BINGHAM COUNTY– One of the great things about traveling to renaissance faires is the people and vendors one meets. The owner of Black Wolf Blades is Mike Collins who has been a weapons collector ever since he was a kid. He started Black Wolf Blades in 1996 and a few years later he started going to reenactment events and renaissance faires. He has traveled all over Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Arizona, and Wyoming to sell his weapons at faires, gun shows, and conventions. People are always excited to see his replica blades.
Collins got involved with the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) which is a non-profit volunteer educational organization. The SCA is dedicated to researching and recreating pre-seventeenth century skills, arts, combat, culture, and employing knowledge of history to enrich the lives of participants through events, demonstrations, and other educational presentations and activities, according to their website. The entire group is all about active participation in the learning process.
Over the years Collins has perfected his booth and presence at the faires. "I used to make custom leather armor and items and even sold online for a while. At one point I tried to specialize in pirate merchandise but had to stop because I ran out of space in my booth. Most faires tend to limit vendors by type. This is frustrating but I can understand with the smaller faires because they want to focus on a variety of vendors instead of just trying to fill up space."
Over the years, Collins has noticed a change of popular weapons. The popularity of shows like The Big Bang Theory and comic book movies, geekiness is becoming more main stream. "I remember sitting through a lecture that told me playing Dungeons and Dragons (DnD) was evil and satanic." Collins said. People who are interested in historical replicas or weapons from movies there are numerous places in which to procure them. "I have more than twenty different sources for (weapons). If a particular medieval or fantasy weapon is out there, I can get it. I even recently made a partnership directly with a forge overseas that makes some custom swords and daggers for me." Collins states.
In the past few years hand forged functional blades have become popular. Locally forged damascus steel blades. The type of steel is recognizable because of the patterns hand forging leaves. Many times the blades themselves have a watery, wavy light and dark patterns. People are more inclined to buy weapons that are locally sourced.
As a vendor there are frustrating and fun aspects of the job. Collins recalled a couple of times when someone would come in searching for a unique blade, "I love the look on their face when I can actually show them the weapon they were asking for. I know some of them are trying to stump me. I also love the squeeeee sound that some people make when they see a favorite sword from their favorite movie or game." Because of his extensive collection, it is tough setting up and tearing down his booth. Many times the events are further away and Collins carts all his weapons along with him. Many times it takes upwards of six hours just to get his booth, "just right."
"The most rewarding thing," according to Collins, "is getting to meet other sword enthusiasts and collectors. People enjoy the history of the weapons along with the replication of it." One of Collins favorite weapons he carries is the swords from Highlander. Along with weapons from Conan the Barbarian and Krull, the movie weapons and historical reproductions are in good company and hopefully will continue to be so.