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#1 Valric

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Posted 01 August 2017 - 04:27 PM

Its shoshin by my books. 

https://www.invaluab...78-c-59243ab8c0

 

How do you even gamble in these actions? The pictures are terrible, and they won't provide more. No idea about boshi, kasane, etc. It's potential juyo unless it's hiding a big ugly secret. No idea who does the appraisal of 10'000-15'000 if they even know what they're talking about. If they do, then there is a catch because that's low for a Bizen Motoshige with a signature preserved. If they don't then they are dishonest w.r.t to the seller's family by claiming expertise they don't have. Given that this auction house never really sold Japanese swords they probably outsourced the appraisal to some contact who had no skin in the game whatsoever. 

 

Also the ominous words "possibly re-tempered" without any sort of appraisal or detailed image of the hamon. What do you think is the catch here? No sure how common fake inlays of signatures are - but you never know the depths of human ingenuity when it comes to greed. In any case that part doesn't raise any red flags but then again I am a beginner. Probably kano era sword due to the smaller size of the signature which places it in the more valuable period of the smith's work (or two smith, or whatever the current dominant theory is). However the shapes would tell us this is more likely to be earlier work with its slender shape and ko-kissaki. 

 

What's your opinion? How do you navigate these auctions without further information? 


Chris H. 


#2 Stephen

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Posted 01 August 2017 - 05:11 PM

26% premium? it must be something one would really really want 

 

auction houses are notorious for grandiose values.  the do have another for 5$ tho...lol


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#3 ROKUJURO

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Posted 01 August 2017 - 05:50 PM

I am not so sure about JUYO for a possibly retempered blade of that age. They would not have noted that unless there was a strong possibility for it being indeed retempered. And by this process, the original SORI and features like KASANE and HABA will probably have changed to a degree. 

The amateurish way they tried to copy the Japanese text with so many mistakes would not convince me either. 


Regards,

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#4 Valric

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Posted 01 August 2017 - 08:06 PM

Hi Jean, 

 

Wouldn't you argue that if the seller lacks knowledge, you are more likely to make a deal? It's a case of both Information asymmetry (you can't see the good) and knowledge asymmetry (maybe you know more than the seller, more often its the other way around). I would argue that you want to close the information asymmetry gap as much as possible (e.g. see the sword, request detailed pictures, etc) in order for you to weaponize knowledge asymmetry. 

 

Now because its an auction house their incentive is in the buyer's premium and the reputation from achievement good sales which bring in more customers, rinse and repeat. If they were really into the deception business they could faint not knowing about flaws, since sales are final, pretending that their knowledge (e.g. hagire, retempering marks) does not allow them to exploit their information advantage (having the sword potentially in hand for study long before you). It looks like the "expert" is indeed not so much of an expert, or he is pretending not to be in order to make you think you know more than him to lure the greedy sucker. 

 

It basically breaks down so: 

 

1. Appraiser is no good. Gave a ballbark that is below market value. 

2. Appraiser faints being no good but knows secretly that its a lemon. "Maybe retempered" and tries to make you think you could have a bargain while knowing its worthless while covering his ass with the "Maybe" disclosure. 

 

Importantly its not ebay or some other swindler's den. This is clearly the heirs of a collector dumping an old collection on the market. That means we can be reasonably safe in assuming there is a chance it's good and will paper. 

 

Of course it's most likely a lemon but its still a signed lemon Motoshige, which is a highly rated smith, with a retempered hamon trashing its value down the drain. You can get away selling it for ~6k and recoup some losses. Now assuming it's a not a lemon the value rockets up to ~35k as a signed Motoshige bizen blade which is very likely to pass Juyo. 

 

Let's say you assume that scenario 1. has a 90% probability (the lemon) and 2. has a 10% probability (the treasure). You can get the expected value of the sword as

 

.9*6k+.1*35k =~ 9k. That should be your willingness to pay if you're buying for value not for love.  

 

Maybe I'm playing 4D-chess too much... 


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#5 Valric

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Posted 01 August 2017 - 08:33 PM

Ok there was a key piece of data missing from my analysis.  

 

A very bad sign is that it was sold to a foreigner by a Japanese dealer at some point, and not taken a WW2 spoil. Which means the Japanese dealer has just decided to dump his trash on a naive buyer. Which is perfectly compatible with the re-tempered blade theory as it would make very little difference for the general arms collector who would certainly think he was getting a "deal". 

