Pocket knives made by W.R. Case & Sons are some of the most fun old pocket knives to collect as they have some defining characteristics that make them fairly easy to date.  I will share some of these characteristics; mainly blade stamps and shields.  Although not exhaustive, this article will provide you with a starting point and some things to look for as you try gather more information on your Case pocket knives.  Happy Collecting!

Vintage Case pocket knives from the 1920s' to the 2000s
Vintage Case pocket knives from the 1920s’ to the 2000s

Overall, the newer the Case knife, the easier it is to establish its age.  If your knife was made in 1970 or after, you should be able to tell the EXACT YEAR of manufacture.  There are a few exceptions to this (see transition knives below).

This article will cover what I believe to be the “Golden Age” of Case knives…the period from 1920 to the late 1970s, when quality was very high and classic handle materials were offered.  There are some additional (mostly newer) Case stamps towards the bottom of the page.  I also plan on making a pre-1920 page at some point.  

1920-1940

This stamp is sometimes called the “Tested” or the “Longtale C” stamp.  The tale of the letter C extends underneath the rest of the letters in the word CASE.  Beneath this line are the words “Tested XX”.

Check out a video of the Case Tested harness jack pictured above from my YouTube channel.

The XX trademark goes back to the practice of double tempering the blade steel. In this process, workers would imprint an “X” on a batch of knives during the first furnace session. When undergoing the second run, a second “X” would be added, serving as a clear indicator that the knives had undergone a rigorous dual-testing procedure.  After 1940, The “Tested XX” trademark would sometimes show up on blade etches but not on tang stamps. 

Case Tested XX knives are very scarce in excellent condition and are valuable on the collectors market.  Green bone, genuine stag and interesting celluloid patterns are some of the more popular handle materials you will find on knives from this era.

1940 – 1964

This stamp is the simplest out of all the case stamps covered today; just a Case XX is visible on the tang.  There is a larger range here (20+ years) but different sources reveal that if the back of the tang is missing a pattern number, it was manufactured from 1940 – 1948.  A Case XX stamped knife with a pattern number would therefore indicate a knife made between 1948 – 1964.

1965 – 1969

This stamp features the Case XX USA configuration with no dots.  Be sure to look at the bottom of the tang as you open the blade as sometimes dots can be hiding just below the bolsters.  If that is the case, your knife was made at some point during the 1970’s.

 

1970 – 1979

In 1970, Case introduced a dating system that featured 10 dots found below the Case XX USA tang stamp.  Every year that went by, one dot was removed.  So, the Case XX USA stamp with 9 dots was made in 1971, 5 dots was made in 1975 and one dot was made in 1979.
Some knives from this era had the word Stainless underneath the USA portion which indicated the blade was made using stainless steel.  The same dating rules apply to knives bearing this stamp.

 

Transition Knives

Some Case knives are considered transition knives.  This occurs when two different dates appear on two different blades.  These knives are considered to be relatively scarce and command a bit of a premium on the collectors market.

Other Case Blade Stamps

The blade stamps from 1980 – 89 are often referred to as the “Lightning S” stamp due to the straight line shape of the letter S in both the word ‘Case’ and ‘USA’.  Just like the 1970’s system, a dot was taken away each year until one dot remained in 1989. From 1990 to mid 1993, the actual date was stamped on the tang on either side of USA (see 1990 stamp above).

From the 1990s on, the longtail C would once again make an appearance and would continue from that point on until present.  Starting in 2000, a combination of dots and x’s would supplant the “just dots system.”  Dots were taken away first and then the x’s would be removed one by one until one x remained (2009).  The 2010’s followed the same system with a slight variation to the Case XX design on the tang.

Shields

The classic oval shield on Case knives is an immediate identifier and a symbol that represents quality over the years.  Slight variations of these nickel silver shields are found on Case knives from the 1920s to the 1980s.

Tested era shields
Tested era shields (1920s-40s)

The above shields are most commonly found on Tested era (1920-40) knives.  Notice the letters found in the top shield are made from a combination of straight lines.  This shield seems less common and is sometimes referred to as the “block letter” shield.  The shield on the bottom is more commonly found on Tested era knives and is referred to as the “closed C” shield.

Case knife shields
Case XX Era to 1980s

The above shields feature an “open C” in the word Case.  Do you notice the difference between the two shields in the above photo?  Hint…it’s in the S’s.  The above shield has a “tall S” which can be found on late Tested Era knives and XX knives.  The shield below has a “short S” or squished S and can be found on late XX through the 1980s.

 

Collecting Case knives can be very rewarding.  Not only are there a wide variety of patterns and handle materials that can be sought out, a date of manufacture is pretty easy to nail down if you know the above information.  Happy Collecting!

Vintage Case knives from the 1920s to 2000s
Vintage Case knives from the 1920s to 2000s