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What do you get for your money?

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Papered V's non-papered. Just what do you pay for? These two examples are selling right now, the disparity in price is a joke. That little yellow piece of paper must really be worth something because the objects themselves don't reflect the value for money. 

 

https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Tosano-Kunijumyo-Chinkin-Toshio-Late-Edo-period-Certificate-attached/392858980313?hash=item5b78384fd9:g:B20AAOSwr5Fe~Twf

 

https://www.jauce.com/auction/o404593427

 

I am thinking of buying the cheaper piece, it looks like the real thing - and I can always supply my own coloured paper.

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So, condition isn't important to you? I agree that the price difference is ludicrous, but why would you want a tsuba in such awful condition?

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I think generally this topic here by the OP illustrates the dichotomy between an impulse buyer and a real collector. If one saves, and saves and is patient they will then have the funds to purchase what is deemed as collection worthy items. The impulse buyer (accumulator) will use this type of rationale to justify the bad purchase, they will also use the same rationale when selling the bad purchase on "i didn't lose much" argument. This subject is a great illustration of where one should place priorities for their collection. Money is a good thing to accumulate vs junk.

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Ken 

Condition is important to me, a freshly minted piece with no history of actual use, is not! Give me something that a warrior used, over a pretty piece kept in a draw for a hundred years, any day. There has always been two types of guard on offer, side by side through history - the ones used by the men who did the fighting and the ones used by the men who profited from it. Forgive me if I prefer the the former.

 

However the real question remains what are you paying for? The answer seems to be the piece of paper, as many a papered example can also show corrosion and age related degradation. We all also know that on occasion the paper attribution would be better used to wrap fish and chips because even God gets it wrong sometimes.

 

Shinken

Money is the problem - not the solution, I seem to remember the human race did quiet well with out it for five million years - give or take an eon.

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To me, there is no argument that the condition to one is better than the other. The difference in condition between the two vs the difference in price is maybe 100 times out. Why? Some scratchings of a signature? or that a piece of paper is included?

If it is condition alone you are either getting severely ripped off or getting an absolute bargain. There is no middle ground here. None. This, im sure the op is likely alluding to.

Money is a good thing to accumulate vs junk, and lets be honest to the way non collectors see it, we are collecting antique scrap metal, is saving a bit of money (in turn, saving some of our accumulation) and not getting a perfect condition piece with a sheet of paper so bad?

No disrespect intended, but I have been struggling with understanding the elitism of Nihonto for years.

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Not the price difference, just the price of the first tsuba is ludicrous, and that has nothing to do with papers. Other than that, Ken and  Guyan hit the nail on the hat.

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Just look at the other items of the eBay seller. Clearly not a specialist, he/she is just shooting a crazy price in the hope of finding a sucker.

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Dale,

 

First off, this probably isn't the best example of what your are getting at.  The ebay piece is clearly listed at a ludicrous price for what it is (as an aside, there's a lot of items out of Japan listed for ludicrous prices on fleabay - and often they are reselling items with (sometimes much) lower buy-it-now prices that are currently listed on Yahoo! Japan).

 

I personally get the "worn" aesthetic/have several pieces like that which have been used and used:

post-204-0-11594000-1593878268_thumb.jpgpost-204-0-29972500-1593878307_thumb.jpgpost-204-0-57553300-1593878640_thumb.jpg

The problem with the YJ piece you have listed the link to is that it really isn't an example of a "worn" tsuba.  While the piece has obviously been used, its more like a tsuba that's been damaged by neglect - if you're collecting akasaka you probably don't want a piece like this as a pinnacle piece in your collection - they really can't be fixed very well (the surfaces are "supposed to be smooth-ish", and if you fuss/bone it, etc, you'll still have a poxed-er, tsuchime surface), and there is so much Akasaka material out there that the piece doesn't seem to me to be in the "its a miracle it exists at all, so a bit of corrosion, loss, etc - eh, its OK" category (which is also quite subjective - again, one man's trash...). 

Although the overall quality of what's showing up has been declining for a while, the chance to buy unpapered (or mis-papered) items is one of the big attractions on YJ, but you kind have got to have studied a lot of "good" examples in hand to know what to get/not get (and even then its a gamble, but I digress).  Once you've seen the "best in existence", its a lot easier to get a feeling for how far down from that ideal you are willing to go/can live with in your collection.

The scary thing about papers is that they are only an opinion, and opinions change/can be "wrong", etc. not a big deal in a lot of cases, but you're gonna be crying in your beer if you pay the big bux for say, something "papered" to Goto Yujo that gets reclassified as a copy later...

