Thursday, November 21, 2013

Back again

I have been somewhat remiss in posting to this blog--one of the reasons was a change at my old day job at Knives Illustrated that required my writing many more articles than I had to write in previous years, a cutback in my editorial budget, and a lot of new directions the newer management needed. I've always tak the approach that if I take a man's money to do a job he will get my best effort to do that job.

Maybe it is old school to think that. I read the other day that while people of my generation expected to have a few different jobs in our careers, that new college graduates can expect to have many many more different jobs over a lifetime--sometimes with only a few years in each.

I had read that, of course, but I am not sure it registered. When I started editing knife magazines I was the youngest man in the game, and everyone in the knife business was older, it seemed. I founded the National Knife Collector Magazine, and when I left it, it was as one of the owners of Blade Magazine. Upon selling Blade, The Blade Show, and the book publishing wing, I worked off a 5-year non-compete, consulting with them for 3 years, and in the final 2 of the non-compete starting the auction company.

Only weeks after my non-compete was up Knives Illustrated's editor walked out without notice, and I got a call. A few days later I once again had my soapbox inside the back cover that I had so missed. I was back editing knife magazines, and after that five-year absence away from the editing game it felt good to be in an editor's position. I realized it was what I really enjoyed doing.

In today's modern world having an editing job with bosses in California while I worked in Tennessee was little different than sitting in a California office--thanks to the wonders of email, digital photos, and the internet. I could go to Myrtle Beach and work there just as easy as I worked from home. Like I said, much of it was very good. It was a job that I had said I expected to be doing until the day I died. I never planned to retire (having tried that for five years after selling Blade and not enjoying it very much).

I worked at Knives Illustrated under many different bosses, several different owners, and changed per the direction of each owner, as each wanted to put their own influence and stamp on how we did things.

One day I looked up and realized that I had been there longer than just about anyone else at the company (they published many other magazines in addition to KI). And my supervisors were younger, and... well I'll just leave it at that--they were younger.

And a few months ago the day following a review of the company and their various magazines, I received a call that summed up 14 years of never missing a deadline and what I considered extreme loyalty.

The words, "Your supervisor wanted to be here but he can't make so I will go ahead without him. We are going to make some changes and your position has be eliminated."

What would you say then? I stammered out an, "OK."

"Effective immediately."


"Thank you for your work."


"You will have the paperwork tomorrow."

"OK" I said again.

"Federal Express."

I hung the phone up.

On a positive side this turn of events now allows me much more time to devote to knife auctions, and my new sideline, as Consulting Executive Director of the National Knife Museum.

It's all good.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I hate motorcyles

I hate motorcycles.

I didn’t always hate them. This hate has evolved over the years.

Some of it is frustration in knowing I would be a poor motorcycle rider. Only recently I came to the epiphany that the reason I would be a poor motorcycle rider was evidenced by the way I rode a bicycle in my youth. I was skinned up all the time from bicycle accidents. I do not think that a slowed down reaction time and an additional 50 miles an hours of speed, plus the physics of a a few hundred pounds of weight in momentum on which I have straddled will make me any safer than I was in my pre-teens on that old Murry bicycle.

A friend of my Dad’s was my first ride on a bike. In the sidecar of an old, big Indian cycle. I wanted one of my own after that, but it was years before that lust revived.

When the small Honda’s came out, I yearned for one. “Little Honda” by the Hondells was my favorite song. I sang it in a school talent contest. I devoured the Honda catalogs. I begged, I pleaded, my parents even indulged me in a visit to a motorcycle shop. But they put the motorcycle in the same class as a pony. Something I didn’t need. I didn’t understand the logic at the time. A pony and a motorcycle were the only two things my parents ever denied me. They were so much wiser than I gave them credit for at the time.

The evolution of my hate for motorcycles began with Claude Postell. He was the drummer in my first band. When the band broke up, he traded his drums for a Honda 90.

Before the summer was over he was riding it on a gravel road, without a helmet, and rode into a tree. He survived. He made medical history for the repair job on some of his internal organs. And for months he was in the hospital with a broken neck.

I visited him in the hospital. He had bolts in the top of his head, connected to weights, and he was strapped into a horizontal apparatus that was turned periodically so he was either looking face up or face down. The doctors placed a huge amount of wire in his neck to hold his head without endangering his spine. And he walked again, stiffly.

