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Camillus Was Willing to Give You the Shirt Off Their Back post image

Continuing our review of the old Camillus catalogs, let’s pick up where we left off with the 1948 issue. Looking over the various patterns available, it is interesting that each of these has survived the years and are still viable today. They continue to be manufactured almost identically to those early patterns, no doubt a testament to their usefulness and design to the consumer. After all if no one was buying them you can be sure they would not continue to make them.


However, seasoned patterns were not enough to keep the production lines rolling. The mom and pop distributors of these knives were the real key to keeping sales brisk and the cutlery company up and running.

The ability to creatively display the various patterns, in order to catch the eye of the passing consumer, required a compact yet functional countertop cabinet. Sales space in stores is always a premium, so the design was carefully thought out (see pages 8 and 9 of the 1948 Camillus catalog). Some of these pieces are now highly collectible and sometimes are sold for hundreds of dollars on Ebay. In the catalog, precise directions were provided on how to care for the display and how to entice potential buyers into purchasing one or more of the knives.

The idea of cross-pollinating knives with other related activities was popular, hunting knives with the hunting equipment and garden knives in the garden center etc. Camillus apparently had some sharp (pun intended) minds in their marketing section to help guide the salespeople into promotions of their cutlery.

1965 Catalog

The 1965 catalog is a favorite of Camillus enthusiasts. Next to new and improved displays, it shows and the introduction of more upscale knives designed and marketed towards the more sophisticated buyer. For the first time, Camillus knives are sold in jewelry type boxes and look more like something for the Sunday dress clothes than to be used to skin out a raccoon. This denotes a change in society and the needs of those up and coming consumers.

The war was over and people had money to spend. Status symbols abounded and pulling out a fancy pearl handled knife to open an envelope was sure to impress the others, or least we thought so! On page 10 of the catalog we see one of the earliest mentions of an actual “Collectors Knife”. Stating its historic design and tradition in craftsmanship, the emergence of a new market is apparent. Our forefathers would have never owned a knife they weren’t going to use, but then again, times were changing and rank in society sometimes depended on who you were seen with and just maybe what you were seen with.

Camillus certainly tried to market to all levels of consumers. The new Sword Brand stainless edged knives were sure to attract a new league of followers as were the CAMCO knives that hit the market and captured the attention of those with smaller wallets. Also the CAMSTAG handle, made to imitate traditional stag at a significantly lower cost is a prime example of that.

The Shirt Off My Back Promotion

The absolute favorite marketing technique was the “I’d give you the shirt off my back” if you purchased a 30 piece sample roll of knives for $28 you got a free shirt valued at $5.00. Curiosity would love to know just how many vendors took advantage of this offer. Another interesting thing to know would be if the shirts themselves were marked Camillus in any way, now that would be a collector’s item for sure if they did! Can you imagine finding a mint roll of these knives and still in the package shirt from the 1960’s, talk about a rare find! We haven’t seen any of these for sale ever. Have you?

These items really make your collection stand out and make the search for items other than just knives even more enjoyable. So the next time you hit the local knife show, keep your eyes peeled for some old catalogs and maybe even a rare Camillus button down collar shirt.

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