I need help identifying/appraising Japanese swords

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Zimmy
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I need help identifying/appraising Japanese swords

Post by Zimmy » Fri Aug 15, 2014 7:41 am

A friend recently headed on to wait for us at Fiddler's Green and left his widow a few Japanese swords gathered up in WWII.

Can anyone point me toward a good resource to help me get her a good value for these? Just a brief foray into this area has produced what appear to be unscrupulous appraisers. I can't see a WWII blade in good condition from a battlefield being worth only $100.

The widow is elderly and retired on a fixed income. Anything she gets will important in the long run.
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Re: I need help identifying/appraising Japanese swords

Post by Wastelander » Fri Aug 15, 2014 10:05 am

I admit that I'm not an expert, but I would like to think I know enough to get by.

Honestly, in my opinion, most shin-gunto (swords manufactured for the war) aren't very good or worth very much, unless you find someone who collects them. Then, the color of the cord wrap is important, because it signifies the rank of the person who carried it. You could probably sell them for about $300-$500 to a collector, but it would still be best to get it appraised properly. Most "appraisers" are going to throw swords in the $50 to $200 range, depending on size and decoration, regardless of what they are actually worth. It's best to find somebody who specializes in Japanese swords.

The ones that are really worth money are ones that were retrofitted heirloom swords--you're looking at adding a zero to the numbers I listed, above. Someone with experience in Japanese swords can look at it and tell you if it was machine manufactured or if it was a hand-forged blade. You'll also need to take the handle off and take a look at the tang, which will likely have engraving, and have someone translate it. If it's a hand-forged sword, the maker's name and the date it was forged should be on the tang, and that will influence the value. If the owners name and/or rank are on it, that will also influence it.

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Re: I need help identifying/appraising Japanese swords

Post by IceWing » Fri Aug 15, 2014 11:16 am

When I picked mine up at a flea market, the guy didn't know what he was selling... I got it for $35 (In my defense, I thought it was a replica at first, till midway through the haggle...)

On the way out, I got (repeatedly) stopped by people wanting to buy it off me... One guy, when it was clear I wasn't going to sell it, informed me that, he got one in about the same condition a month earlier for $600 that he flipped for $1200...

So, your mileage may vary, but....

Also, IIRC, there was a place online that said if you'd send them pics, they'd give you a good estimate... I don't have the URL handy though...
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Re: I need help identifying/appraising Japanese swords

Post by Zimmy » Fri Aug 15, 2014 5:02 pm

Thanks. That'll help. If you remember the group that does appraisals, please let me know.
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Re: I need help identifying/appraising Japanese swords

Post by Browning 35 » Fri Aug 15, 2014 5:14 pm

Zimmy wrote:Thanks. That'll help. If you remember the group that does appraisals, please let me know.
I don't know where Trinity City is but these guys are in Dallas and are fair and professional in their assessments. They deal in all antique armaments including Samurai swords (seen them there, not my thing though) and I've dealt with and bought/sold from them several times.

http://www.jacksonarmory.com/JA/
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Re: I need help identifying/appraising Japanese swords

Post by Zimmy » Sat Aug 16, 2014 12:52 pm

That's great info. I'm near Dallas and will check them out.
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Re: I need help identifying/appraising Japanese swords

Post by ineffableone » Sat Aug 16, 2014 4:36 pm

Zimmy wrote:A friend recently headed on to wait for us at Fiddler's Green and left his widow a few Japanese swords gathered up in WWII.

Can anyone point me toward a good resource to help me get her a good value for these? Just a brief foray into this area has produced what appear to be unscrupulous appraisers. I can't see a WWII blade in good condition from a battlefield being worth only $100.

The widow is elderly and retired on a fixed income. Anything she gets will important in the long run.
I am a member over on SBG (sword buyers guide) forum. We get people wanting to verify if gunto katanas are legit all the time, over 90% are fakes. Guntos are some of the most faked swords out there which is why you see so many cheap ones.

If they are legit real Gunto then very good news they can be worth a decent price of $600-$700 each depending on condition. If they are family katana even better news as there were many old family katana that were taken from families during WW2 and they can be worth a fortune if the right smith made it. There are still many famous blades that have not been accounted for that the Japanese government would pay serious money to retrieve.

Scenes like these were common at the end of WW2 due to ceremonies where Japanese soldiers surrendered their swords.
Image

Image

Image

Officially aprox 500,000 swords were brought to the US as souvenirs, though there were many unofficial ones also.

While SBG tends to deal in more modern swords, there are plenty of knowledgeable people there that can help you and they tend to enjoy tracing historic blades when they actually do get posted. They are one of the friendliest of sword forums out there, and most likely to get polite responses. http://www.sword-forum.com some things they will ask is pictures, good close up of blade, blade tip, tang, fittings, and overall sword.

Folks at SBG will often refer more difficult to identify swords to http://www.nihontomessageboard.com/nmb/index.php who are much more serious and knowledgable about historic blades, but you have to have all your pictures and terminology right to get good responses from them.