In my teens our local hero was a Vietnam vet who returned home after being wounded several times. The bikes everyone rode then were Honda 300s. One friend took me riding with him on one and that made the desire for a bike of my own even worse.

My cousin bought a bigger bike, a 650cc Triumph, and his Dad got on it, revved it up, popped the clutch, and was thrown through a fence and hospitalized. It didn’t register on me at the time.

And the local hero? After surviving a war, he was riding a trail bike in the mountains, flipped it, and was paralyzed from the waist down. It took a lot of steam out of my desire for a motorcycle, and that desire went dormant.

In a later band, the new drummer and the rhythm guitar player each had 300cc Hondas.

After practice on a sunny Saturday, we decided to go to Blue Ridge to the jewelry store that stocked an array of amps and guitars. I rode in the pickup with the bass player, and the other two rode their bikes rather than ride in the back of the truck. On the return trip, the bass player pulled his truck to pass the rhythm guitar player who was riding on his Honda. When were alongside he looked over an gave us a silly grin (he was called Smiley because of his habit of doing that), trying to be funny. As he did he didn’t realize that the road took a steep curve right there, and he went straight, down the embankment, into a barbed wire fence.

We left the bike where it lay, loaded him on the bed of the pickup, and drove him to the hospital. He had only broken his foot.

That ended most of my desire for a motorcycle. But when a lot of my fellow middle aged friends started buying Harleys, I gave it some thought. It became a social outlet.

I considered buying one, forgetting all the lessons I had witnessed in my past.

A couple in our Sunday School class had a pair of bikes. The school-teacher wife rode her own. We talked about it after chuch once. Shortly after we talked, they were at a four-way stop, waited their turn, and when that turn came they pulled into the center of the intersection, and an old lady in a Crown Vic didn’t see them and ran over top of the teacher and her bike and killed her.

I lost my desire to own a motorcycle. I gave up. But there was still a lesson or two to learn.

One of my knife trading buddies, who was very knowledgeable about a large variety of things, commented that the insurance probability tables that if you rode a motorcycle that you would file a claim at some point—was 100%. If you had not had an accident, that mean some other poor guy had had two accidents. It was something to consider.

During a lunch with Paul Basch and another knife dealer I heard them compare their biker stories. Paul had ridden with the Hell’s Angels near Los Angeles. He stopped riding and sold his bike shortly after turning 40.
“Why?” I asked.

“I knew my reaction time was slowing, and I was tired of going to so many funerals.”

The other dealer, who had also been a biker who had ridden with the Pagans in New York at one time, said he had gotten off his two wheeler about the same time—for the same reason.

“What about these 45-year-olds buying Harley’s now for the first time?” I asked.

Paul looked at me solemnly, “There are an accident that has already happened, just looking for a place for it to happen.”

Shortly after that knife dealer Jim Sargent was bringing his new bike home from the dealership, with his daughter following in her car, and he crashed it in front of her. He didn’t restore the crashed bike. Jim’s pre-knife business career was he had been a pilot of helicopters and small planes for a large government agency. If anyone had the reactions to ride a motorcycle it should have been him.

That was enough for me. I wasn’t even going to be a passenger on a motorcycle.

A couple of years ago I was asked to accompany Bob Neal to Dan Winkler’s place in Blowing Rock, NC. Bob was going to buy Dan’s Harley and trailer. So Debbie and I went along.

As we drove I now had a missionary zeal of the evils of motorcycles. And I debated the subject with Bob much of the way there. I cited the instances you’re just read about. His response was, “I used to race motorcycles. I know what I’m doing.”

We hung out at Dan’s for the evening, and the next morning Dan and Bob hooked the trailer up to Bob’s vehicle, and we left, taking a side trip to go by Blue Ridge Knives to look at a knife collection Tommy Clark had recently purchased.

Tommy saw the motorcycle and advised Bob, “You need to get rid of that thing right now.” Tommy then went on to related how he had broken his foot on a motorcycle years before, and how recently he had flipped a friend’s bike off an embankment, into some trees, and how now, after extensive medical treatment, he would never be able to fully extend his left arm again. “And I never owned a motorcycle of my own,” Tommy said.

A month or so after that trip Bob called. He’d been in intensive care after a motorcycle crash. “Well I hope you learned your lesson,” I preached, “and now you’ll get rid of that thing.”

“I’m getting it fixed,” Bob said.

“Then you’re crazy,” I told him.

Bob did get the bike fixed, rode it for a couple of years, and a few months ago sold it and bought a new Harley-Davidson Electra Glide.