 

The same "deal" I think I've spotted. And "deal" moving around, we've heard that story a few times...   

 

Trash is near 95% now. 

 

Expected value dropped to ~7.5k

 

Why do you guys think? Any other piece of data I've missed assuming we proceed blindly and without high resolution pictures to appraise the yakinaoshi? I have no chance at translating the sayagaki but I assume that's another clue. Perhaps there is a mention of the condition.

 

Then there is course yakinaoshi executed by a master and amateurish quench in backyard pool. Given that the owner preserved the signature, he cared for its maker. Maybe there is a slim chance it was re-tempered during the Edo period by a qualified smith, and in this case it the trash hypothesis takes a bump in value. Furthermore the auction description states "boshi and hamon are typical of his work" - that means if it was re-tempered, it was done respectfully. That, or we're back to expert hypothesis number 1. 


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#6 NihontoCollector

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Posted 01 August 2017 - 09:10 PM

Hello Chris,

 

I do not understand your formula and it makes no sense to me ... that is how you intend to calculate your assumed price. Just take your common sense and you will be safely able to conclude it has been retempered and as such is worth well below the starting bid.I

 

 I also do not share your observation that the appraise is an amateur. Whoever apparaised this blade clearly knows enough to be dangerous meaning he wouldn't let a lost treasure slip by.


Luis


#7 Valric

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Posted 01 August 2017 - 09:11 PM

Well, it looks that pixel-by-pixel analysis of terrible picture are good enough to give credence to the re-tempering. Case close. 

 

But beyond this lemon that seemed to have potential, if you have multiple hypothesis and you know the value, but are uncertain about which is one yet you can give ballpark probabilities to each different cases, you can simply make a weighted average for the average case scenario. Of course for a single purchase it's not meaningful, but if you're say, a dealer, you can account for errors over multiple purchasing events. 

 

https://en.wikipedia.../Expected_value

 

My ballpark estimates are based on Aoijapan.net minus 30%. Maybe that's being optimistic, however. I wouldn't know how to do any better at this stage. 

 

And the retempering line(s) which hurt the eyes...  

 

zooaAOB.png

 

PS: This was clearly a "stream of consciousness" series of post with very little bullshit filtering on my part. Just outlining my thought process for other more experienced collector to see and comment on and spot the errors. 


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#8 NihontoCollector

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Posted 01 August 2017 - 09:36 PM

Hello, this makes just about as little or as much reasoning as wanting to invest in the stock market running some fancy prediction software

.

 

This sword is re-tempered or it is not. So either you believe in the one or the other and thus have to bid accordingly.

 

You hve a fully polished blade with proper description at a fraction of the supposed worth (but no papers) and a hint to having a fatal flaw. No need for any ballpark estimates. That is where the story ends. If a deal sounds to good to be true then it 100% isn't.

 

I once had bought a rusty blade at a floor auction. It was described as a Japanese Sword. Not only had it 20'' Nagsa nor was it a Shoshin Aoe Bitchu blade - but also retempered as it showed uppon personal inspection and having knocked off the rust. Bad luck.

 

So a save bid is aways 1000 - 1500 bucks as this is wha tyou will likely get for just about any Katana blade on eBay.

 

If it is a blade in Koshirae bid the value of the Koshirae.


Luis


#9 Valric

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Posted 02 August 2017 - 12:24 AM

Thank you for sharing Luis. 

 

Shopping for rust buckets is very much like buying lottery tickets. Keep scratching (polishing) until you find something. 

 

Shopping for bargain polished swords very out there in terms of knowledge you must possess.  You need to be willing to travel in order to make a principled appraisal. 

 

Interesting to observe the psychological process when an neophyte like me thinks he spotted a potential deal. First you get excited, then you put your tin foil hat, do your research and appraise rationally then let the excitement dwindle down to the cold realization that you better spend this time on something productive and use that foregone income to go boutique shopping, pay your rent and enjoy. 

 

The time spent on researching auctions online and other such occasions does not justify the time commitment if there are more pleasurable activities to do. 


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#10 Vermithrax16

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Posted 02 August 2017 - 01:16 AM

I have 5 tickets for mega Millions tonight, jackpot $303 million. 


Jeremiah L.

