Are Belt Buckle Knives Illegal? The Gerber Touché & Other Knife Belt Buckles
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Are Belt Buckle Knives Illegal
This belt buckle—featuring a Humpback Whale and its calf—is unassuming at a glance...
but it's actually illegal in 2 US states!
Meet the Gerber Touché: a belt buckle that discreetly holds a small folding pocketknife. Designed by Gerber Legendary Blades in the 1970s, it started as a utilitarian product for sportsmen in a knife factory's production line, but eventually became a controversial accessory that left its mark on history.
Join us as we delve into the captivating story behind the Gerber Touché and its journey from knife factory floors to the headlines of an FBI bulletin, while answering the question on many minds: are belt buckle knives illegal?
Shopping for a Gerber Touché? I have several for sale on my Shopify Store
The Controversial History of Gerber's Disguised Knife Buckles
The Factory Floor
The tale of the Gerber Touché begins in 1979 when Mark Allan Boucher was employed at Gerber, a company known for producing high-quality knives. Initially hired to work in the factory sharpening knives, Boucher's destiny took an unexpected turn. His creative talents as an engraver and a scrimshaw artist propelled him up the corporate ladder until he emerged as Gerber's Senior Graphic Designer. Scrimshaw, a traditional art form involving intricate engravings on materials like ivory or bone, showcased Boucher's exceptional artistic skills and added a distinct touch to the knives and accessories produced by Gerber.
Another key figure played a role in shaping Gerber's identity. Engraver Jim Blair contributed his artistic skills to create captivating wildlife illustrations found on Gerber blades, adding a unique touch to the company's offerings. Jim is perhaps better known for his engraving on firearms later in his career, but he created many of the engravings you'll find on Gerber knife handles. The incorporation of these wildlife engravings, both by Boucher and Blair, not only enriched Gerber's product line but also acted as a compelling form of advertising that resonated deeply with the hearts and minds of their customers.
The wildlife-focused engravings resonated with their customers who largely consisted of outdoorsmen, sportsmen, hunters, and fishermen who shared a deep appreciation for the natural world. Although the tradition of scrimshaw is based in ivory carving, the Gerber Touché used Micarta, an artificial material to mimic the appearance of ivory. The imagery of majestic wildlife etched into the blades and accessories added an element of connection to the very environments where these customers spent their time, creating a powerful synergy between the products and their intended users.
Unintended Consequences: From Popularity to Controversy
The popularity of the Gerber Touché was not without its challenges. The concealed nature of these knives caught the attention of not only outdoor enthusiasts but also criminals and law enforcement agencies. By 1983, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) felt compelled to issue a Public Service Announcement (PSA) to law enforcement officers, alerting them to the potential threats posed by these concealed knives, especially during arrests.
Conclusion: Knowledge and Awareness as the Ultimate Tools
The Gerber Touché belt buckle's journey, from its origins in a knife factory to its controversial status as a disguised weapon, is a testament to the intersection of design, functionality, and legal considerations. This story emphasizes the importance of being informed and aware of the implications of everyday items that can hold unexpected potential. The Gerber Touché serves as a reminder that knowledge truly is power, and that the evolution of a seemingly simple accessory can be a fascinating and cautionary tale.
Before purchasing or owning belt buckle knives, it's crucial to understand the legal landscape and regulations in your jurisdiction.
Legal Implications and Current Status
Fast forward to today, and these once-fashionable belt buckles have taken on a different status. Categorized as "disguised" and "concealed" knives, they are deemed illegal to own, buy, or sell in both California and New York. The prohibition extends to online marketplaces, where they are largely barred from sale.
*The information provided in this blog post is intended to offer a high-level overview of state and national regulations pertaining to belt buckle knives. It is crucial to understand that laws and regulations can vary widely at the local level, including county and city jurisdictions. While we strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, it's essential to recognize that this post does not encompass all regional ordinances and bylaws that might apply.
We strongly recommend that you consult with local authorities, law enforcement agencies, or legal experts in your specific area to obtain comprehensive and accurate information about the legality of owning, using, or possessing belt buckle knives. Remember that state and national regulations discussed in this post might not reflect the detailed rules established by individual counties or cities. It is your responsibility to ensure compliance with all applicable laws and regulations in your location.
Please treat the information presented in this blog post as a starting point for your research. For precise guidance on belt buckle knife regulations in your area, we encourage you to reach out to local law enforcement or legal professionals who are well-versed in local laws and ordinances.
By reading this blog post, you acknowledge that the information provided herein is not exhaustive and that it is your responsibility to verify the accuracy and relevance of the information within the context of your local jurisdiction.*
Here's a overview broad overview of belt buckle knife laws at the state and federal levels
(DOES NOT INCLUDE COUNTY OR CITY LEVEL LAWS & ORDNANCES-PLEASE CONTACT LOCAL AUTHORITIES & DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH)
Belt buckle knives are considered an "undetectable knife" and are illegal
In California, belt buckle knives are generally illegal. But there may be a size exemption if the blade is 2.5" or shorter.
Knife laws were amended in 2015 and belt buckle knives are now legal (used to be illegal prior to 2015)
Canada Belt Buckle Knife Laws
Belt buckle knives may be illegal. The law mentions a specific knife called the Constant Companion, but has broad language including "similar devices"
UK Belt Buckle Knife Laws
Belt Buckle Knives are illegal
Can you sell belt buckle knives online?
In my personal experience as an Etsy shop and eBay store owner, buying and selling collectibles like the Gerber Touche is very difficult. Belt buckle knives are generally prohibited on all online marketplaces, but they rely on user reports for policy enforcement... basically, nothing will happen unless someone clicks the "report item" link on your listing. But, the consequences can be pretty severe if that does happen... your shop might get shut down. I've found that Etsy and eBay tend to be pretty proactive with policy enforcement, while Mercari and Poshmark are a bit more lax. Use caution and don't consider this information to be advice, & please do your own research/make your own decisions on buying/selling belt buckle knives.
Etsy - belt buckle knifes are prohibited by policy & enforced
eBay - belt buckle knifes are prohibited by policy & enforced
Mercari - belt buckle knifes are prohibited by policy but not strongly enforced
Poshmark - all weapons (incl. belt buckle knives) are prohibited by policy but not strongly enforced
Gunbroker.com - Belt buckle knives are allowed
Gunbroker is an online marketplace that specializes in firearms, but they also have sporting goods, knives, and various collectables offered by individuals - it's like the eBay of guns & outdoor equipment.
Your own website (ex. Shopify) - belt buckle knives are allowed
I created my own website using Shopify so that I could sell collectible belt buckle knives and other products that are legal but prohibited on most online marketplaces.
Note: Even if you create your own website, many ad providers and services like the Google Merchant Center will still prevent listings that feature weapons (including hidden knives) from being promoted or appearing in some search results
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About the Author:
Brock Lane has an MS in Applied economics and operates multiple shops on Etsy, eBay, and Shopify. He maintains an inventory of over 10,000 rare and unique belt buckles, leather belts, and other goods. He leverages his sales history and professional background to write about trends in online retail marketplaces. Brock is an eBay affiliate and earns commission from linked products & shops.
Learn more at: www.beltbucklehistory.com
Shop for vintage belt buckles on Brock's Etsy Shop
or at Brock's eBay Store
Other articles you might enjoy:
Tiffany Belt Buckles - The Complete Story: Link
Index of Belt Buckle Manufacturers and Artists: Link
Belt Buckle History-by-decade Articles: Link