The 12 Pocket Knives That Every Collector Should Own

Apr 14, 2022

Category: Gear

Carried by gear enthusiasts and outdoorsmen for generations, there are certain pocket knives that are so trusted and widely used, that no collection is considered complete without them. While many of these blades have possessed an iconic status for over half a century, the marked rise in popularity of the everyday carry knife space has shaken up the sector, with a small handful of these contemporary cutting tools emerging as must-have instant classics.

In an effort to shine a light on the most legendary models currently in production, we’ve thoroughly pored over the space, hand-selecting a shortlist of the most important pocket knives that every collector should own, from tried-and-true classics to more recently-released, modern-day EDC must-haves. So, whether you’re a seasoned hand or a budding blade enthusiast, these are the 12 most significant knives that every collector needs.

Opinel No. 9

Founded by Joseph Opinel in Savoie, France, Opinel is a renowned knifemaker with operations that date back more than 130 years to 1890. And while the French firm now sells around 6,000,000 knives each year, Opinel’s bread and butter remains producing its decidedly old-school yet immensely capable “peasant knives” like the legendary No. 9. Nearly identical to the versions produced a century ago, the current iteration of the No. 9 features a 3.5” nail nick-opening clip point blade that’s mated to a Beechwood handle and secured using Opinel’s incredibly simple yet secure Virobloc safety ring. One of the best-value EDC knives in existence, Opinel’s No. 9 is also produced in a wide range of variants, with a slew of different colors and handle materials options, as well as a plethora of special and limited-edition versions.

Blade: Sandvik 12C27
Handle: Stainless Steel & Beechwood
Blade Length: 3.50″
Total Length: 8.15”
Lock Type: Virobloc Safety Ring

Purchase: $19

Nagao Higonokami

From the tail-end of the 1100s through the conclusion of the Edo Period in the late 19th century, Japan saw an enormous rise in swordsmithing, with dozens of families meticulously crafting katanas for the island’s Samurai warriors. After Emperor Meiji’s reform put an end to this system, a great many sword-makers were forced to find a new line of work, however, some managed to apply their existing skills and resources to the creation of products that could be still be sold in Japan. One such individual was Komataro Nagao, who first began handcrafting Samurai sword-inspired pocket knives. Five generations later and the now legendary Nagao Higonokami friction folder remains one of the most important collector’s knives of all time, being made today very similarly to how it was upon its debut in 1894.

Blade: Blue Steel
Handle: Brass
Blade Length: 2.875″
Total Length: 6.75″
Lock Type: Friction Folder

Purchase: $40

Victorinox Fieldmaster

As you may have noticed from the first two entries on this list, a huge part of what affords a knife legendary status is a long and rich history of use — and such is the case with the classic Swiss Army Knife. And while there’s an enormous number of SAKs currently on the market, most enthusiasts and collectors tend to gravitate toward tried-and-true models like the Filedmaster. Adorned in Victorinox’s signature red ABS and Cellidor scales, the Fieldmaster manages to cram a whopping 15 different tools and functions — including a 2.75 main blade, a smaller blade, multiple screwdrivers, can and bottle opener, tweezers, a toothpick, scissors, a wire stripper, and a mini saw — into an ultra-compact and fully-pocketable 3.5oz, 4” x 0.8” package.

Blade: High-Carbon Stainless Steel
Handle: Stainless Steel, ABS, & Cellidor
Blade Length: 2.75”
Total Length: 6.35”
Lock Type: Slipjoint

Purchase: $45

Buck 110

When most of us hear the word “pocket knife,” we tend to think of the traditional slip joint and lockback folders of yesteryear, and while there are admittedly hundreds of knives that meet these criteria, few if any boast as iconic a status as the Buck 110. A brilliant example of “don’t fix what isn’t broken,” the 110 features a decidedly old-school design that’s gone unchanged for the better part of a century, with an ebony wood and brass handle mated to a nail nick-opened 3.75” clip point blade. And, in addition to being offered in an enormous number of different handle variants and finishes, Buck also produces an automatic version of the famous 110 Hunter.

