A couple of weeks ago I ran into a fellow collector at a show, he’s recently bought a Stone knuckle off Gun Broker and asked me to take a look at it. I borrowed it for the afternoon and took some pictures of it compared to a 1990s replica sold by Bill Stone and a period theater copy made during WWII that was verified and sold by Bill Stone.
Virtually any military edged weapon collector would consider Stone knives to be a “big 5” item that’s on their must collect list. The problem in the past has always been availability since the original knives are so rare, I had to wait several years to get one that was verified by Bill Stone as an original. I’ve also bought many of the 1990s replicas and any period copies that looked authentic. The 1990s era replicas are highly sought after in their own right, but cannot be mistaken for a WWII knife unless heavily doctored. One complicating factor is that Stone knives and knuckles were copied during WWII by other foundry men, making it to my knowledge the only knife to be copied while the war was still going on. These can be hard to tell from the originals since the patina will be the same as an original and the surface detail can be nearly what an original is.
Of concern to me and other Stone collectors has been the recent appearance of several Stone knives and knuckles on online auctions, mostly Gun Broker and some on eBay. They have been sold by 3-4 seller IDs and most notably all the sellers live in Eastern Washington state in the Spokane area.
The pictures posted are of:
- A 1990s replica sold by Bill Stone. The knife is numbered on the rear of the skull and this one doesn’t have the knuckle bow. The metal is polished and there is no patina.
- A period theater copy of Stone knuckles. While not an original Stone knuckle, this was verified as a period produced copy by Bill Stone and is very collectable in its own right because of its patina and correct surface detail.
- A “Stone” knuckle bought from Gun Broker (item # 239934980), sold by “arcane” as “parts of a large estate of a knife collector”.
Using the period copy and the 1990s replica, here are my thoughts on the “arcane” copy.
- Surface detail on the knuckles is poor: While original Stone knives varied in detail quality and finishing, I’ve never seen an original or period copy with such poor detail and casting quality.
- Detail quality is poor: The eyes and the bridge of the nose appear to be ground away, I cannot tell if that was done after it was cast or if the pattern is made that way. It could have been sloppy casting and the maker had to grind away portions of the face. The teeth detail is mostly carved and not cast in; this is how the 1990s replicas were done. The detail on the ridge of the spine of the grip is also inconsistent from any original or period copy I’ve seen. It has a rough pattern like a rough file or dremel tool was used to clean it up.
- Surface detail compared to period copy and 1990s replica: While it doesn’t match either exactly, I think the “arcane” knuckle has more in common with the 1990s replica.
- Patina: From an original or period copy you expect a pewter type patina, something ranging from a light to medium pewter look. The “arcane” knuckle has what appears to be a forced patina. It doesn’t show well in my pictures, but the patina on the knuckle isn’t even like the period copy, it has distinctly dark recessed surface areas that look much blacker in person when handling it. Patina on aluminum theater knives seems to take 20+ years to develop and I’ve never seen a fake have an original looking patina that could fool a serious collector. The most common ways I’ve seen people try to fake patinas is some type of dark paint wash and the use of a couple of acid based products such as Birchwood Casey aluminum black; neither comes close to an original even patina. The patina on the “arcane” knuckle looks more like Birchwood Casey aluminum black.
- Size: The “arcane” knuckle is slightly smaller than the 1990s replica and the period knuckles, if the “arcane” knuckle is newly produced it can’t be of equal size to these older ones since due to metal shrinkage the casting is always smaller than the pattern.
Opinion: In my opinion the “arcane” knuckle is a modern copy made using one of the 1990s replicas as a pattern.
Putting my law enforcement analysis hat on, I find it more than coincidental that the Spokane area of Washington State has become such a hot bed of Stone knife/knuckle “estate finds”. There is another Stone knife on eBay as I write this, item #300587026598, being sold by “puremanb”. I notice that the feedback for “puremanb” shows a sale in April of this year, item #300551846373, another Stone knife. I also see that “puremanb” lives in “Spokane, WA”. While it’s hard to judge from the pictures, the patina on the knife in April looks like the “arcane” knuckle I recently looked at.
Recommendation: If you buy something ask for an inspection period and then send it to Bill Stone for determination on what it really is. Next best thing would be to post details here for others to study and weigh in on.
Edited by nuke41, 13 August 2011 - 10:07 AM.