In Search of Original Colonel Coon Pocketknives!
Submitted by: Tonya Hinch
Sep 20th, 2012

In Search of Original Colonel Coon Pocketknives!

As collectors, we all know the highs of finding that treasure and the disappointment of going home empty handed.  I collect a specialty pocketknife that many folks have never heard of or even seen one of the knives, Colonel Coon.  With my Father (Don Hinch, who was a member of the Soddy Daisy Knife Club while living), I attended many knife shows, flea markets, estate sales, and any other place he thought could have pocketknives.  After my Father passed, I continued to add to the collection but struggled to find additional knives given the scarcity of the original Colonel Coon pocketknives and my more limited schedule.

Perhaps some of you have tried eBay and other websites to add to your collection.  I have had some success, but am always concerned about fraud.  I want to touch a knife before I buy it.  One of the challenges with collecting Colonel Coon knives, there is no record of how many knives were made.  The founder made regular knives under his logo, club knives, corporate knives, one of a kind sets, and even knives for his family and friends.  Colonel Coon knives were made from roughly 1978 - 1988 in Columbia, Tennessee at Tennessee KnifeWorks.  The company was founded and run by an entrepreneur named Adrian Harris.  His knives were beautifully made on the bench by two gentlemen who worked for him.  Personal reasons forced Mr. Harris to close the plant in 1988 and relocate out of state.  Some additional knives were made with remaining parts for the Colonel Coon Collectors Club, but production seriously winded down.

In 2008, twenty years after Mr. Harris stopped production, Smoky Mountain Knife Works has started making knives under the Colonel Coon trademark.  Primarily sold on line, these newer knives can be easily identified by the updated trademark and production location on the blade tang.  The original knives were identified with TENN USA while the newer knives have GERMANY on the blade tang. 

After talking with a number of collectors, it seems none of us are willing to sell our original Colonel Coon knives.  Seems like we all have the collecting gene, we want to acquire more!  If I am lucky enough to find a knife on the open market, it is usually a duplicate of something in my collection.  Having grown up attending knife shows, I decided to try something different.  As a trial run, I set up as a display vendor at the Nashville and Sparta Gun & Knife Shows in early December.  My goal was to meet other Colonel Coon collectors who might be willing to trade duplicates or perhaps even sell their knives.  If nothing else, I thought I could network with other collectors who would have ideas about adding to my collection and to my knowledge about the brand.

The result - success!  I met many collectors like myself who have a passion and interest in the original Colonel Coon pocketknives.   And I was even able to acquire a few.  Most interestingly, I was even able to trade some duplicates with some collectors thereby helping both of us round out our collection.  Being a vendor gave me an inside look on the "other side of the table".  I was amazed at the number of collectors who have special interests.  For example, only Purina knives, yellow bone handle knives, minis, antique, etc.  Everyone was incredibly nice and more than happy to talk about pocketknives. 

I felt welcomed by the other vendors who shared advice and tips (i.e., take your own comfortable chairs!).  On a funny note, it was most enjoyable to have absolutely no line at the ladies room!  Most of all, I had a wonderful time enjoying my own collection of Colonel Coon pocketknives.  They all remind me of my incredible Father who started me on this road of collecting.  Although I admit I was very reluctant to trade at first, trading duplicates has been an terrific way to pick up other Colonel Coon knives. 

I know I will not be setting up at shows every week-end, but definitely once every couple of months.  If you want to have an enjoyable week-end, pick a knife show and have some fun.  My husband to be traveled with me and also enjoyed the show.

Should you or someone you know have some original Colonel Coon pocketknives, pass along my name and contact information. 

Tonya Hinch