He was on it when he crashed into a Dodge Ram truck a few weeks ago. He lost his leg at the scene. In the following days has been on a ventilator, developed sepsis, caught pneumonia, and hung on. He came off the ventilator, but was talking nonsense. They did some tests. A few days ago a CT scan revealed fluid on one side of his head, so they drilled to relieve the pressure.

And a day or so later his heart gave out. That day was last night.

I hate motorcycles.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Where were you on Sept. 11, 9 years ago?

Where were you on September 11, nine years ago today?

I was in Myrtle Beach on vacation. The night before we had all watched the 11 p.m. news out of Florence, S. C. because the anchorwoman there was the step-daughter of a South Carolina knifemaker.

I had met her earlier at the New York Custom Knife Show. Among the drab, dressed-down, dark-clad New Yorkers here came this vivacious cute Southern girl in a bright red dress. It was a striking comparison.

Dave Culpepper was guiding a group of friends, makers and their families around New York, through the South Street Seaport, and some other sites, and as we were seated the cute girl in the red dress was across the table from me. I discovered she was studying communications at Clemson, and as was my field, we enjoyed a nice conversation, and continued chatting as we followed Dave around New York that evening.

After that night I would usually ask the knifemaker’s wife how her daughter was doing, and from her I learned her daughter had graduated, gotten a job, and advanced her career until she was an anchorwoman in Florence, S. C.

So on Sept. 10 I was able to watch her on the 11 p.m. news.

It was still on that station the next morning. I walked into the room a few moments after the newsfeed started showing the smoke coming from the first tower.

I remember remarking, “That’s no accident, I’ve read too many Tom Clancy books to not know that this is some kind of attack.”

I was still watching when the second plane hit the building—and never left that room except to be sure we all topped off our auto gas tanks, just in case.

And as I sat there I recalled to everyone in the room about that long ago night in New York. I recalled about a night when after the close of the New York Custom Knife Show, how Ronnie Gaston, Russell Easler, Tom Clark, Joe Prince and his family, including his stepdaughter Nichole, and I has followed Dave to a place he knew would impress us.

And it did. As I watched those burning buildings on TV I recalled the night Dave had led us—to the observation deck—of the World Trade Center.

Monday, June 28, 2010

New York Insanity

The New York City District Attorney did an undercover sting on Home Depot and several other retailers charging them with selling switchblades and gravity knives. One report is they consider a knife you pinch between your fingers by the blade and sling the handle down to be a gravity knife.
The retail chains coughed up a total of 1.9 million dollars to escape prosecution, turned over what knives they had in stock, and promised never to sell such knives in New York again. Evil knives like: Benchmade, Kershaw, Spyderco, Smith & Wesson, to name a few.
They are also funding a $900,000 "knife awareness" campaign.
A large chunk of that money will go to other counties in New York State who sign on to go after knives too.
Is this bribery? A shakedown? Both?
Several companies have stated they will no longer ship any lockback knives into New York State.
The DA said they were also going into Phase II of his shakedown and going after out of state sellers who shipped these "illegal" knives (by his definition), into NYC.
So as much as I hate to say it, if you live in New York state, we will be unable to ship such knives to you. If you live in New York your solution to this madness is to vote them out, work for their opponents, and get someone in there that has respect for a citizen's rights and the United States Constitution.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Flyer beware

Traveling for a knife person is pure hell these days.

First it's finding a time you can get there, then the price, then you now have to limit your bag weight to 50 pounds, and on top of that if you go over 50 lbs, they want to charge you $50.00 more in addition to the 35 bucks they grab from you for checking a single bag.

I have a CPAP machine I have to fly with, which requires a hard shell suitcase.

So while going to the Austin show and to stop by the Beckett Dallas headquarters (where the ad sales department of Knives Illustrated is located), I packed three days worth of clothes. That with the cpap and the suitcase? 49.5 pounds.

I carried on my laptop, camera, and a few important items.

At the Houston airport, I have reserved a rental car, special rate, $39.00 a day. I buy their insurance because when I checked on my policy my insurance only covers their car if my primary vehicle on which I have collision is parked at home. Then I check in, get the bill and I'm paying $99 a day.

The difference? Per the attendant the Houston airport (BUSH), means a car rented on airport property is subject to a 55% tax.

Had I known that and taken a cab to a rental site off the airport grounds, I would have saved most of that tax.

Live and learn. .

