Why are Cold Steel knife prices all over the map?

I was looking at knife prices on Amazon and I was surprised to find such a wide diversity of prices with some models selling for less than $10 and some selling for more than $500. Does anyone know what the tiers are and what the quality level is for these?


Some of their knives are made of Damascus steel, which isn’t cheap. They have a lot of knives of varying quality, plus they sell at 50% MSRP to master distributers, so there is a lot of room to play with pricing and still make money.

Supply and demand.

Did you actually read the post or just the title? How does your response answer the question asked which is:

“Does anyone know what the tiers are and what the quality level is for these?”

Are you saying the tiers are “supply and demand”? or does “supply and demand” refer to the quality level? Or is it simply “supply and demand” are answers for “tiers and quality”, respectively?

The big difference is between knives that are stamped vs. forged. Stamping is cheaper, but the knives aren’t as sturdy or can retain their sharpness. Then, there is different qualities in the steel (carbon content), the type of handle, how well the knife is constructed, the balance of the blade, the thickness of the blade, etc.

And, of course, better known manufacturers can demand a premium for their knives simply because they are known for the quality of their blade.

Then there’s Cutco which is in a market by itself. Cutco is sold door-to-door and some people love them. Then, some people think Taco Bell makes fantastic food too. Cutco are usually extremely expensive – especially for the stamp blades they use.

I would guess a good knife is somewhere between $20 to $50 per knife – depending upon the quality and size.

Every price is determined by supply and demand. One simply needs to identify the components that make up the demand, and the components that make up the supply, in order to understand why it is priced the way it is.

That is why the question asked was about the components (quality & tiers)–a question for which replying “supply and demand” doesn’t make sense.

The pricier knives tend to have better craftsmanship and aesthetic qualities and there are many grades of steel and treatment processes. Typically the more hand work is involved the higher the price. Known designers and compelling designs also command a premium.

With respect to utility vs aesthetics the level of build quality you find in the upper tier products of respected name brands like Spyder, Case or Gerber etc. are about as “solid” and high quality re functional attributes as a knife can get. Beyond the 100 - 150 dollar mark for utility knives you’re mostly getting into exotic materials and art/design considerations.

they have different levels all right. From a cheap machete to San Mai III fixed blades. San Mai has harder steel in the middle surrounded by softer steel. Finnish blades tend to be like this. the rubber handles that CS uses are nice to hold however they wont last long. the cheaper prices you see are not for the “real” knives. The trailmaster for instance is over $200 and the tanto is $375. If you are thinking of the Cold Steel Bushman Bowie Survival SK5 Carbon Bl Knife on ebay for 9.99 its a thin knife with a hollow handle for inserting a branch to make a spear. It is NOT a daily use knife. Different levels of finish, different handle material, different steels etc make for different prices.
Cold steel has a so so rep among knife guys. I prefer Benchmade, Kershaw, Sog, Ka-Bar or even Ontario over Cold Steel. Also maybe do some research about different steels and why you might want a high carbon steel like 01 or maybe an hi tech one like ATS-34 over 440 stainless. Lots to learn.

Cold Steel also has a large discount if you buy in large quantities, and also sells (or at least used to) off seconds at a good discount, many of which are not sold as seconds. The difference is often cosmetic, anyway.

I didn’t see any $10 knives on their website. Most of the knives I looked at were in the $100 range and the price break was the bi-metal blade that raised the price considerably. As was stated above, you can get a quality knife in the $50 to $150 range.

The knife I was looking at was a Finn Bear which Amazon has starting at less than $10. I am looking for puukko- or sloyd-style knife for bushcraft. Ideally, I would like to forge my own, but my forge isn’t up to snuff right now and I have never made a blade before. The Finn Bear looks like it has a nice, comfortable handle that allows good control, but I can’t tell much from just a picture.


I wouldnt go stainless unless i had no choice. This site http://www.kellamknives.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1_33_36_42&products_id=6
has a nice puukko for $80 in high carbon steel. Plus its purty!

This isn’t always true. Some of the Japanese kitchen knife makers (Global, Shun, MAC, and a host of others) produce stamped knives with a harder steel than their comparably priced forged competitors (Wusthof, Henckels, etc.). They will hold a sharper edge for a longer time. They tend to feel different in your hand and are harder to sharpen, so they’re not for everybody, but as a matter of quality some of the stamped knives nowadays are just as good as the forged ones.

Carbon steel rusts and is harder to sharpen. The knife in question is a cheap knife with probably 440-C stainless stee. It is a good purchase for applications that take a lot of abuse and neglect.

