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Rare & Outstanding Condition M.H. Cole Fighting Knife

Rare & Outstanding Condition M.H. Cole Fighting Knife

  • Product Code: EWSK-GB123-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $4,500.00

There is probably no custom maker of military pattern knives more famous than MH “Howard” Cole. His fame in the collector community stems not only from his skill as a knife maker but also by his exhaustive efforts to document the edged weapons that he loved through his drawings and writings. No serious collector of US military knives does not have Cole’s famous four volume set US Military Knives, Bayonets & Machetes in their arms library, or at the very least a copy of the compellation of these books, published as The Best of US Military Knives: Bayonets & Machetes which took most of the important information from the original four volumes and put it all under one cover, with the assistance of edged weapons authority and author Michael Silvey. Cole followed up his original works on military knives with The Skinning Knife Book, which he published in 1996.


According to Silvey, Marion Howard Cole (1911-1999) was a Birmingham, AL police officer during World War II and produced custom knives in his spare time for men serving in the armed forces. His premier knife was a large knuckle knife with blades made of spring steel and brass knuckle guards cast by a local foundry. Initially these knives were produced with nine-point knuckle bow, but after fifty to seventy-five knives were produced, he redesigned the knife with an eight-point guard. Most of Cole’s WWII era production were made without scabbards, but he did acquire some scabbards from Birmingham’s Blackhorse Leather Works at a cost of $0.75 each. According to Silvey, after the company went out of business, Cole acquired some of the firm’s tools so that he could continue to produce scabbards as needed that were of the same style as his World War II scabbards. Cole was more than just a police officer, detective, custom knife maker and author, he was devotee to historical arms of all types and was one of the founding members of the Alabama Gun Collectors Association and served as their president at the end of the 1950s. Cole continued making knives through the early 1990s and died in June of 1999 at the age of 87.


Offered here is one of Cole’s more conventional fighting knives, formerly in the collection of well-known Alabama knife collector Roger Ballard. Ballard, a fan of Cole’s work and certainly influenced by his books, adopted the procedure of creating a custom collection card for all of the important knives in his collection, but doing a color line drawing on heavy card stock and noting important characteristics of the knife on the card. His drawings and notes closely resemble Cole’s work. Roger refers to this knife as a “shop made fighting knife” but the knife is really just Colt’s interpretation of the classic US Navy “Mark 2” fighting knife, or USMC “Ka-Bar” knife. Roger’s descriptive card is signed by him and dated 2001.


The knife has a 6 13/16” long clip point blade that is 1 ¼” wide at the ricasso with a 2 3/8” false edge. The knife utilizes a full tang and has a 4 5/8” hilt with an overall length of 11 ½”. The blade has a 2 11/16” long fuller with rounded ends. It has a slightly forward swept 2 11/16” brass guard that is 5/8” wide. The face of that guard is stamped M H COLE. The heavy brass pommel cap is also stamped M H COLE in an arc around the knife’s tang. The grip of the knife is of the classic stacked leather washer pattern, but also includes some of the materials typically used for spacers and washers on WWII era theater knives, including aluminum and Bakelite insulation of both black and dark maroon colors. The knife is accompanied by an M.H. Cole produced heavy leather scabbard made in the style of the USN Mk2 and USMC Ka-Bar style which includes a leather hilt retaining strap with a brass snap. The scabbard is marked M.H. COLE over ROEBUCK WORKS on the rear of the belt loop and is decorated with stars on the face of the throat. The scabbard also includes a long, Latigo lace leg tie down. No doubt all of this work was done with the old Blackhorse Leather tools that Cole purchased, allowing him to recreate scabbards in the style of their work for him during WWII. As is typical of Cole’s work all of the letters are stamped independently and no gang stamps were used.


The knife remains in EXCELLENT overall condition and was probably never used, only carefully cared for and cherished. The blade retains nearly all of Cole’s original bright polish, making it very difficult to photograph. The brass guard and pommel cap have dulled and have a rich, golden patina, as does the brass snap of the hilt retaining strap. The knife shows no indication of use or sharpening after it was made by Cole, btu some of the blade has dulled a little with age. Any strange imperfections that may appear on the blade in the photos are either reflections from the photo studio equipment or the result of the lighting. The hilt shows some light and very minor surface handling marks and minute scuffs. The scabbard shows some very light wear from handling and storage as well, but no real use or abuse. 


Overall, the set is really in outstanding condition and will be a fantastic addition to any serious custom knife collection, particularly one that focuses on fighting and theater knives. Adding an MH Cole knife to their collection is often the goal of many serious knife collectors and the rarity and price of the Cole-made knives often keep the acquisition of such pieces out of reach. With high condition Cole knuckle knives regularly selling in the very high four-figure price range, this knife provides an opportunity to acquire a knife from one of the most coveted makers of the modern era for about half the price of one of his knuckle knives.


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Tags: Rare, Outstanding, Condition, M.H., Cole, Fighting, Knife