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Original Bowie Knife

I received a call from a very excited new knife enthusiast--and he wanted an appraisal. No, I said that wrong, he wanted a FREE appraisal.

He didn't have a knife, he wasn't a knife collector, he had found me on the internet, and a friend of his had found his knife, and it was OLD! And he needed to know what it was worth. It was old and had initials on the tang.

"What kind of handles does it have?" I asked.


"Are they stag?" I asked.

"What is stag?" he said, "I don't know what that is."

"Deer Antler."

"Oh yeah, I guess so," he said.

He went on to give me the length, and then he threw in the kicker, "It says on the blade, 'Original Bowie Knife". At that point I described to him what a typical German bowie from the 60's through the modern day looks like.

He was disappointed when I told him I was referring to the late 1960's, not the 1860's, and that alas he had not discovered ole Jim Bowie's original knife.

However it was unusual that he wanted to argue the point. I counted 10, and then politely said, "Sorry, but this is not an Antiques Roadshow moment."

It seemed to hit him all at once. "Ohhhh," he said in a soft voice.

As I hung up the phone I just shook my head. "All part of paying dues," I told the friend sitting in my office, "after over 30 years I'm still paying them."

And that one question, about a knife marked "The Original Bowie Knife", does happen just as frequently as it did when I started in knives. Roughly six or seven times a year I have to ruin someone's day by telling them the truth about their German Bowie.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What go me started doing knife auctions.

It's hard to believe that we are in the middle of our 50th knife auction, closing Feb. 23. Now that doesn't include the live auctions we've done in Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, Nashville, Atlanta, Dallas, and here in Chattanooga. It doesn't include the Flash Auctions that we've just started.
I might mention here how I started doing auctions. It was back in the days when I still owned Blade Magazine, traded knives on the side, sold knives on Shop at Home Television network. I got a call from a lady who said she wanted to sell her husband's knife collection, and would I be interested in looking at it, and of course I said yes.
"How would you like to make arrangements for me to see it?" I asked.
"I'm at a motel here in Chattanooga, come see them in the morning."
I agreed, she met me at the check in desk in the small lobby of the Day's Inn that contained only one chair on the public side. She led me out to a large new yellow Caddy, opened the trunk -- and there spread out in the trunk was a couple of hundred knives. Some good, some bad, a lot of used things.
On each knife was a 1" square of masking tape with a number written on it in marker.
"How much do you want for them?" I asked.
"What's on them," she said. I gasped. If that was indeed the price (and it was), every knife in that car truck was about 40% above what anyone could ever hope to pay.
"How'd you determine these prices," I asked.
"A couple of my husband's friend's came over and priced them before I left," she said.
She was from Houston, and she had decided to sell her husband's knives, so with the knives priced she had taken her husband's roledex and had set out up the highway to sell knives. I was on the roledex.
I don't know if the husband's friends were trying to price them so high that it would be impossible for her to sell them, or they were just trying to make her feel good about her husband's judgement in buy knives, but the reality was the knives were vastly overpriced.
She did have four Winterbottom bone Queen trappers in the original box, and they were priced at $45.00, which is about what they were bringing at the time. I did have in my mind that I at least wouldn't go home empty handed, and vintage knives in the box in mint condition are worth holding on to and letting the price catch up even if one is paying top dollar.
"I will take these at your price," I said.
She huffed, "All or nothing."
I told her that I didn't think I could buy the knives and make it worthwhile, but I did wish her luck. I asked her if she was going back to Texas.
"No." She said, "I'm going toward Florida, and I am going to spend 10 more days on this trip or until I sell the knives. I'll go back home out I-10."
I excused myself, and as I drove back to my office I said to myself that there had to be a better way than the options left to that lady, driving for days across the country, staying in not-to-good parts of town in a new Caddy. And the saddest thing of all was even if she sold the knives at the price marked, after traveling on the road for two weeks she wouldn't have any money left.
I determined to find a better way for a widow to sell her knives.
I was still worrying on the subject when I opened my mail, read an article in an antique magazine how the fishing lure business had taken off when a collector started fishing lure auctions, and by doing so allowed collectors to see an established real-market price on lures. And with that knowledge available, vintage lures had jumped 40% in a couple of years.
I don't think that article was before my eyes by accident, and I took the hint. Within a few weeks I was en route to Missouri to attend the Missouri Auction School, called the Harvard of Auction Schools.
That was over 50 catalog auctions ago.