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Pet Dragon Solves Faux Roman Numeral Mystery!


Bruce Pennington
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A while back, I discovered what seemed to be Roman Numerals on the edge of a habaki on my kaigunto with a Shinto blade. The "XXX I" matched the "31" on the seppa. But later, someone showed up with a similar habaki marked with "I I I I", and we all know that "IV" is Roman for 4. (BTW, if the guy with this habaki reads this PLEASE let me know, I'd love to post the pics!)

 

So, a bit of mystery. UNTIL NOW! Dave (Pet Dragon) has recently posted a Type 94 with fittings, and nakago marked with "/II IIII" and "74" on the seppa. The latch had "七 IIII". When I showed my habaki to Dave, he realized the "/" was HALF of "X"!

 

Whoever made these fittings modified the Roman Numeral system (or just didn't know it well enough) and was marking the items with their own system.

 

I'd appreciate it if anyone else has fittings marked in this manner to post them. What I would really like to see is some company identification on the fittings that would tie this numbering system to a company.

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What I mean Bruce is that Dave already posted the link in the tread he started for the markings (see post 5), so I didn't really get why that thread wasn't just continued.

Steve, I was actually looking for even ANOTHER thread where a guy was specifically asking for help with his roman markings, but I couldn't find it, and I had missed your post on that too!

 

So, I REALLY LIKE your thread on the Parade/Dress sword and would rather leave it as is. Tacking on a discussion like this would be a "hyjack" and turn the discussion away from your investigation. I think it also makes re-finding old subjects harder when they are imbedded in threads of another topic.

 

Would you mind if I copy your pics and add them? I sort-of hate to do it, though, because from the pics you've posted it looks like your markings on the nakaga are "IIII I/" which makes our mystery complicated again!

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Ah, I see... I actually can't remember that thread that you're after, but I'll have a scan through some today and see if I can find it.

You're welcome to use any of my pictures anytime mate. I'll see if I can get one in focus on the nakago, because that wasn't a good shot at all. In fact, I'll take a whole new look at that sword and see what the markings look like.

We can consolidate all our info here, as the representative thread for these numerals!

 

EDIT:

So I had a look because this was really starting to interest me (probably just in time because I was going to sell this).

 

So from the photos attached, you can see that the end of the nakago has XIII cut into it (the other picture was just out of focus Bruce, it's hard to get a focus on a tiny area. Took me ages to take the new one). The habaki has, as does the fuchi, what is either VIII or XIII, but the second half of the strokes are a little faint (would be hard to get the file into the narrow space I suppose). Assuming that the system seems to be / representing 5, I would go with the explanation that it is hard to angle a file to make a good X in the tiny working area. The spring clip, tsuba and seppa are all marked 14. So if the theory holds, then XIII is 14, meaning that the sword blade and fittings match.

 

The saya throat and scabbard body both have /III, which I think then makes that an 8.

 

I'm glad this realisation has been made. I commented that I had found some little markings that I felt were made intentionally when I first started taking the sword apart and posting my results. It's pleasing to see that these are not the sole example, not to mention that they seem to be matching numbers for the entire sword. That adds some validity to my theory that the sword was original (though I even doubted the blade which is rather unusual and not as nicely made as Japanese craftsmanship should dictate).

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Wow Steve, how wild that they filed the number on the nakago jiri!!! And the 8 doesn't bother me since it means the gunto was assembled by the at the same place making these marks.

 

Speaking of "place" - major lead in chacing down the organization, coming from Thomas Appel Nillson at the Military Swords of Imperial Japan (Shin Gunto) on facebook! He's posted pics using the same numbering system, from 2 swords. Both are kaigunto and have the Toyokowa Navy Aresenal stamp, but differing contractor stamps on the seppa (T.E.C and a new one - Gunto Sei Saku Jo). Considering my example is also Navy, I'm starting to think that it is the Aresenal using this method as they assemble the parts to the blade. The confusing thing right now, though, is YOURS which is Army!

 

This could simply mean the practice was not isolated to a single arsenal. Hopefully more to come!

 

ps: the hash marks are hard to see on the first one, but they are there

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I’m honored that my input has possibly helped solve a mystery! My thoughts on the numbering “file marks” were as follows.


 


A numbering system with two groups of numbers.


The first group may contain the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 10.


The second group may contain the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.


Associating the file marks with the numbers as follows:


 


I = 1


II = 2


III = 3


IIII = 4


\ = 5


X = 10


 


The first group of numbers is added together and written down. If the number ends in a zero, the zero is discarded. The second group is added and written down next to the first group resulting in the final number.


 


My sword has the marking:  \II   IIII


 


               First Group         Second Group


                    \II = 7                      IIII = 4


Result     =    74


 


Steve’s sword has the marking:  X   IIII


 


               First Group         Second Group


                    X = 10                      IIII = 4


                  Drop Zero


               Result     =    14


 


Bruce’s sword has the marking:  XXX   I


 


                First Group        Second Group


                  XXX = 30                    I = 1


                  Drop Zero


               Result     =    31


 


Thomas’s sword has the marking:  XXXX   \IIII


 


               First Group           Second Group


                 XXXX = 40                   \IIII = 9


                 Drop Zero


                 Result     =    49


 


Having fun with this….  XI   \II = 117


XXXXXXXXX\IIII   \IIII  =  999


 


I only remember seeing production marks with up to three digits for these types of swords, I could be wrong on that, but if so this numbering system would stay within that boundary. Also, if there is a production mark that ended in a zero, there would be no need for a second group of numbers and the zero would be kept.


Your thoughts?

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  • 1 year later...

A while back, I discovered what seemed to be Roman Numerals on the edge of a habaki on my kaigunto with a Shinto blade. The "XXX I" matched the "31" on the seppa. But later, someone showed up with a similar habaki marked with "I I I I", and we all know that "IV" is Roman for 4. (BTW, if the guy with this habaki reads this PLEASE let me know, I'd love to post the pics!)

 

So, a bit of mystery. UNTIL NOW! Dave (Pet Dragon) has recently posted a Type 94 with fittings, and nakago marked with "/II IIII" and "74" on the seppa. The latch had "七 IIII". When I showed my habaki to Dave, he realized the "/" was HALF of "X"!

 

Whoever made these fittings modified the Roman Numeral system (or just didn't know it well enough) and was marking the items with their own system.

 

I'd appreciate it if anyone else has fittings marked in this manner to post them. What I would really like to see is some company identification on the fittings that would tie this numbering system to a company.

 

Bruce, it is a long established convention to substitute llll for lV on clock and watch dials, this lead to the interchange of the two in many other circumstances.

 

-S-

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Hi Bruce,

 

Unfortunately I don't know any more than you do, that is at this point '\ '  for 'five' appears to work....there is nothing I can site as precedent.  Future examples will prove if this is something that was in 'general' use or not, only time will tell.

 

Most interesting!

            -S-

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  • 1 year later...
  • 1 year later...

@paul griff just posted a pristine Type 94 HERE in the For Sale Forum with a tsuka marked with both the "7" and the Roman numeral "/ II".  Quite unusual to have both on the same piece.  The seppa simply have the "7".

Edit: After re-reading the thread, I saw that, in post #3, the chuso had a Japanese 7 with Roman 4.  So the mixing isn't unusual apparently.

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OK thanks. The thickness was all I was going by. And you are the pro on fittings! I noticed the chuso was in the lower position, but recalled the good discussion we all had about that.  It would support the idea that this was a Type 98 though, generally speaking (I know, I know!).

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