In Defense of Limited Runs

Blade HQ Exclusive Spyderco Shaman

We’ve all been there before. You see someone on YouTube or Instagram showing off a knife that is the pure embodiment of cool, so you take to the internet in search of one of your own. You find the knife on Blade HQ, only to learn it was one of a limited run that is now sold out. As a last resort, you search for it on [redacted].com. You find one for sale, but you’d have to cash out your 401k to get it.

You hang your head in defeat and disappointment, and as you put your phone back in your pocket, you mutter, as many before you have, “Limited runs are the worst.”

We know how frustrating it can be. So much marketing effort is placed on sprint runs, only for them to sell out quickly. All the hype is still there, but the product is gone forever. Why would anyone do this?

Well, we ask ourselves that question every time we arrange a limited exclusive or pick up our small allotment of a sprint run. We’ve concluded that, for all their downsides, limited runs do more good than harm, and we’re prepared to explain why.

For the purposes of this article, “limited runs” include sprint runs, flash batches, exclusives, limited editions, and other knives that won’t be around forever.

First, limited runs give unique designs and materials a chance to shine.

The WE Knife Co. Eschaton, designed by Elijah Isham, is one of the most famous limited-edition knives of the past decade. The knife is unlike any other, with an abstract geometric design so far out it’s almost hard to tell it’s a knife. Its grind, blade cutouts, and complicated handle design require more time and skill to create than conventional knifemaking. If that wasn’t hard enough, the knife used expensive materials and high wear-resistant steel, adding a layer of manufacturing difficulty. The result was beautiful, but not economical.

WE Knife Co. Eschaton

A knife like the Eschaton is more a work of art than a cutting tool. It was never going to be made on a large scale, but it’s a piece of knife history. If a sprint run weren’t an option, the Eschaton would never have seen the light of day. If the only knives that made it to market were mass-produced, knife collecting wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.

Another example of this is CPM M4 steel. This premium carbon steel is one of our favorites, and we love to put it on exclusives, but it’s a manufacturing nightmare. Because of its wear resistance, M4 burns through abrasives quickly, making for a good amount of the price tag on M4 blades. It is not economical to make knives with M4 blades all the time, which is why so few in-line models have them. But limited runs allow us to offer it from time to time, and we love it!

Second, limited runs allow for creativity, innovation, and new products.

Back in 2016, Blade HQ released an exclusive Spyderco ParaMilitary 2 featuring a natural G-10 handle. It might be hard to believe, but back then, only a handful of knives used natural G-10. Most handles at that point followed a safe formula: Black, brown, OD green, and maybe blaze orange for the hunters. Committing to a strange new color long-term is very risky for a company, so few companies ventured outside the box. But because there was no such commitment in a sprint run, Spyderco was able to make knives with a bold new color and rest easy.

Luckily, it was a smash hit! Now, there are hundreds of in-line models from dozens of companies featuring natural G-10 handles. It’s a great-looking material (especially with a black blade) and it’s here to stay, and we have limited runs to thank for it.

On the flip side, some materials we’ve tried out in limited runs haven’t landed so well, and are now pieces of knife history.

So what’s the next big thing that will get the world excited? Well, let’s roll out a few limited runs and find out!

Additionally, sprint runs revitalize the market. Like many retailers, Blade HQ, has inventory limits. We invest money into products, and we can’t get new products unless the old products sell. Limited runs tend to sell out quickly, allowing us to bring you new cool stuff more regularly!

Third, sprint runs make collections more diverse.

If you’re a fan of Blade HQ, you might have heard of Timote, one of our buyers, and his legendary collection. He collects rare, limited-edition, and custom knives. It’s easy to feel jealous, but you can’t deny his collection is interesting! You can check out his collection in this episode of Knife Banter.

Let’s imagine a world where knife companies only made regular production knives. There would be nothing creative or unique, and we’d all get sick of 3” drop points. Before long, people would quit asking “What ’cha carrying?” and knives would go the way of the screwdriver: they’re all the same.

Perhaps that’s a bit dire of a prediction, but there is some truth in it. Scarcity is what makes things special. While Timote may have the second most flexy knife collection out there (looking at you, Taylor Martin), he’s been building his for years, and he doesn’t always get the knives he wants. If you keep at it for a long time, stay active in the community, and find the knives that are a little out there, your collection will be legendary too. No need to be afraid of missing out. After all, Blade HQ is in the business of selling knives, and there will be many more limited runs in the future.

The Secondary Market

Some of the loudest voices against limited runs are people who tried to find their grail knife on the secondary market. They cry “Cool it with the drop culture! You want us to buy fast so we don’t miss out, and they all sold in twelve seconds flat! Now I have to sell a kidney to buy it from some scalper or learn to live without!”

Although we’ve never even insinuated it was a limited run, the Dessert Warrior Kalashnikovs are notorious for scalpers. We’ve seen some sell for well over $200! That’s over a %350 price markup!

We are not blind to the problems of the secondary market, and we’re doing our part to solve them. We implement cart limits to give everyone a fair shot (we might even cancel your second order if we catch you making one). We’ve made exclusive runs bigger and more common to take the wind out of scalper’s sails, hopefully making resale prices look more like retail prices. We announce sprint runs days if not weeks in advance. We give precise drop dates and times so website campers have no advantages. We’re giving it our best effort!

“Blind Faith” – Blinded by FOMO

Some people might think we’re only trying to convince customers to buy on blind faith. They argue that limited runs spike your FOMO, or fear of missing out, making you buy without thinking. If it’s going to sell out in only a few minutes, it’s hard to watch reviews, get the knife hand, or do any other pre-purchase research. With limited runs, customers just have to trust the marketers’ obviously biased word that the knife will be any good.

We’re not saying that doesn’t happen, but we’re doing our part to prevent it. Most of our exclusives and limited runs are variations of existing models from reputable brands. Once a limited run is announced (usually weeks in advance), you can find a review on the knife in another variation, learn about how that company handles the new materials, and make a calculated decision days before a drop. That way you can be poised and ready for the drop if the knife is for you. If not, you haven’t missed out!

Conclusion

Blade HQ employees are dyed-in-the-wool knife fanatics. We know what it’s like to miss a drop because of a poorly timed paycheck and have to sell the farm to get it on the secondary. We know how it feels to look at your dream knife’s listing with the fateful words “discontinued” and “out of stock” on the side. These are bitter pills to swallow, but they allow for unique, innovative, new, and collectible knives to see the light of day, and that’s what we really want.

And if there’s a specific knife you’re holding out for, here’s a tip from the pros! We make limited runs based on input from customers on social media and YouTube comments, and we base order quantities on wish lists. If you want the knife of your dreams, follow us on Instagram and YouTube, get on the wish lists, and keep up with the knife community!