 

"I wonder if we're being drawn into an ambush. Ultimately, it doesn't matter. We have to do this. We've already bought tickets for the last dance. And it's going to be a real gala event."  - Robopocalypse 

#11 NihontoCollector

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Posted 02 August 2017 - 07:51 AM


 

The time spent on researching auctions online and other such occasions does not justify the time commitment if there are more pleasurable activities to do. 

Well that is actually what many conider the fun part. Like the research that goes before a treasure hunt.

 

 

 

Rusty blades may either tell you - hey I was not worthy of polishing so here I am ... and a polished blade may tell you I was wortyh of polishing. Still seeing polished blades without paper work shoudl ring a bell at times. Atleast in the USA where you have teh NTHK Shinsa available on many occasions. Blades coming out of Japan without or no papers are bogus in 99% of the case.


Luis


#12 Ken-Hawaii

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Posted 03 August 2017 - 09:01 AM

Well, the same blade is being sold, or was sold, via https://jamesdjulia.com/item/3578-400/if that makes any difference.

 

Ken

 



#13 Darcy

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Posted 03 August 2017 - 01:23 PM

Its shoshin by my books.

 

and

 

How do you even gamble in these actions

 

Do not compute.

 

What criteria covers "by your books?"

 

I am not aware of any accepted example of this smith's work that ends in "Saku." There are three Motoshige smiths. The Shodai, the Nidai, and Ko-Motoshige. None of them sign like this by anything I can see. 

 

Plus it's 65cm now and is a mite bit dainty for a Nanbokucho maker plus suriage. Not impossible.

 

Famous sword judges of old always said: "If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it is probably not a platypus, though the bill might fool people who want to believe they found an unusual and rare animal."


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#14 Darcy

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Posted 03 August 2017 - 01:32 PM

Interesting to observe the psychological process when an neophyte like me thinks he spotted a potential deal. First you get excited, then you put your tin foil hat, do your research and appraise rationally then let the excitement dwindle down to the cold realization that you better spend this time on something productive and use that foregone income to go boutique shopping, pay your rent and enjoy.

 

You should worry less about the lottery aspect of treasure hunting, and spend that time reading and improving your knowledge.

 

Money spent buying rust buckets that turn out to be Ganmaku and Shimada is better spent on a plane ticket to Tokyo and a few days going around to see what great swords look like.

 

All of this for two reasons:

 

1. what you're doing is not teaching you very much about swords 

 

2. if you really want to treasure hunt, it helps if you can know the difference between gold and brass, and to learn that you need to start somewhere on the education side, so you can return to the lottery later on with better success rates if you focus on learning first

 

As well, everything you are looking at, dozens of eyes better studied than yours have looked at and rejected already. When you play this game you are not playing the lottery, you are playing poker. And you are the beginner at the table and those other guys who looked and passed silently are the ones playing against you.

 

It's not to say close your eyes and don't look at these things and think about them, it's saying don't focus on them. Anything online gets a lot of eyeballs. If you luck into something it will drop into your lap. There are some ways you can increase those odds but you're not going to find a lost treasure on trocadero or on a medium sized auction house selling something.

 

Those people are not, what's the technical term.... "xxxxing idiots." 

 

They do their homework before they set loose speculative treasures. 

 

They too know about antiques roadshow and the various pawn shop shows where people have treasures and get experts to sort it out for them. 

 

Everything you think is an undiscovered mystery is: to you. Someone else already chased that story down to a pit full of alligators.

 

Now they're going to keep the answer secret and put it on the market and let the next bargain hunter / treasure hunter be lead around by his greed, and right into the pit of alligators.

 

My advice is this:

 

Focus on the information in where you are an expert and do well at your job and make a lot of money. Use that money to buy books and to go to shows and museums and see and handle good swords and associated items. After a couple of years of looking at good things, buy yourself a high quality blade that has been vetted and authenticated and polished by someone talented. With one good reference example in your hands of good work, open your focus to finding the "treasure" for free.


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#15 Darcy

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Posted 03 August 2017 - 01:46 PM

Wouldn't you argue that if the seller lacks knowledge, you are more likely to make a deal? It's a case of both Information asymmetry (you can't see the good) and knowledge asymmetry (maybe you know more than the seller, more often its the other way around). I would argue that you want to close the information asymmetry gap as much as possible (e.g. see the sword, request detailed pictures, etc) in order for you to weaponize knowledge asymmetry.