I frequent what is primarily a primitive skills forum (http://www.paleoplanet.net/) but one section is devoted to more modern skills such as blacksmithing. You’ll find some very creative and talented people on this site and they often sell their wares at reasonable rates. I’m a bit of a knife knut and have purchased more than a handful or two from various artisans through that site. I haven’t been disappointed yet.

I won’t enter into the stainless vs carbon steel debate, but will say that my personal preference leans towards the later.

Both carbon and CRES (‘stainless’) steels can rust. The propensity to rust depends upon the amount of alloying elements, but ‘plain carbon’ is generally the worst and the 400-series stainless and similar compositions (like AUS-6 and AUS-8) are generally pretty resilient to corrosion; outside of a salt spray environment they’re generally limited to some spotting and staining, although I had the blade on a Leatherman that was kept in a PFD that I used for kayaking break due to corrosion-induced fracture.

Carbon steel that is correctly heat treated and tempered is, for its hardness, generally easier to sharpen than CRES steels, and is tougher (more resistant to breaking or chipping when used for prying). 440C that is correctly tempered is a pretty good quality stainless steel for knives, comparable to AUS-8A. Most cheaper stainless knives are made from 420 stainless or AUS-6, and are hard to keep sharp for long. The 300 series stainless that is typically used for dive knives is crap, just about impossible to put any kind of working edge on. There are tool steels like D2 which are a good combination of corrosion resistant and good toughness and edge-holding capability that are used for premium long blade knives, and a lot of exotic steels like 154CM that are found in premium production folding knives like Benchmade and Spyderco.

Cold Steel doesn’t actually make any knives; they buy knives made by other vendors, mostly in Taiwan. Their vaunted Carbon V isn’t actually a single formulation but is just their trade name for any of a number of different carbon steels they use; most testing indicates that it is or equivalent to 1095 carbon heat treated to Rc57-59, and its advertised resilience comes largely from geometry (thick blades). They’ve switch over many of their working knives, like the Recon series, to AUS-8A, and while this has created some furor, I find that they’re just about as good for any practical purpose as the Carbon V varieties. I don’t know what the San Mai III steel is but I’d guess it is similar to a high chromium tool steel like D2.

As for why their prices are so variable: their list prices are grossly inflated, and they’ll sell to a number of vendors at large discounts in volume. They’re pretty decent for production knives, and the really low end ones like the Bushman are great for ‘bag knives’ (something to throw in a tool box or kit bag for an emergency) but the high end ones are grossly overpriced for the fit and finish delivered; they get up to custom price levels without corresponding build quality. So they’re clearly playing the market with at least limited success. I’ve found it possible to pick up the Recon Tanto for ~USD70 on sale, and the SRK ~USD50, though when I bought my first SRK I actually got it for around USD30.

Cutco makes and sells crap. I just can’t say enough about how shitty these knives are; not only the steel, but the balance, ergonomics, and proportions. Most block sets of knives are pretty questionable, really intended to sell more knives than being put together for practical use, but the Cutco block sets are just junk. I actually bought a friend of mine an Ikon santoku for her birthday one year just so I wouldn’t have to use her Cutco knives. (She saw through my plan; “You’re just storing your knife in my house for your convenience, aren’t you?”)


I will say, having been shopping lately for swords, that prices for new Cold Steel swords are all over the map for the same make of weapon. I’ve seen the Cold Steel small sword (which I would really like to have :frowning: ) run from the low-$200’s to the high $500’s for the same, exact sword.

I have a Benchmade that’s out of production that I love. I thought all the lever locks were similar but some are much easier to open than others. They must offset the center pin between different models.

According to their website, the San Mai III is a composite blade with a harder metal between 2 softer metals (like a samuri sword). I’d pay an extra $50 for that but not $400. I have no problem sharpening my knives.

I could check more in depth, but the answer that came up right away was no MAP (Minimum Advertized Pricing) pricing. I work at a knife distributor and we carry ColdSteel. We run into customers that sell on Ebay that have crazy prices all the time. Some sell stolen ones, some use it to entice customers into other items, and some have the price on the site for the one item but it is only if you get a large quantity of other stuff (and they are able to offset the loss in margin by hiking up the other stuff).

Cold Steel has some quality stuff but not everything is awesome. They have some real cheap stuff as well.

Also, I would have to check into it but many manufacturers make some stuff in China and some in the US. The US stuff is expensive and the China stuff is insanely cheap.