Blade: 420 Steel
Handle: Ebony & Brass
Blade Length: 3.75”
Total Length: 8.50”
Lock Type: Lockback

Purchase: $60

WESN The Henry

Coming to our first contemporary entry on this list, WESN’s The Henry represents a modern take on traditional slipjoint pocket knives, with an unmistakably old-school design that’s been brought to fruition using a premium array of materials. First unveiled in late 2019, the Scandanavian-inspired knife is comprised of a 2.35” drop-point-meets-sheepsfoot-style blade that’s composed of Swedish-sourced Sandvik 14C28N stainless steel and mated to a grade-5 titanium handle that’s available either bare or with cherry wood or colored G-10 inlays. And, as an heirloom-quality knife, The Henry is a great candidate to be passed down to future generations.

Blade: Sandvik 14C28N
Handle: Titanium (w or w/o Cherrywood Inlays)
Blade Length: 2.35”
Total Length: 5.35”
Lock Type: Slipjoint

Purchase: $115+

The James Brand The Carter

A true modern-day EDC classic, The James Brand’s The Carter knife is a design-conscious take on a capable everyday carry folder. Its attractive yet minimalistic design features a milled, ergonomic handle that’s equipped with an ultra-sturdy slide locking mechanism, and mated to a 2.80” VG-10 drop point blade that’s deployed via an ambidextrous anodized thumb-disc and effortlessly guided by a set of phosphor bronze washers. Designed in Portland, this stylish little workhorse also tips the scales at only 3.0oz. TJB also offers The Carter in a wide range of different variants, including a larger XL version, options for straight or partially-serrated blades, a slew of different Micarta and G-10 handle color choices, and even a top-shelf Damascus steel version.

Blade: VG-10 (or Damascus Steel)
Handle: Micarta
Blade Length: 2.80”
Total Length: 6.75″
Lock Type: Bar Lock

Purchase: $139+

SOG-TAC AU

It’s hard to call a knife collection complete without a solid automatic model — bringing us to our next entry, the Studies and Observations Group’s SOG-TAC AU. Engineered from the ground up as a high-performance auto folder intended for hard, everyday use and self-defense applications, the SOG-TAC AU is crafted around a textured aluminum handle that incorporates the brand’s XR lock into its opening mechanism, allowing its stubby 3.43” tanto blade — which is composed of a cryogenically heat-treated, tool-grade D2 steel — to be deployed with one finger at the touch of a button.

Blade: Cryo D2
Handle: Anodized Aluminum
Blade Length: 3.43”
Total Length: 8.03”
Lock Type: XR Lock

Purchase: $150

Spyderco Paramilitary 2

Widely considered by many experts to be one of, if not the greatest everyday carry knife of all time, Spyderco’s Paramilitary 2 is an insanely rugged and capable folding knife that’s trusted and carried by everyone from military and LEO personnel to avid EDC enthusiasts. Debuting in 2010, the second-generation Paramilitary 2 — also known simply as the “PM2” — features all of the main hallmarks associated with the Colorado-based company, from its signature compression locking mechanism to its uniquely-shaped clip point blade to its instantly-recognizable round thumbhole opening. The immense popularity of the PM2 has also resulted in a massive number of different variants, as well as a wide range of available aftermarket upgrades for the knife such as custom handle scales.

Blade: CPM S45VN
Handle: G-10
Blade Length: 3.44”
Total Length: 8.25”
Lock Type: Compression Lock

Purchase: $172

Benchmade 940 Osborne

Another absolutely legendary model that’s also widely viewed as one of the greatest EDC knives of all time, Benchmade’s 940 Osborne is a perfectly balanced and highly-calculated folder that affords a remarkable amount of utility and an equally-impressive degree of durability and top-shelf craftsmanship. First publicly unveiled at the Blade Show in 2000, the Osborne has a beautifully milled AXIS lock-equipped handle that comfortably fits in its user’s hand and an idiosyncratic reverse tanto blade that’s incredibly conducive to most EDC tasks. What’s more, Benchmade also produces a handful of different Osborne variants with different handle and blade steel constructions, as well as a smaller Mini-spec and a newly-released, top-of-the-line Gold Class version.