 

 

He has generalist expertise in the field of selling collectibles to collectors. That knowledge applies to all domains: he knows the vast majority of things are mediocre, a large number of things are fake, and a small number of things are undiscovered treasures. He's not an idiot, just may not have domain experience with swords.

 

If you think you are a lot smarter than him, from his point of view, excellent.

 

https://youtu.be/mHgv4McMJUk?t=30


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#16 Prewar70

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Posted 03 August 2017 - 09:01 PM

Darcy I really appreciate your input on this and so many other aspects of nihonto that you share your experience. I find your approach and way of communicating easy to follow and it makes sense to me, especially for someone as inexperienced as myself. This thread along with many others reminds me that there is no free lunch out there.

James Friedrichs


#17 Valric

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Posted 03 August 2017 - 09:50 PM

Indeed, always enjoyable to read your posts. Thank you for posting so often down here and sharing your experience. 

 

"By my books" referred to a search on the nihonto signature repository. Coupled with the intuition that inlaid signatures are less likely to be fake - the latter is probably not the case even, in retrospect.   

 

Back to books and grinding cash in what I'm good at. 

 

-Chris  


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#18 Darcy

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Posted 05 August 2017 - 03:36 AM

"By my books" referred to a search on the nihonto signature repository.

 

50 years and three generations and not sure how much online archives cover the signatures. But the main problem is that you came to a conclusion from whatever you were looking at of Sho-shin. 

 

But Fujishiro doesn't document him having SAKU in the mei. Nor does any papered example that is Juyo, Tokuju, Jubi, or Juyo Bunkazai. 

 

This isn't meant as criticism, this is meant as something that will save you tens of thousands of dollars if you remember and learn from it. We need enthusiastic guys to not blow themselves up on fake stuff early then depart. Usually people who blow themselves up on bad stuff depart because it's hard to face the reality of their decision making and it's easier to blame the entire hobby as being corrupt. The reality of it is that all art, antique and collectible fields have predators and also they are prone to differing expert opinions.

 

Predators will take advantage of you on known bad stuff. Other experts can respectfully disagree, one saying this is no good, another saying it is good and you end up trapped in the middle. If you want to emotionally take the case of one expert always trumps the other then it's a fight to the death. Whereas you should probably listen to individual arguments and side with the guy who has the best argument on a case by case basis (i.e. if you see a parallel to politics here, yes there is one).

 

Anyway back to the Motoshige, what you need to do on a signature is first at least read it. In this case it reads out with the SAKU on the end and then you check Fujishiro and see if Motoshige signed with SAKU according to him (answer: no). 

 

Next search Nihontoclub and see if you can match the signature:

 

https://nihontoclub....s&mei=motoshige

 

Answer: no.

 

Before we've even gotten to checking the mei, it's ruled out because we're being forced to choose between zero examples ever being seen in the history of Japanese books (which these other sources have accumulated) vs. this example being a super rare real thing. Occam's razor applies.

 

If you want to then be extra careful you check all modern examples to see just in case if something popped up that wasn't historically known and the answer again is no (i.e. what I did, looked at all the books, for which you need the books).

 

From there you now basically have zero reason to believe this thing. That you didn't end up here means that you need to look at and modify your methodology.

 

Now we can look at the strokes of the mei. 

 

Without even going to the books I can tell you that Ko-Motoshige signed in two characters and is an Aoe smith, and this isn't him because it's not two characters. Also his mei is kind of funky looking. 

 

And then I can tell you Nidai Motoshige he signed in small characters so this is no good again on those grounds. 

 

Nidai Motoshige also has a clear preference for signing in the shinogi-ji and if a nakago has a shinogi and the mei is not in it, then it's questionable. Because this is orikaeshi it is hard to know where the mei was, as you'd need to unwrap it. It looks to me like it is too big to fit in the shinogi-ji though. 

 

So it leaves it possibly as a Kamakura period Shodai Motoshige work. 

 

 

 

the intuition that inlaid signatures are less likely to be fake

 

As soon as one single person has that intuition, a faker will make a fake mei on a sword just before shortening it and then will make orikaeshimei from his fakery. 

 

Your assumptions and your greed are weaponized by fakers. You need to as a result get rid of assumptions that are not based on reasonable arguments. It will be less likely that a maker will go to the work of making an orikaeshimei fake because he could fake another mei or pull this off with less work.

