Even without the absolutism I doubt that Calumet contracted for, or accepted, only the "rejects".
I have no idea what the procedures are for the various companies with regards to testing and quality control. If you want to save a few bucks you're welcome to buy Caltars and I'm sure you can make nice photos with them, I have owned a few Caltars myself and never had any complaints.... But I will gladly pay a little more for the Sinar- and Linhof-selected versions and enjoy the smug superiority and the deep warmth of confidence that comes from buying the best ;-p
Seriously, on eBay the price difference is zero to maybe $20, $30. Why not treat yourself instead of carrying doubts and retreating to rationalizations and unprovable justifications?
My main lenses are all Rodenstock & Schneider and my Caltar-S II (Symmar) is certainly equal in terms of sharpness etc and I agree with you and others there's nothing inferior about them.The Caltars are lenses purchased in blocks, and engraved with the Calumet info. They are no better or worse than the general run of Schneider or Rodenstock lenses. The Linhof inspected lenses will be consistently on the high side of factory QC.
Edit - the above applies only to the lenses when new.
One problem is generalisms about lenses like Ektar's, there are quite a few different designs and they behave quite differently, some are plain Tessars, one is a Dialyte, across all formats the name is used on 3 element triplets through to sophisticated 7 element designs. As someone else pointed out Ektars are in vintage shutters and not all fit in the most common shutter sizes Compur/Copal/Prontor #0, #1 etc, other US made lenses are in odd sized shutters as well. It's useful being able to swap shutters if you do need to send one for a repair or CLA and this is where the modern sizes based on Compur's rimset shutters of the 1930's are useful. I can (and do) use lens cells made in the 90's in a shutter 60 years older (or vice versa).
What I've heard about the Calumets Caltar II-N lenses is they where tested by Rodenstock in the same exact manner as their own engraved lenses . Rodenstock treated all lenses that left their factory the same and tested all egually.
The reason Calumet sold the II-N lenses for a good bit less the the equal Rodenstock offerings was Calumet handled all the warranty work and returns on all Caltar II N lenses and Rodenstock was not responsible. therefor, Calumet sold them for a good bit less then the Rodenstock engraved lenses. This holds true in the used market as Caltar II-N lenses sale for 1/3- 1/2 the price of Rodenstock of equal vintage (stripe/no stripe).
So it stands to reason, if you trust the quality control of Rodenstock, then you'll be equally pleased with any of the Caltar II-N offerings.
"The reason Calumet sold the II-N lenses for a good bit less the the equal Rodenstock offerings was Calumet handled all the warranty work and returns on all Caltar II N lenses and Rodenstock was not responsible."
Warranty on a photographic product is the responsibility of the distributor of that product. Not the factory. Factory's normally give an allowance to distributors for warranty repairs. So, in the USA, our Rodenstock Warranty is a limited lifetime warranty on the glass and 3 years on the shutter of the Rodenstock lenses that we sell to our dealers (including Calumet).
Caltar lenses and shutters were warrantied by Calumet. Sinar Rodenstock lenses were warrantied by Sinar.