. There are two of the 1989 R1128 Trappers. One has the two middle pins at an angle, the other has them in-line, up-and-down. There are also two models of the 1994 R4243 Camp knife. One has shorter bolsters. Another is, the 1992, R1253 Guide, to my knowledge, it was the only bullet issued in two different colored boxes. And lastly, I consider the 1996, R3843 Scout Knife to include two styles, the typical bullet shield and the round shield.
If you are planning on buying one of the above listed bullet knives, especially the higher priced models, I would suggest waiting for warmer weather to do so. That way you would not have to expose the knife to expansion and contraction from the sudden change in temperatures, where-by possibly invoking a crack to suddenly appear from no-where. Another thing to remember, anytime you bring a knife in from out in the cold, say stored in your car, you would be wise to open it up, dry it off and lightly oil it. As soon as it hits the warmer temperatures, it will condensate and could ruin a costly or prized knife, only to open it up at a much later date to find rust spots and corrosion.