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    Many new collectors have mistakenly ordered Yeoman models thinking they were getting a special model coveted by the masses, only to receive a readily available, current issue model.  What’s the difference, and how’s a person supposed to know what they are getting?

The Original Yeoman on Top and the BSA Yeoman on the bottom

    The main secret is that there are two different models that carry the Yeoman name.  For the purpose of this article, I will refer to them as the Original Yeoman and the BSA Yeoman.  The Original Yeoman is the one that collectors salivate at the thought of, while the current issue BSA Yeoman is little more than a fancy version of the Explorer.

The Original Yeoman

    First and foremost, the Original Yeoman has three layers:

    •    Main Blade/ Combo Tool
    •    Scissors
    •    Phillips/ Magnifying Glass

    On the backside of the Original Yeoman is the corkscrew and multipurpose hook.  It is also a Plus model and so comes equipped with a pen, pin and eyeglass screwdriver in addition to the toothpick and tweezers.   

The BSA Yeoman

    The BSA Yeoman has four layers, identical to the Explorer model, which consists of:

    •    Main Blade/ Small Blade
    •    Scissors
    •    Phillips/ Magnifying Glass
    •    Can Opener/ Bottle Opener

    The backside of the BSA Yeoman includes the hook, corkscrew and a reamer.  It is also a plus model with the pen, pin, eyeglass screwdriver, toothpick and tweezers.

The 3 Layered Original Yeoman and the 4 Layered BSA Yeoman

    One of the main reasons the Original Yeoman is coveted is because of it’s rarity.  The fact that it is discontinued makes it interesting to collectors, but folks who use them are also becoming enamored with them as they have all the function of an Explorer (or BSA Yeoman) in a package that is one layer smaller.  This makes it invaluable to minimalists who prefer smaller SAKs with many uses.

Both Models can have the BSA Fluer-de-Lis

    Both models come with a BSA (Boy Scouts of America) Fleur-de-lis emblem embedded in the scales, although the Original Yeoman was also available without it.

    The big problem is that there are quite a few dealers online that list the Yeoman in stock and ready to ship, and often have a picture posted of the Original Yeoman, when in fact they are selling the BSA Yeoman.  Some dealers are doing this innocently, not knowing better, but some are also selling them maliciously as they know that the picture on the site will be of more interest to the collector, who will inevitably be sucked into a purchase then decide it isn’t worth sending back.  I am not going to list names or sites, but it is important for collectors to be warned.

    If checking model numbers is an option, the original (US) model was 54791 for the boxed ones and 57791 for the blister packed ones.  The BSA Yeoman is identified by the model number 55781.  Thanks to UnknownVT for providing this info.

                                            Original Yeoman                BSA Yeoman
First Layer                Main Blade/ Combo Tool         Main Blade/ Small Blade
Second Layer          Scissor                                        Scissor
Third Layer              Magnifying Glass/ Phillips        Magnifying Glass/ Phillips
Fourth Layer            n/a                                                 Can Opener/ Bottle Opener
    In order to ensure that the Yeoman you are buying is an Original Yeoman and not a BSA Yeoman is to contact the seller and ask him or her to actually check the knife itself (not the picture in the ad or online) and verify that it does not have the small blade.  As you see in the above chart, the Original Yeoman pairs the combo tool with the main blade, rather than the small blade as on so many other SAKs.  Not everyone is a SAK person and they may not know what a combo tool looks like but everyone knows a knife blade when they see it, so it is probably the most important distinction to make when contacting the seller.

    That, in a nutshell is the difference between the BSA Yeoman and the Original (collectable) Yeoman.  I hope that this article helps to keep folks from accidentally purchasing a knife they don’t want.

See more information in PART II of the Great Yeoman Conspiracy!