Summary. This study compares the utility of two functional assays for von Willebrand factor (VWF), the ristocetin cofactor assay (VWF:RCo) and the collagen-binding assay (VWF:CBA). We analysed a group of 32 patients with type 2 von Willebrand disease (VWD) (25 patients with type 2M, six with type 2A and one with type 2B) and 22 normal control subjects. VWF:RCo/VWF antigen (VWF:Ag) ratios and VWF:CBA/VWF:Ag ratios were compared between the patient and control groups. In the six patients with type 2A VWD, both VWF:RCo/VWF:Ag ratios and VWF:CBA/VWF:Ag ratios were discordant (≤ 0·7). In the 25 type 2M VWD patients, the VWF:CBA/VWF:Ag ratios were concordant (> 0·7), but the VWF:RCo/VWF:CBA ratios were discordant (≤ 0·7) (P = 0·001) compared with control subjects. Thus, VWF:RCo/VWF:Ag ratios were discordant in both type 2M and 2A VWD patient groups indicating a functional abnormality. However, VWF:CBA/VWF:Ag ratios were discordant in the type 2A VWD group but not in the type 2M VWD group. Our study showed that VWF:CBA is sensitive to functional variants associated with the loss of high-molecular-weight multimers, i.e. type 2A and 2B in VWD, but the assay was unable to discriminate defective platelet-binding VWD variants with normal multimeric patterns such as type 2M VWD. It was concluded that the VWF:CBA assay should be used in association with rather than as a replacement for the VWF:RCo assay.