 

On the other hand, if you're just buying it to study for a while or just because it "talks to you", I get that too - I buy a surprising number of pieces with the intent to just use them for photo testing or to just study some aspect of and then move along (I love Curran's term for this - "catch and release", and I've actually got a big stack of tsuba sitting next to me in the office here that are ready to be deaccessioned, but I digress again).  I also have a lot of "cheep and cheerful" tsuba - pieces that will never sell for much because they are far down from the "ideal" but I like 'em or they grew on me (see the head bag tsuba above or these:

post-204-0-75694000-1593881817_thumb.jpgpost-204-0-06625000-1593881836_thumb.jpg
 

)

 

D*mn, its bad to have a morning off - I think I got too preachy.  My apologies...

 

Best,

rkg

(Richard George)
 

 

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RKG

 

Love the Saotome. Really nice. Of course Saotome are my favorite anyway.

 

As for papered or not,etc. My philosophy has always been:

Collect what you like, but like what you collect.

 

I figure my estate will get maybe 20% of my cost, but that is their problem/concern, not mine.

I enjoy my low to mid grade tsuba, maybe 100, 4 papered when I got them.

 

Rich

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Rich,

 

The saotome is actually covered with that sukiurushi stuff and the coating is in surprisingly good condition/old - at the risk of threadjacking, here's a link to more images of that piece on FB:

 

https://www.facebook.com/pg/Kod%C3%B4gu-no-Sekai-%E5%B0%8F%E9%81%93%E5%85%B7%E3%81%AE%E4%B8%96%E7%95%8C-266005023454853/photos/?tab=album&album_id=2496660033722663

 

D*mn straight on your comments, though its still a good idea to go try and see the best examples of what you're interested in first - That way you make an informed decision to either spend the big bux for a top end piece or know you're paying less because the piece isn't (Its a bad feeling when you buy what you think/are told is a really good piece only to blindsided later when you learn more).  Or you -know- you're getting a deal :-)

There's a lot to be said for mid grade tsuba - I love Rich Turner's term "cheep and cheerful" for these - there are hordes of examples of pieces from most schools that are charming, but will never sell for much because of some condition issue, it was made by "tsubako Bob" rather than the founder of the school, is a later work or an utushi, is unsigned (another can of worms though), etc.

 

rkg

(Richard George)

 

RKG

 

Love the Saotome. Really nice. Of course Saotome are my favorite anyway.

 

As for papered or not,etc. My philosophy has always been:

Collect what you like, but like what you collect.

 

I figure my estate will get maybe 20% of my cost, but that is their problem/concern, not mine.

I enjoy my low to mid grade tsuba, maybe 100, 4 papered when I got them.

 

Rich

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RKG

 

I've seen many top flight tsuba ( don't have any). I never spend big bucks on anything (except the wife). ;-)

rich

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As people have already said there are several sellers from Japan listing items at truly astronomical prices. Some of which is pretty mediocre stuff or covered in verdigris and wear of gilt.

I was looking at something last night at around £7000. I was taken aback by the cost of this sellers items.

Still you don't have to buy I guess.

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Richard George & Rich S.

I think there should be an old, tired tsuba orphanage set up for retired Tosogu - people could donate their neglected pieces and visit on weekends. :)

I have always thought that even the destroyed, by incompetent past owners, have lessons to learn from - 

 

This thread was started to show the disparity in pricing, my threat to purchase the cheaper version was not entirely serious [i don't like the design at all]. I have noticed since the Covid outbreak that prices are on the move upward at an accelerated rate, is this just profiteering or increase demand because people are stuck at home with less to do? 

I have followed some of the Japanese auction sites for about ten years now and I can say that some items have been listed for that length of time! The prices were ludicrous at the time and remain ludicrous now, how can a dealer be so silly to not know their price will never be met? Is it a case of 'I paid this much for it, so it must be worth more now'? - As custodians of these things we don't really 'own' them we are hiring them for a time and selling on the lease to the next custodian.

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I think that asking a lot of people in this matter is not good idea, because each one is one kind of collector.

There are collectors that search in the art market pieces that could increase the value, so they can sell again to earn money or just to have money to buy a better piece.

 

Also there is romantic collectors that only search the patina of history, in the case of nihontō and tōsōgu, the ones used by Samurái un duels or battlefield.

 

Also there is collectors that just like the pieces as any other art work. So they just search for quality and aesthetically taste.

