Antique Bowie Knives
Antique Bowie knifes are rare and collectible knives of the type first popularised in the early nineteenth century by Colonel James “Jim” Bowie.
Brief history and description
The Bowie knife has become famous due to a large knife fighting duel in 1827, known as the Sandbar Fight. This duel took place in the Mississippi River near Natchez, Mississippi, and included several men. During the fight, despite being shot, stabbed and severely beaten, Bowie still managed to win the battle by using the now famous, eponymous large knife.
A Bowie knife is a fixed blade, fighting knife that incorporates a number of characteristic and recognisable design features. The blade is double-edged at its point and features a cross guard and a clip point, which increases the weapon's ability to pierce and stab.
During the early-nineteenth century, Bowie knifes were used and carried by many Americans and still serves as a camping and hunting tool today. They are still highly popular among some trappers and hunters, although are mostly purchased by edged weapon enthusiasts or collectors. There are hundreds of custom knife makers that produce variations of the Bowie model for the present day market.
Guide for collectors
The Bowie knife has become synonymous with the history of nineteenth century America and therefore is highly collectable by knife enthusiasts. The weapon was used by buffalo hunters, soldiers and American frontiersmen during a period in which America was emerging as an independent and powerful nation.
Collecting Bowie knifes has become one of the higher-end niche markets for knife collecting and they are not only valued as great pieces of craftsmanship but also treasured for their historical significance. Today, various knife manufacturing companies produce their own version of the Bowie knife design.
However, rare and antique bowie knives are dramatically more expensive and have been known to sell at auction houses like Bonhams and Christie’s for as high as $12,000. Confederate Bowie-knifes can sell between $1,000 and $1,500 and Bowie knifes with a colourful history can exceed $3,000.
Most antique Bowie knifes were custom built in America, however, the modern Bowie profile was actually designed in Sheffield, England, toward the latter half of the nineteenth century. Some of these models feature intricately designed scabbards and handles and can cost up to £12,000. Typically, however, the more common Bowie knifes tend to sell from $100 to $300.
There are numerous antique knife dealers that can be found on the internet that specialise in a variety of modern and antique models of Bowie knifes. A few example of these are Antiquebowieknife.com, Britishblades.com and Americanbladesmith.com. Bowie knives can also be bought on online bidding sites, such as Yahoo and eBay.
An English Bowie knife etched with the motto “The American’s Pride Equal Rights Equal Laws / And Justice For All” was sold At Christie’s, New York, for $11,750. Sold in June 2001, the long-spear-point blade was dated to the mid-1850s and was made in Sheffield.
In May 199, a rare Bowie knife, made around 1870 by Michael Price of San Francisco, realised a price of $4,370 when it was sold by Christie’s, New York.