Here are some guides to general katana terminology

Image

Image

gunto specific

Image

Another resource for info is http://quanonline.com/military/military ... ord_23.php and http://quanonline.com/military/military ... words.html though it is not one I have known to be used by my friends, I have seen some who have suggested it. And they are a site that does buy military antiques. You would likely not get top dollar through them though.
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Re: I need help identifying/appraising Japanese swords

Post by Zimmy » Sat Aug 16, 2014 7:15 pm

ineffableone wrote:
Zimmy wrote:A friend recently headed on to wait for us at Fiddler's Green and left his widow a few Japanese swords gathered up in WWII.

Can anyone point me toward a good resource to help me get her a good value for these? Just a brief foray into this area has produced what appear to be unscrupulous appraisers. I can't see a WWII blade in good condition from a battlefield being worth only $100.

The widow is elderly and retired on a fixed income. Anything she gets will important in the long run.
I am a member over on SBG (sword buyers guide) forum. We get people wanting to verify if gunto katanas are legit all the time, over 90% are fakes. Guntos are some of the most faked swords out there which is why you see so many cheap ones.

If they are legit real Gunto then very good news they can be worth a decent price of $600-$700 each depending on condition. If they are family katana even better news as there were many old family katana that were taken from families during WW2 and they can be worth a fortune if the right smith made it. There are still many famous blades that have not been accounted for that the Japanese government would pay serious money to retrieve.

Scenes like these were common at the end of WW2 due to ceremonies where Japanese soldiers surrendered their swords.
Image

Image

Image

Officially aprox 500,000 swords were brought to the US as souvenirs, though there were many unofficial ones also.

While SBG tends to deal in more modern swords, there are plenty of knowledgeable people there that can help you and they tend to enjoy tracing historic blades when they actually do get posted. They are one of the friendliest of sword forums out there, and most likely to get polite responses. http://www.sword-forum.com some things they will ask is pictures, good close up of blade, blade tip, tang, fittings, and overall sword.

Folks at SBG will often refer more difficult to identify swords to http://www.nihontomessageboard.com/nmb/index.php who are much more serious and knowledgable about historic blades, but you have to have all your pictures and terminology right to get good responses from them.

Here are some guides to general katana terminology

Image

Image

gunto specific

Image

Another resource for info is http://quanonline.com/military/military ... ord_23.php and http://quanonline.com/military/military ... words.html though it is not one I have known to be used by my friends, I have seen some who have suggested it. And they are a site that does buy military antiques. You would likely not get top dollar through them though.
More great info. I'll take a ton of pics when I get to review them next weekend.
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Re: I need help identifying/appraising Japanese swords

Post by ineffableone » Sat Aug 16, 2014 10:37 pm

Zimmy wrote:More great info. I'll take a ton of pics when I get to review them next weekend.
Make sure not to clean the swords at all. Keep them in the condition you found them. It is ok if there is rust, in fact it can be a good sign. Wear gloves when handling them. Cotton gloves tend to be the standard.

For pictures you will need to disassemble the swords from the fittings.

Do you know how to disassemble a katana? Here a helpful video if you don't.



Being old and depending on how they were stored, you might have trouble getting the handle off. there is a specific tool to get stubborn handles off, but you can make your own also. The video shows a DIY version that is easy to make.


companion write up and pictures from the video http://www.thesamuraiworkshop.com/_arti ... irae-nuki/

Something to remember if for some reason the handle is not coming off, even after trying suggestion of the video I posted on stubborn handle removal, then don't force it. Better to leave it than to damage it if it is a real antique.

Also when taking pictures of the tang, if there is writing on them take a picture oriented this way. So it can be read easily. Try to get the best pictures and lighting for these photos as this is the smith signature, year, where it was made and other very important information.

Image
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Re: I need help identifying/appraising Japanese swords

Post by Zimmy » Sun Aug 17, 2014 2:49 pm

My wife has a good camera. I'll take a ridiculous amount of pics and then let an expert figure out what is important.

Are the blades made for WWII some specially made steel or are they basically like long bayonets or other western military swords and blades in quality?
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Re: I need help identifying/appraising Japanese swords

Post by ineffableone » Sun Aug 17, 2014 4:07 pm

Zimmy wrote:My wife has a good camera. I'll take a ridiculous amount of pics and then let an expert figure out what is important.

Are the blades made for WWII some specially made steel or are they basically like long bayonets or other western military swords and blades in quality?
The gunto value is in military collector memorabilia mostly. The blades made for Gunto typically are not very special, and in fact the NCO swords tend to be pretty inferior mass produced machined blades. The officer swords are higher class and better craftsmanship and usually hand forged blades rather than machine forged. Though there were plenty of family sword blades that were swapped for the military issue ones and had the military fittings put on them, even an NCO sword can have a good blade if the owner swapped a better blade for the issued one.

The swords were issued mostly as a moral booster for the troops, connecting them with the ancient traditions of Samurai. Making the soldiers feel they were part of an old and revered tradition. They were not thought to be overly functional but it was found that they did get used a lot more than expected and even had a big psychological impact on the US troops. Stories and myths about Japanese soldiers being amazing swordsmen who killed hundreds just with their sword circulated in the US ranks.
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