There are over 100 models of Cattaraugus knives in existence, and they were made between 1890 and 1963. The knives have tang stamps, but dating them is difficult because of numbering inconsistencies.
Cattaraugus knives have acquired legendary status over time and are sought by many collectors. The older a knife is, the more valuable it is. Hence, dating Cattaraugus knives is important to both collectors and dealers.
Fortunately, although tang stamps don’t help much when dating Cattaraugus knives, there are other ways. Here’s everything you need to know about the history of Cattaraugus knives and how to date them.
How To Date A Cattaraugus Knife
Before you venture into dating a Cattaraugus knife, you should decipher the information carried by the tang stamp. The stamp has four to six characters that reveal information about the knife. Here’s what each character means;
Since Cattaraugus knives had between one and four blades, the first character on the stamp is used to specify the number.
The second position indicates how many bolsters a knife originally had. In some cases, this character also indicates what type of bolster the knife had.
Third And Fourth
These two numbers indicate the factory number. With so many patterns, two knives with the same factory number could have very different designs, rendering the numbers confusing.
The fifth and often last character indicates the handle type and material. An original knife must have the same type of handle as shown by the number.
The sixth character isn’t present on all knives, but it further explains the fifth character. In some instances, the sixth character indicates the form and pattern of the knife.
You can date most types of knives using their tang stamps. However, since Cattaraugus knives don’t have manufacture dates on their tang stamps, dating them is not straightforward.
These knives’ patterns don’t have the variation to identify their era of making. However, despite this difficulty, there are a few methods to date a Cattaraugus knife;
Search The Catalogs
Since the knives had little to no variation among versions, the logical way to discern their manufacture date is by combing through catalogs. Whatever small differences between versions are sure to be noted within a catalog, enabling dating.
The challenge with catalogs is finding reliable ones. For these, you’ll have to attend shows, talk to lots of knife collectors, or maybe discover a catalog by chance.
Once you get a catalog, check the knife’s model number in the records. Get the catalog here.
Check Model Type
Cattaraugus made knives for various applications, including the military during the second world war. Since dating these knives can be difficult, discovering that a particular one was made for military use immediately sheds light on the knife’s approximate age.
Some collectors and academics have studied the history of the Cattaraugus knives. Their books shed light on the lineage of these confusing knives and make it a bit easier to date them. In some cases, there are guides that you can use to date a blade.
Books and guides provide in-depth descriptions that can help you date a knife even without its model number. These descriptions are important because sometimes the number gets lost.
RITCHIE, R., & STEWART, R. (2000). Cattaraugus Cutlery Co.: identification and values. Paducah, KY, Collector Books – is one of the book for identification.
Ask The Experts
Cattaraugus knives come in so many models that it’s difficult for one person to know all the versions.
Fortunately, knife collectors depend on their knowledge to make a living, so they conduct tons of research. Ask several collectors about your knife to get an accurate date.
Cattaraugus Knives History
James Champlin and Tint Champlin started Cattaraugus Cutlery Company as JBE Chaplin and Son in 1882. Four years later, the firm’s name was changed to Cattaraugus Cutlery company when four relatives joined.
Originally a jobbing operation, Cattaraugus Company began manufacturing knives in 1890 after acquiring knife-making equipment.
The firm remained in operation until 1963 under the leadership of the Champlins. During this time, they made over 100 versions of knives.
Cattaraugus made knives for the military during World War Two. These knives were so good that the military awarded them the ‘E’ mark of excellence. A notable knife made during this time is the 225Q blade, nicknamed the Commando knife.
Why Did Camillus Go Out Of Business?
Camillus’ problems started mounting when overseas knife makers took a major portion of the market, reducing the firm’s earnings. The company’s poor management didn’t help the situation, and soon, the company faced bankruptcy.
Camillus’ low revenue forced the management to announce salary cuts, but this measure proved unpopular.
After a long strike, the company’s workers finally agreed to the salary reductions, but by then, the firm could only accept a fraction of the original workers.
The firm’s worker’s union problems and the increased competition saw Camillus lose many customers, declaring bankruptcy in early 2007. The company’s assets were auctioned later that year, marking its end.
How To Identify Fake Cattaraugus Knives?
Cattaraugus knives have grown in value over time, and some unscrupulous dealers are known to scam unknowing buyers.
To identify an original knife, check the tang stamp. If the font seems a bit off, smaller, or poorly written, the knife is most likely a rip-off.
Dating a Cattaraugus knife is challenging since the tang stamps are unreliable. However, the information on the stamp can help point you in the right direction and identify the blade as an original.
Model number indicates the knife’s era by showing whether the blade was made for civilian or military use.
Catalogs and books are great for dating Cattaraugus knives, even if you have little knowledge about the blades. In extreme cases, ask for help from experts.
However, since there are over 100 types of Cattaraugus knives, you should consult several experts to get an accurate date of manufacture.