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U.k Auction Might Be Of Interest From Dolphyn Collection

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If you want to treat yourself to a pre Xmas present,there are so nice treats from the Dolphyn Collection coming up at this auction in the way of Katan's,Tanto's,fittings,armour ect.My piggy bank is in rehab at moment do to overwork.


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Nice items but have not been very successful at auctions for quite a while...Between the normally unrealistic estimates and commission rates ( 24% at this one ) coupled with another 3% if you use the saleroom...! Maybe I'm doing something wrong ?



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  • 2 weeks later...

The Tadayoshi looked gimei to me, and specifically one intended to passed off as a shodai.


Items sold cheap on this auction and I was possibly also to cheap in my bidding. Some very nice items especially teh Koshirae very good. I was tempted about the Tadayoshi. Might have been a good blade. What are your oppinions on it?

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I agree that prices did not go very high.  But as has been mentioned, the overall quality was not mind blowing, so you would not expect the bids to go through the roof.


I picked up two pieces:

Lot 817: Yamashiro no Kami Fujiwara Kunikiyo wakizashi, one of the few blades in the selection of which I was 99% sure that it is not gimei.

Lot 819: I bought this one because I like the koshirae very much, the blade however looks more like a steel tsunagi :-).


I am quite happy that I was able to buy two pieces.  For me there's an emotional side to it because I have known Willem Dolphyn personally, he has been the president of the Belgian Token Club for many years.  I remember visiting him in his house in Antwerp some 10 years ago.  He had a room completely devoted to his Japanese collection: swords, koshirae, armour, helmets, you name it.  I stayed there for a complete sunday afternoon and it was a wonderful experience.


Some of the best pieces from the collection were already auctioned at Christies in december 2016.  The remaining better quality pieces will be sold at Christies this coming december.  For example, I know there will be a Miike daito (however unpapered), a Yokoyama Sukesada daisho, and a Rai Kinmichi daisho to name a few.





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Usually, they don't, Jeremiah. There's a huge auction (1200+ items) from a friend who died here in Hawaii closing in about 4 hours (no Nihonto, but lots of everything else), but with a 30% commission, I didn't even sign up. Auctioneers seem to print their own money!



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Hi All,


The Goji Mei Tadayoshi was a steal...... It is either 1st Gen (as per the sayagaki) , or 3rd gen who did some rare goji-mei signatures around the 1670's, or of course gimei.  The clear and bright nioguchi maybe a giveaway that it is a good sword --- ? Dont know about flaws in the blade but the photos showed a few faint blemishes along the hamon --- spider rust that had been cleaned up maybe/cutting dings? Hizen boshi in good shape, but the photo details were insufficient to see the kissaki (my guess is .5mm missing if it had been handled a lot).   Nice habaki and shirasaya with buffalo horn, and sayagaki.  It is said that 3rd Gen goji mei works are so similar to the 1st gen that they have often been mistaken for the Shodai.  The 1670's period for 3rd gen Goji Mei also ties in with the 1677 gold inscription saying the sword was the personal property of Hachiro Tomotsugu. He was an early Edo sword tester --- how many fake gold inlaid ownership inscriptions do you see saying a sword tester owned the sword? I have yet to see a fake gold cutting test that doesnt look awful ** . If you google Maejima Hachiro Tomotsugu you can find some swords bearing his test inscriptions. Sayagaki yet to be fully translated - but it says "Shodai Goji Mei", 2 shaku 4 sun etc. There is no downside even if it is gime!


There were some really 'cheap' items that sold ...Some muromachi pieces in there that went for a song if I recall correctly... !



Armours were "OK" . I particularly liked the boar fur quiver as well.... Hawleys' book of Mon show Nagai?, Shinjo in Yamato (Daimyo). ... would love to get a tiger fur quiver but being a protected species not sure on the legality these days.


The Dutch steel (Orando Tetsu)  Hizen Yukihiro was, I thought, overpriced for a wakizashi -- I guess it just takes two to bang up the prices.


A very undersubscribed auction ... just what we are all looking for!


** I have a Hizen Shodai Tadakuni with a Hisahide cutting test - the 2000 NBTHK Hozon papers show no gold inlay (picked out by some unscrupulous bored GI on the Tokyo docks in 1945?). The inscription now has the gold put back in ---- done by the Japanese dealer before I bought it ---- and I have to say it is quite fuzzy around the edges and fairly easy to spot something is wrong. So my thinking is, it is pretty hard to fake a good looking gold inscription ...I  maybe wrong ??





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Nice you could aquire some of his pieces Wim.......... We all worry our toys will find good homes when we pass, so I am sure Mr Dolphyn is happy you got a couple of niece pieces.


I recall visiting the nephew of Lord Montgomery of El Almein fame --- Gary Montgomery --- some 20 years ago in Canada. He was dying of cancer, and was selling his collection of Japanese tsuba and swords before he passed. I am happy to have some of his pieces, and named a beautiful Tadahiro from his collection after him.... Koshirae is in matching Jakushi dragons. Its one of the few swords I use white gloves on!!



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Hi Ray,


It is all a gamble these days --- Even Shinsa is a gamble --- "Horyu" seems to be high on my efforts these days..........I digress....


