Monday, May 18, 2009

Knife Shows and Knife & Gun Shows

The weekend following a trip to Texas to seen the grandson I was thumbing through a gun magazine and noticed an ad for a gun & knife show.
Having been on the knife show circuit for years, I knew the frustration of telling someone about my being in the knife business, and having attended a knife show the prior weekend, they would look at me and say, "I've been to some knife shows."
To which, interested, I would ask, "Great! Where?"
And they would come up with something like, "Well the local gun club puts on a gun and knife show each year." I just had to shake my head, because they are two different worlds, two different types of exhibitors. More so these days than ever before.
Years ago, when knife shows first started, there was quite a bit of overlap, and as knife only shows were new, we knife dealers were still having to go to gun and knife shows, or simply gun shows, in order to find knife collectors.
Make no mistake in my saying this. Gun collectors are not necessarily good knife buyers. If you go to a gun show as a knife dealer, you are not going to sell knives to the gun enthusiasts, as it will not work. You are going to sell knives to the knife collectors that will be there because they like both knives and guns.
There are fewer knife collectors at a gun & knife show they there are at a knife only knife show. So as things evolved, with a larger number of knife shows it became common for many knife dealers to forego the gun & knife show unless it was local.
And from this came a new group of knife dealers that specialize in gun and knife shows more than knife shows.
And it was conversations with some of them, coupled with nostalgia of travels with old knife dealers who have now passed on when we did go to the gun show circuit, that was going through my mind shortly after my trip to seen my grandson and daughter.
When my wife got up, as she was having her coffee this Sunday morning, I asked her, "Did you do anything this weekend?"
"Why do you ask?" she said, defensively.
"Well I have accomplished very little. I've been hearing a lot about how gun show are getting better in the mad rush for AR-15's and ammo. We might plan on taking in a gun show or two, especially shows between us and the grandchild, so we can expense at least part of the trip and perhaps make gas money along the way, get out there in the field. "
"We could do that," she commented.
So the next few weeks I began my research of planning on stocking a quantity of knives that I could see selling on the gun show tour. I discovered that what sells at most gun shows is totally different from knife shows. A new niche, genre, has developed.
With they advice of my friends who had attended some shows, I ordered a small truckload of China made lockbacks, some closeouts, and in general leaning toward the tactical.
I decided to give it a year. And unlike many of my endeavors, I plan to chronicle that year in this blog.
My first show was a return to the Alabama Gun Collectors, which was a 3 hour drive and had always been one of our stops in the old days. At various times the show had held within the show a Vulcan Knife Club show, and was a sanctioned show of the Knifemaker's Guild. Not now.
It was adequate, I bought a single nice Randall from someone walking the show, and in general wrote it off as a learning experience. It was near break even.
But we had stayed in the nice hotel next door, had a couple of really good meals in expensive restaurants. We were talking to a friend who was also there and we were told when we mentioned where we were staying, "Well we don't stay in that kind of hotel when we're gun showing--we have to watch our expenses much closer."
Re-learning the first rule. Watch you expenses. You're not a knife show.
A few weeks later we took in a show in Baton Rouge, en-route to see the grandson. Rule No. 2. Always research the shows. I sold four knives that Saturday (we had already told them we had to leave Saturday night). One of those was to a knife collector friend on our auction mailing list who just happened to be in town visiting his grandchildren.
As we left I told Debbie our only hope on that show being worthwhile would be someone picking up a show flyer and perhaps consigning at some point in the future. We won't know that until next year.
My next gun show was one nearby in Athens, TN. In a National Guard Armory, on Mother's Day weekend. (Again it would be a Saturday show, as Sunday I had to be at Mothers!). It was larger and better attended than Baton Rouge. And it made money, primarily because made a few trades, and as it was driving distance to home, and the tables were $25.00 each, these biggest expense was a tank of gas. Rule No. 3 is learned. Expenses are expensive. The less expense you have, the less chance you have of losing money. (Did I say that some of these rules are pretty basic?).
I just came back from the NKCA Knife show at the Drawbridge Inn in Ft. Mitchell, KY. It did reinforce my theory that the gun and knife show versus the knife show is a different world. I sold an old knife or two, to knife collectors. And I even sold a few knives from my boxes of China made tacticals. But this time I realized those buyers were gun show attendees who just happened to wander through the knife show.
More later!