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Bonhams auction

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I think what Robert says stills hold true for the major auction houses. They use a common form for all art objects

Made by or by= confirmed to be by the artists hand

Attributed to-=someone says its by the named artist but not guaranteed

after= looks like  their work but by somebody else

Most of the larger auction houses have only grudgingly mentioned any form of papers believing their own expertise counts for more. Recently the only ones they have mentioned have been NBTHK.

Also at one time Christies and Sotheby's both said that their normal guarantees of authenticity did not apply to Japanese arms and armour.. This may have changed in recent years but if so I haven't heard about it.

I cant remember which London sale it was but a few years ago a whole raft of swords were catalogued and sold and it was only announced on the day that "Oh by the way these have Juyo papers". If I was the seller I think I would have been a little upset.

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My auction experience -  back in Nov 2018 I consigned 9 swords to Sotheby's  L18221 Fine Japanese Art auction.  Had sent the swords with shinsa papers around May and left it to Sotheby's " experts" to catalog.  I was in Japan when the catalog came out but did ck the online catalog and low and behold !!  

 #1 F up;  # 29  katana attrib. TAEMA  w/tokubetsu hozon paper !   Should have had JUYO paper !

 #2 F up  #31  Nagasada katana - " no " mention of paper but had tokubetsu hozon paper !  had  4 1/2" kissaki 28+"long and I could have sold it for 2-3x's what it brought.  

  #3 F up  #33  Ichijo tsuba w/tokubetsu hozon paper.  This tsuba was a super rare 50/50  shakudo & shibuichi - 1 side shakudo 1 side shibuichi - looking at the side one could see the split and the Japanese have a name/word for this but cannot recall- But this was never mentioned - just described as shakudo !  Real experts - maybe a little " vision impaired " ??  

 2 swords did not sell #28 signed /dtd katana Sadakazu and obviously #29 Taema attrib.  

 They ask if I wanted to reassign those 2 swords and NO was my answer;  (later sold by me for more than Sotheby's estimates' and both parties were well satisfied

   It cost me $2150 to get those swords back in my hands 

 1900$ Sotheby's shipping 

  250$  Sotheby's custom's broker in NY - got a email from this outfit and either I paid or the swords would not be coming !!  Never have I paid a broker for "anything" coming from abroad ! 

   If I had been feeling better I'd have jumped on a plane at O'Hare and flew over, spent a few days in London and brought the swords back myself - would have been cheaper and always have wanted to see those museums of arms and armor, etc) but just wasn't "genki" at the time.  

 Never again.  back in the 70's I did send about 15 swords to Christie's NY and they had misread about 4 sword mei's so I told them to send them back - cost me 60$ to ship them to NY and they wanted almost $500 to send them back - drove to NY and picked them up - should have learned my lesson at that time but fast forward about 40yrs or more and having had 2 "experts" (Mark Hinton and Victor Harris both originally representing Christies but later Victor died and Mark went with Sotheby's) come to my home and appraised 75 swords.  I figured there was enough information out there that mistakes would not be made. 

 If ya want to deal with these prestigous (in name anyway) auction houses ya better make sure you have imput as to the descriptions , etc.  Don't go to Japan thinking all will be taken care of.  

 Mark Hinton wanted all 250+ swords to be sent - thought I'd send 9 to ck the action - only 30% description mistakes ! - if they'd had all my blades hard telling how many more mistakes would have been made. 

  Maybe should have hired a lawyer and sued the auction house but ain't got a fondness for them either. 

 tom winter 

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This doesn't compute.


If a sword has juyo papers then the estimate is going to be higher, and the auction house will make more money. Pride or no pride there is no reason not to list those, except for ignorance. 


The "Kanemitsu" doesn't even have a legit Sayagaki. On top of it the auction house is covering its back with "either kamakura or nanbokucho" which is a weasel way to say that they don't trust the nanbokucho attribution. 

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Tom, I wanted to "like" your post, but I really don't like the way that you were treated.  That does sound like a good reason to lawyer up.  Did you sell your whole collection and have you reconstituted it?  Cheers, Bob

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I've sold through Christies and Bonhams before. I thought Soethebys gave up Japanese swords after their NYC 9/11 debacle sale.


My experience with Christies was close to Mr. Winter's experience. Somebody got 2 or 3 tsuba off me for bargain basement prices, thanks to Christies photographing wrong side or not mentioning NBTHK papers.

I had a much much better experience with Bonhams, but still had to watch them like a hawk and correct one or two omissions. Big name tsuba -> no mention of papers..... I had to catch it in time and insist they put into press that it had Tokubetsu Hozon papers. They push back a bit, not wanting the admin hassle- and you have to be insistent or pull the item.


Auction houses are good for honest bidding vs the nickle and diming crazy stuff I sometimes get from people when selling higher grade items. Still, you've got to be extremely careful. I try never to consign more than 10 items, and I've heard some whopper horror stories from others.



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Thanks for some very-useful info, although for my sword mentor. He was planning to sell his elite Soshu blades with Christie's, & I think this will make him change his mind.

Why not put it on conseignment with a reputable dealer like Darcy, Andy, Ray or many others. They take less comission fee, do a better job and are probably adressing better to the potential buyers market. I tink Darcy would be a top choice for a top blade. My 2cents.

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