I have seen some really great looking signatures that turned out gimei, and vice versa. The ONLY thing I saw in this blade that was dubious was the possibly sloping yeasurime --- but there are no really definitive images to go on (even the condition report photos were not good enough to see the yasurime properly).... so not 100% sure.... I rarley am.   If there was an easy way of posting images here I can post this goji mei alongside a papered 3rd gen goji mei, and they are pretty similar. Might have a go if there is enough interest.


There are three vertical small strokes in the top right of the Hi kanji of HIZEN on this sword. Only two generations did this --- 1st & 3rd (and or course gimei). We are all familiar with the diamond in the 'hiro' kanji in Shodai TadaHIRO work, but perhaps not the 3 vertical strokes in his Tadayoshi mei.


So the upside is potentially good. Not often a sword comes along with 2 out 3 chance of being one or other of the top Edo smiths...........of course the 1 in 3 downside risks means bid/pay accordingly. If it had recent NBTHK papers it would have been 20,000 GBP, so 2,400 GBP isn't a bad risk I think considering the gold inscrition. If you go with the gold inscription being genuine, then Tomotsugu thought it was genuine for sure! If you go with gimei, it is still a pretty good example with a gold inscription.


Like I said, for the low price it sold for there was no real downside, and the photos were not good enough to make a definitive call  (if there is such a thing). Can't help feeling there are a lot of swords going dirt cheap out there because they aren't papered, and we are worried they might not be genuine ...... so we don't bid.


I have a few gimei Tadayoshi in my collection, and I must say, they are still nice swords and certainly unique pieces... anyone reading this and want to buy a couple let me know privatley :laughing: 



I think we have been through a similar discussion before ...... I have mainly gone across to armour these days, and I must say it is refeshing that the armour world does not concern itself overly with gimei --- you look at the quality and the art in the piece, and admire the workmanship....no one seems to care that much about signatures.  And armour is still cheap considering the amount of work involved in producing a nice suite.   Don't worry, all you devoted heathen sword collectors out there, one day you may be lucky enough to progress up the ladder to collecting armour  ... haha.



Rog (the gimei collector !!)

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Posting pics really couldn't be easier. Unless they are billboard size, just select and upload. Give it a try..would like to see the examples.
Glad to hear you are moving away from swords. Now I can buy my naginata back :laughing: :laughing: :laughing:
Your gut instinct on Hizen-to counts for a lot, so I am happy to give it more than an average chance.

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Not sure I follow the logic. 


Even assuming there were no red flags in the 'Tadayoshi' after visual inspection of the (bad) quality images - the fact that it was discarded into a second-tier auction house by the appraising experts should be enough to pretty much guarantee gimei. Dolphyn certainly knew, the Christie appraisers knew. Christies wouldn't turn down a 25% hammer fee on a 20K+ piece. Nor did they think the piece was convincing enough to attract the deep-pocketed gamblers. 


This is very similar to what I've been observing on the other action. Gambles get a premium. The 'upside argument' I don't understand. What's irrational to me is that you if you gamble ten times you're in the market for a shoshin Tadaoyshi which will hold value. And you've got far less than 10% odds for these gambles to reveal a 'gem' given that it's been scrutinized by pretty much everyone in the know so you're not going to break even. It may seem cheap put after a couple of 'cheap' purchases it's no longer cheap. 


Maybe I'm wrong and I'm missing something here. 

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All good points of course (other than the assumption that Christies etc have experts working for them who are capable of discerning such things ) ....... it could well be gimei.... but if so I think it was  pretty good. And for that price, I would not be too upset even if it was.


My logic (rightly or wrongly) is there are some pretty fine variations in all the goji mei signatures, You can't just take one example of a gojimei and compare it to this signature and come up with gimei or shoshin. ONLY two of the 7 generations that signed goji-mei used the thee strokes in the upper right, so whoever did this was either the real deal (1st or 3rd) or it was a really good gimei aimed specifically at one of those two. Add the gold ownership (which I do not see as being gimei) and the odds are stacking in your favour. Yes I agree 1 in 10 odds, after 10 swords you would be out of pocket, but not at 2/3 .......at 2/3 for 10 swords and you would be way on top!  I didnt do well at maths at school by the way.....  I just see some pointers that lend themselves towards genuine and away from the run of the mill gimei. 


Dam tricky with goji-mei ....!


Anyway, here are a set of images to look at --- yes you can pull each one apart, but without putting up a whole heap for comparison, I think the Mallams example stands up pretty well.  Yes, could well be one of those really good gimei ...... all opinion gents!



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You'd need more examples to compare with, it's important to know what's 'normal' variation in mei from what isn't. Third and fouth character look off to me, but it could be part of the smith's natural variation... 


Something I've been thinking about lately is the source of the lottery ticket. You can't just compare the work from the picture, you need to account for the context in which it was sold. Say you have four different contexts. You judge (based on your expertise of Hizen blades, gold inscription, and so forth) that's it's 2/3 chance of being shoshin all else being equal. The images are of insufficient quality to fully judge the workmanship but that's all you have. The blade has no papers. Prices are the same across context.   

  • First blade is from 'REALjapanArt' seller on Ebay 
  • Second blade is on Christie from a big western collector's estate
  • Third blade is garage sale in western oregon from a widow's estate 
  • Fourth blade you glimpse at in a private Japanese dealer circle to be auctioned off.  

Knowing the context of the sale, which one would you pull the trigger on, and why? Probably I'm drifting off topic and this would merit a post of its own... 

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