What happened to Rolfs and Amity Wallets?
Amity was the original business name for the company, a company that dominated the leather goods, especially wallets, the market for nearly 100 years when it was founded by Robert H. Rolfs in 1915. Adamant he could improve upon the poor range of wallets on the market at the time. He knew he could do better, took what little savings he had, and invested them all into a new company. This was the start of Rolfs/Amity Wallets.
There seems to be some confusion regarding the actual name of this brand so let me clarify things for you. The actual name of the company was Amity (full name Amity Leather Products Company) and they traded under this name for most of their life until they changed it to AR Accessories in the early 90s. Rolf Wallets actually refers to a range of wallets they developed under this name that was very popular, again, throughout the life of the brand. In this article, I’ll be using the terms Rolf, Amity, and Rolf & Amity interchangeably to mean the same thing.
Finding success early, expansion of the business was fast and within a few years had expanded the company to a workforce of over 50 people. As World War 1 hit, Amity shifted its operation to help the wartime effort creating leather jackets for military use. After the War, the economy boomed and demand for leather goods such as wallets surged helping to propel Amity to higher heights.
Amity continued to prosper through the majority of the century continually expanding and innovating in what they could offer. One of their most famous wallets was called the ‘Director’, a new billfold that included features never before seen in a wallet including a secret compartment, and a key pocket. Many of these features are still seen and used in wallets available today.
As the decades went past, Amity began to find new competition in the likes of China and Japan undercutting them and providing wallets at a fraction of the price they could. This would actually contribute to the eventual demise of the company going forward.
What happened to Rolfs & Amity?
In the late 90s, Rolfs & Amity (then known as AR Accessories) successfully filed for bankruptcy. The exact cause of this is unknown as I couldn’t find any information online regarding the reasons why a company that once was the biggest manufacturer of wallets in the US would suddenly suffer a fate. The only evidence I could find was a forum post on an article regarding the old headquarters of the company. It stated:
‘The reason for their bankruptcy was due to foreign competition from China. Designs were stolen and then manufactured there for much lower prices’.
If this is to be believed, and honestly it’s very believable, then a simple issue of manufacturing costs was the cause. Even today, China is known for stealing the trademarks and intellectual property of companies across the world and simply re-selling them at dirt cheap prices. You only need to look at Chinese wholesale sites like Alibaba and Aliexpress to see that for yourself.
It was also this time that the Department of Workforce development begins an investigation regarding the apparent unlawful mass layoff of workings. This was probably the final straw for Amity as they lost the legal proceeding and reached an agreement that allowed 300 former employees to receive $2 million in back pay.
During the Bankruptcy, Amity auctioned off its assets including brands, contacts, inventories, patents, real estate, and equipment. The company was then bought out and acquired by Tandy Brands Accessories through bankruptcy proceedings. Ironically Tandy themselves filed for bankruptcy in 2014 and now cease to exist selling off all their remaining assets’.
What Sort of Wallets Did They Offer?
I decided to do some research on the types of wallets Amity offered. During this, I browsed Etsy and eBay looking to see if I could get my hands on some of the older wallets they produced, while also putting up a bunch of old advertising material that showcased a variety of the Amity wallets range.
Can you Still Purchase their Wallets?
As previously mentioned Amity wallets are no longer a business operating. That being said if you browse the internet, including eBay and Etsy, you can easily find people selling old used versions of the wallets. The price of these wallets differs quite wildly. I found you can get any Rolf Wallet for as low as $30.00 all the way up to $200.00. This depends on the quality of the wallet, whether it’s used or new, or has its original packaging (box). It really just depends on how much you want and if you’re willing to pay the price. Below are just a few links to places where you can browse through some of the second halves Rolfs Wallets on the market today.
The Rolfs and Amity Legacy
Although I’m not an expert on the company surrounding Rolfs and Amity one thing is clear. They essentially paved the way for the look and feel of the wallets we know today. Some of the wallets they provided back in the early 1920s are still being used today and wallets of today are still using features first used by Amity & Rolfs. Although Amity had a sad ending to its life, the legacy of Amity and what they achieved will never be forgotten and we can thank them for creativity and innovation.
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