There are few brands that are as legendary as Case Knives.
One thing that makes them so desirable is their tang stamps.
Sadly, a lot of people buy Case knives without knowing what these are. All they see is a bunch of numbers and think that this is probably some manufacturing code.
If you knew how to read these numbers, you’d know a lot more about the knife in your hands.
You’d know how old your knife is, what its handle is made of, how many blades it has, and what pattern it uses.
So… want to learn how to read these?
Let me teach you.
History of Case Knives
Case Knives are one of the most sought-after in the world. They’re famous for their high-quality, durability, and value as a collectible.
Its history stretches all the way back to 1898, when the Case brothers sold handmade knives along a wagon trail in New York.
They’ve come a long way since then, producing knives for WW1, WW2, and the Apollo and Gemini space missions.
But more than that, Case Knives became a household name. These high-quality knives have been passed on from generation to generation, from great grandfathers to their great grandchildren.
That’s the legacy of Case Knives. It’s the reason so many collectors seek these knives out.
Nowadays, Case still produces top-quality knives. Each knife is finished by hand, so no two knives are the same.
They build every-day carry knives, hunting knives, culinary knives, specialty knives, and more. You can get a Case knife for your every need.
One thing all of these knives have is a tang stamp. It’s an engraving on the base of the blade that contains useful information.
What information you might ask?
What is a Tang Stamp?
Want to know how old and what type of Case knife you’re holding? Check the tang stamp!
The tang stamp is an engraved logo and set of numbers found on Case knife tangs. They’re usually located at the base of the blade, right where the steel meets the handle.
At first glance, you might think this is just another logo and serial number. However, that’s not the case.
Each of these engravings contains special information about the knife you’re holding.
Take the logo as an example. If you compare a brand-new Case knife with one made 30 years ago, you’ll notice the logos look quite different.
Now, take a Case knife made in 2016, and compare it with one made in 2017. If you look closely, you’ll notice a tiny difference.
That tiny difference is all you need to identify the knife.
And those “serial numbers” on the base? Those aren’t serial numbers. Instead, they tell you the material, number of the knives, and pattern of use.
With all of this information packed into the blade, all you need is one glance. One glance will tell you everything you need to know about the knife.
So how do you read this information?
How to Read Case Pattern Codes
There are two parts to these case pattern codes: the logo and the numbers.
Since 1970, Case made a way for us to immediately identify the age of their knives. This was by placing a gimmicky logo on their tang.
The 1970-79 Case XX logo looked very similar to their older versions. The only new thing was they added 10 dots.
Every year, one dot would be removed. In 1971, there were 9 dots. In 1972, there were 8 dots. And so on.
This way, all you had to do was count the dots to know exactly when your knife was manufactured. 4 dots? 1976! 1 dot? 1979!
But what happened when they finished all the dots?
Easy… when 1980 came around, they made a new logo.
The 1980-89 logo was the first to feature a “lightning S”. And, like it’s predecessor, also contained 10 dots – only this time they were sandwiched between Case XX and USA.
If you see this logo on your steel, count the dots to know its manufacturing year.
For 1990-99, Case XX thought they could get rid of the dot code and move on to something new. They started the decade by printing out the year on their logo.
Unfortunately, this did not go well with collectors. By 1993, Case switched back to their dot scheme – this time with a long-tailed C and dots below the USA.
At the turn of the century, Case introduced a new element, X’s. Instead of 10 dots, they put 5 dots and 5 X’s above and below the Case XX. They also got rid of the USA.
The dots were the first to go, every year until 2005, a dot was removed. Then followed the X’s from 2006-09.
The 2010-19 design was very similar to the previous decade’s style. But there was one key difference (aside from the slightly different font).
Instead of having 3 dots and 2 X’s on top (and 2 dots and 3 X’s on the bottom), the new logo featured 2 dots and 3 X’s on top (and 3 dots and 2 X’s on the bottom).
Like the previous design, the dots went first from 2010-15. Then the X’s disappear from 2016-19.
If you get a Case knife with this type of logo, you know you’re holding a relatively new knife. But not quite the newest one around.
Introducing, the 2020-29 logo:
The latest logo no longer has a long-tail C, and it no longer has Xs either. There are 10 dots, all going to disappear one by one as the years go by.
And that’s how to read Case XX’s logos (starting 1970 at least).
But what about their numbers? What do they mean?
Every Case XX knife has a few numbers engraved in their primary blade.
The first number (or letter) tells you the material of the handle. Whether it’s hardwood, jigged bone, or synthetic material, the first number will tell you what it is.
Here’s what the number and letters mean:
1 – Solid Hardwood
2 – Smooth Black Synthetic Thermoplastic Rubber
3 – Smooth Yellow Synthetic
4 – Smooth Synthetic
5 – Genuine Stag
6 – Jigged Bone, Jigged Synthetic, Jigged Laminate
6.5 – BoneStag
7/P – Curly Maple, Rosewood, Smooth Laminate
8 – Genuine Mother-of-Pearl
9 – Imitation Mother-of-Pearl
10 – Micarta, G-10
I – Ivory, Imitation Ivory
EX – Exotic (Giraffe, Ostrich, Volcanic Glass, and other Exotic Handle Materials)
You see? It’s super easy to know what your handle is made of thanks to this system.
But what do the other numbers mean?
Case XX is famous for their multi-tools. They’re famous for folding knives that have several blades within.
Now, I could go on talking about every type of blade in there, but that’s not what the code says.
The second number is there simply to tell you how many blades the knife has.
If the second number is 1, that means it’s a single-bladed knife. If it’s 2, you have 2 types of blades. And so on and so forth.
Finally, the remaining numbers are the pattern number.
What’s a pattern number?
Well, if the second number tells you how many blades you have, the pattern number tells you exactly what blade you have.
You can check out Case XX’s chart on this. It’ll show you exactly what kind of knife you’re dealing with.
Too many Case XX owners don’t know about this cool little secret. If you’re one of them, now you know how to tell exactly how old your knife is!