Why Collect Bayonets?

Bayonets have a rich history, playing a pivotal role in military tactics for over 300 years.  Did you know that the bayonet was a hunting implement for decades before it was adopted as a military weapon? Did you know that the bayonet made it possible to do away with the pike and arm all infantrymen with firearms? Click here to read about key milestones in the bayonet's history, from its beginnings to the present day, in our Bayonet History Timeline.

Getting Started

Books are important, and something that you cannot do without. Hands down, books are the best way to make good finds and the best insurance against making a bad purchase. Although there are exceptions, bayonet books are often published in small numbers and prices sharply increase once they go out of print. Get ‘em while you can is the order of the day when it comes to bayonet books. There are some very affordable bayonet books available today.

If you are just getting started, Bayonets from Janzen’s Notebook, by Jerry Janzen, is a good first book. It covers about 1,000 bayonets from all over the world, arranged by country. It is no longer in print, but can be purchased used. It was my first book and has paid for itself many, many, times over by helping me avoid bad purchases and clueing me in to great finds.

Kiesling’s Bayonets of the World was republished as a single volume in 2009, after being out of print for many years.  It is an outstanding reference.  If you are just starting out, buy this book while you can get it. Much more detailed than Janzen. (Kiesling feels like it weighs a ton!) There are many other books, some focused on one country or type of bayonet. I list what I have in my reference library, on my Library Page.

Bayonets of Japan, by Ray LaBar, significantly advanced the knowledge of Japanese bayonets in 2010. It is still in print and worth every penny.

There is also a tremendous amount of information available on the Internet. My Links Page contains a listing of links that have been most useful to me over the years.

Networking

The 98k Bayonet Collectors’ Network (BCN) is a very innovative collecting organization that uses e-mail and the Internet to overcome many of the obstacles imposed by distance. Founded in 1996 by John C. Jacobi, the BCN began as an organization focused around collecting of the German M1884/98 III bayonet used on the Second World War German Mauser Kar 98k rifle. The BCN has since branched out to encompass international bayonets and includes collectors from around the world. The BCN publishes an e-mail digest of member posts of questions, answers, and discussion of collecting topics.

Although the BCN has broadened its scope, a continuing project that dates from the very beginning is to re-create the production record of the M1884/98 III bayonet, through collection and analysis of maker and serial number data. Members report serial numbers observed at shows and other places and they are loaded to a database in Slovakia. To date, over 12,000 serial numbers have been collected.

The BCN has been a phenomenal source of information and I treasure the correspondence that I have received from leading authors and collectors on pieces in my collection.

The Society of American Bayonet Collectors (SABC) is another organization dedicated to bayonet collecting. The SABC was founded in 1987 by the late Robert Reilly, author of American Socket Bayonets and Scabbards. Although, the SABC primarily focuses on bayonets used in the United States, it counts among its membership, collectors in many countries. The SABC publishes a quarterly print journal containing articles and research contributed by members and holds an annual meeting.

Internet discussion boards also provide opportunities to network and learn from other experienced collectors.  Gunboards.com and surplusrifle.com are two of the larger boards.  Both have bayonet forums.  Many other firearms and militaria boards cater to bayonet collectors as well.  These are a great place to get started. I am a frequent poster on several Internet forums, including: gunboards.com, surplusrifle.com, and mausercentral.com, with more than 5,000 posts between them.

I learn so much through helping others, either on Internet discussion forums or those who write via the worldbayonets.com Web site.

Where to Find Bayonets

One of the fun things about bayonet collecting is that bayonets can turn up just about anywhere. If you have done your book work, you can recognize the gold nuggets when you see them (as a long-ago mentor drilled into my head: not every gold nugget comes labeled ‘gold nugget’). Study, study, study . . . it will pay off. There are regional differences that influence the venues in which one is likely to hit pay dirt. 

I am on the west coast, in Northern California, so the examples below reflect that. For example, pawnshops do not figure into my finds much. In some areas, pawnshops are very fruitful. In California, few pawnshops have FFLs anymore due to the onerous State licensing. No guns = few bayonets. 

Gun shows are not reflected as prominently as one might expect. California shows are not as good as those in the mid-west and east coast. Tons of BS and beaters.  Overpriced items that sit on the same dealers’ tables for years.  However, real gems do turn up if you can spot them.  Shows are also a great study opportunity, even if the buying opportunities are sparse.  I hit as many shows as I can and practice identifying scarce bayonets.