Blade: CPM S30CV
Handle: Anodized Aluminum (or Carbon Fiber or G-10)
Blade Length: 3.40”
Total Length: 7.87”
Lock Type: AXIS Lock

Purchase: $225

Microtech Exocet

As out-the-front knives have grown increasingly popular over the last decade, these knives have gone from exorbitant tactical rarities to widely used and commonly-carried everyday carry tools — making them a must-have for any collector. And when it comes to quality OTF models, it really doesn’t get much better than the spring-loaded blades from the experts at Microtech — the makers of John Wick’s knife of choice. Built around a diminutive yet durable aluminum handle with a double-action thumb slide, Microtech’s Exocet is a compact auto OTF that packs a sub-2”, California-legal blade that’s available in a number of different blade shapes.

Blade: CTS 204P
Handle: Aluminum
Blade Length: 1.94”
Total Length: 5.625″

Purchase: $263

Zero Tolerance 0562CF

Penned by legendary knife designer Rick Hinderer, Zero Tolerance’s 0562 is a high-end folding knife that has played a pivotal role in popularizing the use of flipper tabs on EDC blades. Designed to stand up to hard daily use, the 0562 is crafted from some of the finest materials available, with a framelocking titanium handle that’s adorned in a carbon fiber handle scale and fitted with a tip-up deep carry pocket clip. Mated to the 4.75” titanium and carbon handle is an absolute workhorse of a 3.50” CPM S20V blade that’s a whopping 0.16” thick. However, it’s not until the blade is combined with this Hinderer-designed knife’s buttery-smooth action that the 0562 really earns its spot on this list.

Blade: CPM 20CV
Handle: Titanium & Carbon Fiber
Blade Length: 3.50”
Total Length: 8.25″
Lock Type: Framelock

Purchase: $280

Chris Reeve Sebenza 31

Unequivocally seen as the Holy Grail of everyday carry knives, Chris Reeve’s Sebenza 31 is a unique, ultra-top-shelf EDC knife that combines heirloom quality with modern aesthetics and performance. Available in small or large sizes and in left- or right-handed versions, this exercise in minimalism sports a  6AL4V titanium handle that features an offset pocket clip design and the boutique knifemaker’s proprietary Reeve Integral Lock, complete with a ceramic ball detent interface. Decorated in a sandblasted finish, the handle is mated to a CPM S35VN drop point blade that’s rated at 60 for hardness on the Rockwell scale, and, more importantly, packs one of the smoothest actions we’ve ever had the pleasure of using.

Blade: CPM S35VN
Handle: Titanium
Blade Length: 3.61″
Total Length: 8.40”
Lock Type: Framelock

Purchase: $375

Honorable Mention:

Benchmade 781 Anthem

Considered by most discerning collectors as the top of the EDC knife food-chain, integral knives are unique in that their handle — rather than being comprised of two handle scales mated together with a back-spacer — is crafted from a solid piece of billet that’s machined down to a single, ultra-sturdy piece. And while there are quite a few excellent integral knives, Benchmade’s 781 Anthem is unequivocally one of the very best, with a CPM 20CV “super steel” blade that’s mated to a one-piece handle that’s been precision-machined from a solid block of titanium.

Blade: CPM 20CV
Handle: Titanium Billet
Blade Length: 3.50″
Total Length: 8.06″
Lock Type: AXIS Lock

Purchase: $447

The 75 Terms Every Knife Owner Should Know

Interested in further sharpening up your knowledge on the world of blades? Then be sure to check out our guide to the 75 terms every knife owner should know for a robust explanation of the most commonly-used pieces of knife terminology.

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