 

Of course there are many mixes between all this 3 kinds of collectors, but for example, I think you're type 2 and I'm type 3, so my suggest will be not valid for you.

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Dale,

 

Rest home for tired tsuba = Ebay + Yahoo!Japan, and then on to tsuba foster care... :-)

 

Good to know that piece wasn't actually on your 'gotta have it' list :-)

 

But seriously, I believe you are correct - you can usually learn -something- from even the most common/rotted out/butchered/doctored tsuba (even if its only that).  I personally usually try to at least look at pieces that are in the "hurt your eyes" category because of this (plus its an exercise to try and observe what's "right" about a piece because over the years I've had to photograph a surprising number of pieces that are er, not what the Japanese would collect - its often interesting what's important to a particular owner/what you can see if you look hard enough.  The downside of that is that I now have to include 360 image sets of anything I sell because you get kind of hardwired to see/reveal/image what's right about a given piece, but I digress).

 

I think you are right about the pricing - pieces with crazy prices aside, I personally feel this is because there are a lot fewer "diamonds in the rough" coming out/being up for auction, and anything desirable is now usually getting bid up higher than it used to.  The agent I use used to keep everything you put on a watchlist with a small thumbnail/final price around forever, and you could watch this trend.  Add that to people stuck at home often with money and hope, and its a fertile ground for crazy auction results (look at the effect the "idle day trader wannabes" are having on the markets (the price history of Hertz after they went BK is a case study for this)).  There for a while I think there were more pieces coming out of the woodwork than could be snapped up by the Dealer Industrial complex - not true anymore, so you see more crazy priced pieces...

 

On the dealers that have had pieces up forever at crazy prices - I used to marvel at this, since inventory turns are the way you make money - sitting on something for 10 years is usually not a good business model.  But a pal pointed out that most of these items are on consignment and the light bulb went on - its no skin off the dealer's nose to let it sit (all it takes is a little shelf space  and megabyte or three on their website) - if they get the crazy price, great - if not, the item kept people looking longer in their shop/website, which improves the odds of them finding/buying something else)  A corollary to that is the observation that people don't like to lose money - I know a surprising number of people who have pieces they don't want anymore that were bought before the sword/tosogu bear market (or they got rooked by a dealer on, or bought sight unseen (read: off of ebay/yahoo!Japan) that had problems, or....) that would (now) bring less than they paid - and they just can't bring themselves to deaccession the piece(s) for the current market price.  And so yeah, -somebody-  saying "'I paid this much for it, so it must be worth more now" is a big cause of this.

 

Best,

rkg

(Richard George)

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A couple of Albert Yamanaka words of wisdom; "The less a collector knows about swords, the more he wants swords with a big name", and "The limits of a dealer's scruples are in direct proportion to the collectors cupidity".

Applies to fittings as well.

  Just saying

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Richard G. 

That notion of consignment pieces makes sense, as does the 'get them in the door so they can look around' - 'No one likes to lose money' is a a very funny human concept, [having Aspergers, I can sometimes put myself out of that group] The accumulation of money is meaningless when it's purpose is to spend on what you need. What people really mean is they want to have more than they can spend. The free trade economy. [That is what keeps a small group (and getting smaller) at the top and a large group (and getting larger) at the bottom,]  :(

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The healthy thing to do is to prune one's collection to move up, and get better pieces with the money that is liberated.

 

It just doesn't make sense to me to accumulate 100 Shoami ironwork, when for the same amount invested one could have a representative collection of tosogu,

 

For example: 

  • One great and tasteful Higo piece
  • One great old and dignified classic Goto
  • One great piece of later machibori

The later is the more desirable collection, and sits about at the same level financially, and is more likely to accrue value over time. It also goes to show the great currents of Japanese aestethics, from the austere inspired by bouddhism, to the formal and noble Goto, to the later lavish works and creative explosion heralded by Somin, etc.  

 

If one really wants to buy old iron, then rather than going through the various online sites and paying the foreigner tax, the better path is to go to Japan and arrange purchases by the kilo. These things aren't rare, even if we have the illusion that they are here in the west. I mean they're used as paper-weights...

 

I like the idea of pieces having a story, having been cherished by a family, and so on. This is important to me also, and it isn't uncommon for a Goto set to say, come with a honami origami estimating its value, adding provenance to the piece, and squaring it as a desirable piece of art back then just as it is now. Continuity of desirability is important, and shows that there remain universals in taste and appreciation of fine artistry and craftsmanship. We should aspire to be continuity of this tradition of appreciation.

 

It's a hobby with eight hundred years of collectors behind us. That counts. 

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