Here are some examples of my finds in a variety of settings.

Antique Shops and Antique Malls

Often these venues are known for high prices. However, they also yield some real nuggets, because dealers do not always make the distinctions between run-of-the-mill examples and rarities. For example:

Gun Shops

Gun shop owners often obtain bayonets and other items that are outside of their area of interest (or expertise). They do their best to price them right, but sometimes overlook those gold nuggets that I mentioned earlier. I used to frequent a now-defunct gun shop that specialized in old military firearms. You would think that they would not overlook much. Try these out:

Distributors and Importers

Strange things can turn up among the ordinary pieces received by importers and distributors. They get so much stuff, that it is impossible to cull out all of the sleepers. For example:

There used to be a small, but well-advertised, importer based near where I work. I would go over occasionally at lunch on a Friday and they let me wander through their warehouse. One day, I spotted a box of greasy British No. 4 spike bayonets and Mk. I scabbards. In among the scabbards was one with a BRASS throat piece, instead of the customary Mazak (zinc alloy) or blued steel throat. I sent pictures to Yves Robitaille, a leading Canadian expert on the No. 4 spike bayonet, who was working on The No. 4 Bayonet: A Collector's Guide. He forwarded them to Graham Priest, noted author of many bayonet books, who was working on The Spirit of the Pike—British Socket Bayonets of the Twentieth Century. Graham wrote me back that this was the only brass-throated Mk. I scabbard that had ever been reported. A discussion and photos of my scabbard are in his book. Not bad for $6.

Gun/Militaria Shows

I am in an area where gun shows are not the best. However, sleepers do turn up at gun shows. In addition, sometimes exhibitors do bizarre things when they get punchy from sitting there too long. For example:

Networking/Other Collectors

Other collectors are a great source of hard to find bayonets. You will not walk away with a sleeper, but you can really add some nice pieces to your collection at reasonable prices. This is where networking really pays off. For example:

The Internet

The Internet has provided many venues to network with other collectors from around the world.  Thanks to the Internet, I have obtained pieces from individuals in the following countries: Argentina, Austria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Serbia, South Africa, and the UK.

Discussion Boards

I check my favorite Internet discussion boards almost every day.    As the old saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.  Good finds go quickly, so you have to be in the right place at the right time or be aced out.  Some finds from my more frequently-visited Internet discussion forums:

On-Line Auctions, etc.

Some of the glitter has come off eBay and other on-line auctions. Unfortunately, eBay has become a vehicle for the proliferation of fakes being manufactured in India and China. However, if you wade through the chaff, there are still many gold nuggets to be had. It is amazing what turns up on eBay. Some eBay finds include:

eBay is not the only online auction.  Here are a few other examples:

A new live online auction service has recently emerged, called Proxibid.  Proxibid allows you to participate in live auctions via the Web.  You hear the auctioneer and can place bids real-time, right along with the in-person bidders. At first, Proxibid catered to smaller auction houses.  Some of the major auction houses have began to use it too, a signal that Proxibid is here to stay.

Note:  Proxibid allows leaving of Internet bids in advance of an auction.  However, you may not want to do this.  The software works like eBay, only increasing your bid in response to other online bidders.  However (here's the catch), when the live auction starts, some auctioneers start off live bidding at the upper bid limit for the highest online bidder.  If you want to be assured of the best price, you have to participate live.

Gunbroker isn’t my favorite, but it occasionally yields a gem.  Although it purports to be an auction, Gunbroker is really an online gun show that offers bidding. My issues with gunbroker are reserves on $20 items; sky-high starting bids where the same stuff is re-listed daily for years and never moves; sellers who unethically delete auctions at the last minute when an item is about to go cheap, and blatant BS in item descriptions (far more BS on Gunbroker than eBay).  One would expect that a firearms oriented site would represent an improvement over eBay, unfortunately that is not the case.  On eBay, most sellers are there to move product.  Gunbroker is bloated with “sellers,” many of whom are really not serious about selling anything. Some Gunbroker finds include:

craigslist.org also occasionally yields a gem or two:

As this page shows, tons of good stuff is out there, in just about every type of venue imaginable, all ripe for the picking. Don't let anyone convince you that the good days are over. Do your homework, never stop looking, and you shall be handsomely rewarded.

Best of Luck and Happy Collecting!

 

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© Ralph E. Cobb 2010 All Rights Reserved

Bayonet Collecting: Getting Started and Where to Find Bayonets

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