 

However, if the work was just faked a long time ago and then someone later on honestly preserved it, this is what you get from that.

 

So there is no reasonable/rational argument that says orikaeshi means it's less likely to be fake. All it means is that it happened earlier in time to the shortening. 10 minutes, 10 years or 100 years, you be the judge. Anyway as such you need to ditch that assumption and just go on the basics.

 

Note again that in the modern period with power tools the work needed to do an orikaeshi is a lot less than it is in the Edo period. So if you wanted to take advantage of someone and shift the mei back in time, you would do this in the 1900s some time with a few hours of effort on an obviously gimei Motoshige that you found. 

 

Now you have done two things:

 

1. they made the gimei look a lot older by implying that the orikaeshi is old, and so the viewer shifts the time period of the signature back enough that it seems legitimate

 

2. they give the impression that someone cared about this signature so much in the Edo period that they preserved it. As the phantom menace reviews say, "You may not have noticed it, but your brain did." This causes you to abandon some of your own rational processing by embracing the perception of someone else's opinion in its place. i.e. you punt.

 

 

While he is waving some scarf around in your face, the street magician is undoing your watch with the off hand. This is why you don't let yourself get too distracted by some of these other things, if the primary stuff is not adding up. 

 

Now we can look at the characters and compare to a known good example of 1st generation Osafune Motoshige. 

 

Bear in mind, this thing has to do a LOT of convincing because it's not even a documented signature style. Nidai is absolutely ruled out as it doesn't match the size, style or placement of the characters, Ko-Motoshige is ruled out on the same grounds. We just need to see if this is Shodai Motoshige. 

 

motoshige.jpg

 

Now look first at the Shige 重 character in the two good mei.

 

The two good examples, this feels wide and fat. Chogi's mei is like this too, the same impression. The candidate feels square and normal. 

 

Look at the Moto 元 character. The left bottom leg terminates halfway down in the candidate. That looks more like Kanemoto's signature. Also note that the right leg, the L bend in it is angular in the two good examples. In the candidate it is rounded. 

 

There are no grounds for accepting this signature at all, unless you want to accept:

 

1. using an undocumented mei by characters

2. doing the characters differently

 

And if you want to accept both of those then basically I could sign this with my own name and we can say it's Motoshige as well by those rules. 

 

Since we can't see the other half of the signature, we should assume the worst on it. 

 

The flip side of this is that as long as the blade is a koto blade you can wipe the signature and maybe it papers to someone good (maybe even Motoshige!) 

 

So that's the analysis route that you'd need to go if you want to believe in one of these. That's why I drew attention to "your books" as I didn't see where any references could end up with the assumption that this signature was ok.

 

Start by assuming it's fake and force it to convince you.

 

If you bid on it, as long as you do so with the assumption that the mei is fake, it's ok. If you think the rest of the work is good and you don't spend more than on a mumei speculative piece.

 

I did this on a daisho and the tanto ended up being a lot better than the mei and the katana ended up being a lot worse, and it kind of washed out for me. If I did more research beforehand maybe I wouldn't have bid on it.

 

 

 


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#19 benatthelake

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Posted 05 August 2017 - 05:51 AM


 

I did this on a daisho and the tanto ended up being a lot better than the mei and the katana ended up being a lot worse, and it kind of washed out for me. If I did more research beforehand maybe I wouldn't have bid on it.

 

 

 

Who here wants to hear this story too?  I'm raising my hand!  Can't get these learnings from books folks...

Ben
 



#20 Darcy

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Posted 05 August 2017 - 07:49 AM

I posted that story a couple of times on the NMB. 

 

NMB actually identified the katana for me (Reinhard I believe). Search through my post history for Masamune.


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#21 Darcy

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Posted 05 August 2017 - 07:51 AM

BTW one other note, when you start, Japanese looks like Japanese. My Japanese is not perfect, I can read and write what I need to but I cannot go into in depth technical discussions in Japanese. 

 

At some point when you look at characters when you start you say this is the same as that. The more sophisticated you get then at a glance they don't look the same just because they are the same character anymore. You start seeing the handwriting. Same character that is in your handwriting and makes it yours. So keep looking and reading the mei and training. I know for me as well stuff I look at and think is the same, a real Japanese expert judge may see night and day difference.


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