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Teach A New Collector: How Can I Tell If This Sword Is Worth It?

tachi koto ebay restoration polishing

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#1 Wes


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Posted 09 February 2015 - 01:19 AM

Hello members of the Nihonto Message Board.


I've been looking at the following sword, for sale on ebay:



As I see it, the pros are that it is a signed (suriage) koto blade from a known maker of the ko-Uda school, assuming that the seller has attributed it to the correct Uda Kunitomo. The cons are that the rust is obscuring most of the blade's features, including any flaws that polishing might reveal. While I think it would be rewarding to get the blade polished, mounted in shirasaya, and sent off to shinsa I want to make sure that I'm not romanticizing the results of buying a cheap blade in crap condition off of ebay.


I would appreciate if you guys could not only give me advice, but also talk me through the reasons for the advice so I can understand what you're considering or seeing that I haven't had the experience for yet.


Also, I understand that daito polish, shirasaya, and new habaki are quite expensive. If I bought this, the goal would be to have it ready for NTHK shinsa this summer- is that a reasonable timeline for the polish/remounting process?


Thank you for the advice.


#2 cabowen



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Posted 09 February 2015 - 02:10 AM

At your level of experience, I think you are going about things backwards and in such a way as to almost guarantee a bad outcome. Buy a sword in polish, preferably with papers. Otherwise, you are almost sure to get burned. Once you have the knowledge and experience to identify the risk and possible return, you will be much better positioned for success. They way you are approaching this is akin to walking up to a craps table, having never played before, and just throwing a wad of money down.

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#3 Grey Doffin

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Posted 09 February 2015 - 02:20 AM

Hi Wes,

I agree with Chris.  I haven't looked at the sword on ebay but I know ebay is a terrible place for a beginner.  Go to FAQ and read the one about newbies always wanting to buy, polish, mount, and paper their 1st sword.

The more time you take in learning, the better decisions you'll make when the time comes to spend money on a sword.  Study Grasshopper.


#4 Jussi Ekholm

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Posted 09 February 2015 - 03:01 AM

Just a few novice thoughts for you.


I believe that sword will go much higher than the current 338$ bid. Signed tachi is always desirable to collectors such as myself who like them. Will be nice to see how high this will run.


I do think differently about the tachi in question than the seller does. I believe it to be early Muromachi era tachi by Kunitomo, and it would be classified just as Uda not ko-Uda. When you browse around, signed tachi by Uda school (in good polish & papers) are not that rare, and they can be acquired for decent prices. Of course signed tachi in good condition are usually expensive so take that into consideration when I say decent priced.


Chris and Grey offered more experienced opinion regarding getting it polished.

Jussi Ekholm

#5 Loco Al

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Posted 09 February 2015 - 03:20 AM

Once when I took one of my dear departed father's old busted up gold watches into a shop for appraisal, the expert said: The problem with the "Antiques Road Show" program, is that everyone thinks that they have a treasure hidden in their attic. Shitty swords pop up all the time on this forum, presented by hopeful newbies, wishing to learn that they might have something special in their possession.


If the guy who is selling this sword really thought that it was worthy of restoration (and might be something special), he would not be selling it on ebay. He would likely be getting it restored himself. You would trust the seller's attribution? The cost of the sword might be chump change, but the cost of restoration would be prohibitive.



#6 nagamaki - Franco

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Posted 09 February 2015 - 04:26 AM

Hello Wes,


Things to consider.

1) What do you know about the Ko Uda school?
2) What do you know about this smith?

3) How many Ko Uda swords by this smith and/or others have you seen that are good, poor, mediocre, excellent?

4) How many koto swords (good, poor, excellent) have you seen in polish/papered?

5) How many swords in excellent polish have you seen?

6) How is your kantei ability, skills, knowledge?


Nihonto collecting  requires years of serious study even before you go out and learn through good and bad experiences. Think about it, people go out and make mistakes buying already papered and polished swords.

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#7 Jamie


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Posted 09 February 2015 - 07:20 AM

I'd suggest saving, and in the meantime buying at least a few books. Then when you're ready, buy something in polish so you can study your new sword. Rather than putting it in a polishing que for an extended period of time, at considerable expense.

#8 Toryu


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Posted 09 February 2015 - 08:11 AM

there are sword clubs in L.A. and San Francisco that provide regular opportunities to study swords in all states of preservation but most importantly in newly polished and papered condition. The best way for you to learn is to get some background and vocabulary and then see and study as many swords in hand as you can. It is very hard to avoid the temptation to buy, i would not buy in this case and here is why:

1. the kissaki appears to have been poorly reshaped at some point - this might be fixable but maybe not without significant alteration.
2. the rust could be hiding hagire, hairline cracks, a fatal flaw, hard to see but impossible to repair.
3. if you spend a grand on the blade and two grand on restoration you'll have a three thousand dollar sword but not much more.

this is a big gamble, listen to the many voices telling you to pass on this one unless you have lots of money to gamble with.
if you are interested in attending a sword club meeting just let us know,
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Thomas C Helm
Northern California Japanese Sword Club


#9 Kai-Gunto


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Posted 09 February 2015 - 12:08 PM

Do You know the seller? He sells lots of low end swords.
Like others said ,buy a polished blade from start.
Collect IJN/SNLF swords, dirks, headgear and Nihon-to.


#10 jason_mazzy


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Posted 11 February 2015 - 03:35 AM

pm incoming.

Jason Mazzy 32°
Proud member of: “The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction U.S.A.”

#11 bobtail44


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Posted 11 February 2015 - 09:18 PM

I don't think that you are actually going to purchase this blade, I think that your question is designed to produce educational answers.


My five cents without repeating what others have meantioned is that you need to check out the person offering the item. If they are a dealer then you have zero chance  of finding a "treasure" for a cheap price.

There is the exception of a couple of people that sell mass blades on ebay set to auction.

You won't find the next Juyo blade but you might find a very significant discount on dealer prices on papered blades. You can get some good deals from them but also a lot of junk and these sellers rarely check for damage or even view half of what they sell on commission so it is still a gamble. This is not speculation I have email proof.

If you want to hunt for treasure, learn Japanese like I am, then go to Japanese auctions or sites. You have a far better chance then paddling through ebay. That way you are more likely to get the prices that dealers do.

Too many people collect these swords now and run every obscure search on ebay you can think of. I used to do it and I did get some great deals but in the last 5 years it has become really hard. I don't even bother at the moment because my Japanese is in early stages and the USD is so high compared to AUD.


I also suggest that you purchase swords in a conditon and at a price that you can easily liquidate them should the need arise. Some people might disagree, but id say buy blades that you know other people would want in case you decide to get rid of them as well as obviously liking it yourself. Old blades like this one will rarely selling quickly for the price you would ask trying to recover restoration costs.


Trent S

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#12 Soshin


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Posted 12 February 2015 - 11:26 AM

Also, I understand that daito polish, shirasaya, and new habaki are quite expensive. If I bought this, the goal would be to have it ready for NTHK shinsa this summer- is that a reasonable timeline for the polish/remounting process?


In answer to your question absolutely not. Please follow the advice already presented by Grey, Chris, Tom, and others. Check out the sales section of NMB I remember seeing a nice Ko-Uda katana in polish and new shira-saya with a NBTHK paper for sale at a reasonable price. More often then not these old blades are greatly shorted to be used as a katana in the Edo Period having once been a tachi or o-daichi this removes the sigurature, changes the shape, and overall length. I am very suspicious of what I am seeing on this now closed eBay auction. Buyer beware...

David Stiles

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Website: https://www.raindragonfinearts.com/

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