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Is this a good time to sell collections?


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9 hours ago, Darkcon said:

Just so everyone understands:

 

I had no intention of stealing or steering the thread in any way

 

I believe my questions are reasonable 

 

I read all your viewpoints with great attention to detail and I am thankful for them

 

 

 

John

 

 

Hello John.

 

Dont worry too much, all personal opinions.

 

As the famous Maradona once said in his book "keep your head above the sh**"

 

and you will be ok

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There is a lot of appetite on the market for masterworks at the moment. Look at online dealers, they're running out of masterworks. It's becoming harder and harder to find them, due to whales in Japan accumulating and buyers in the west sniping what passes through their nets. The danger zone is right in the middle though, be careful there. 

 

As Michael so eloquently put it, macro-economics trends and new wealth means there is demand for art of all kind as both a diversification strategy and a hobby. 

 

Kirill please open a business for those 60K hozon Masamune! Let's not kid ourselves here and give beginners a false sense of hope. If its a beater Masamune that wouldn't pass Juyo, it wouldn't get Masamune attribution in the first place because the condition would preclude any such conclusions from being reached. Even a Masamune with no Boshi left is going to be an automatic Juyo - and any remaining Hozon exists solely to give the Japanese owner discretion. 

 

"Not that rare" - well, in its existence the NBHTK has allowed 33 Masamune Katanas counting Juyo and Tokuju together, with half of them having issues (To mei Ga Aru, Soshu Joko No Saku,  etc) and attributed to Masamune out of respect for the great edo judges with big glowing red disclaimers in the Setsumei saying in a Japanese way that its unlikely to be Masamune. That leaves about 15-20 legit Katanas with supporting setsumei that can be bought and exported outside Japan. Out of these 15-20 Katanas, more than half are locked into museums and whales collections such as the Sano Museum or the Sawaguchi collection.

 

Now you're left with maybe 5-8 legit katanas that could ever surface on the market and the pie is shrinking fast. 

 

Every few years, one might change hands discreetly in Japan and if you're lucky you might hear about it in hushed tones from Japanese dealers. 

 

So yeah, they are as rare as rare can be. And no, you won't find a Hozon Masamune for hozon bargain price. That game stops working at the topmost level. 

 

And to return to the original question, when stocks run dry it's the best time to sell on consignment, and now is such a time. 

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Very private opinions.

On scythian gold: the posts and thickening of plate on items shown would make me abstain from any purchase of the kind. The richest people in Ukraine, i.e. the country where all Scythian artifacts were "mined" in the past three decades tend not to own a single all original and fully mounted akinakes. There are a few of those in really old collections, but that's about all one can find in private hands. Had opportunity to buy just a scabbard from one of those 15 years ago and regret not jumping on it. The fakes are numerous, and mostly smaller items, and usually of quite poor/obvious quality.

 

On Masamune - TH Masamune basically means it was submitted, at which point it got Juyo Kaneuji or, more likely, worse name. Otherwise it would have Juyo papers attached at the minimum. More prominent Masamune collectors tend to argue that Masamune below TJ are problematic and probably not worth having. I handled quite a few in my hands and was NOT impressed as a rule. Many/Most museum examples do not have NBTHK attributions, but are considered "valid" of sorts, some with ministry's papers, some without. It is the most contentious/erroneous attribution in the history of nihonto and best dealt with extreme care. 

You want the first grade Soshu work? Buy good Sadamune tanto (tachi can be iffy). Buy good Go tachi. Norishige. The attribution in 99% of cases will not change. The valuation will not disappear.

Signed ubu Sanjo Munechika is RARE.

Anything that is attributed at will, in accordance to vaguely stated criteria - not really. Will never match ubu-signed-early-rare type of thing.

 

I never understood the extreme reverence for the early papers like Honami Kochu. Of all Honami, his work was extremely often faked even in Edo period, sometimes with great skill, indistinguishable today from the originals. He was responsible for very many Masamune attributions to blades which might or might not be such. He is loved by the dealers since he produced a lot of attributions overall, the first Honami to do so. Not always spot on, but often is, very many involving early good blades. 

 

On selling collections right now - decent time. Strong inflation expectations with modest expectation that the economy will yet continue to grow. A year ago was a rush on some items, things are more calm right now, but solid demand. Aoe Art prices have one interesting consequence - for a lot of people they act as price guide. Which means you are arguing today sword is worth the same as 20 years ago. That's how many percentage points cut compared to inflation and stock market?

Anyone who sells "masterpieces" and says its a great investment should probably give examples of people buying a masterpiece from him, fully papered, and selling then for more. Otherwise one is welcome to look at the prices of Compton auction. Great blades. Quite a few were re-sold in the past decade for a fraction of what they were sold at the auction, never mind the decades that passed. Antique market certainly has periods when its profitable, but those are often off-set by the decades when prices sort of stand in place.

 

I personally will admit not being able to make money beyond certain level. I make money far more often than loose on dumpster diving (no papers is the best by far, second is modern papers to some attributions that appear weak against the blade, third is green). 

Buying at Tokyo Retail, worse off - from dealers who buy at Tokyo Retail prices. That's 30-50% loss of resale potential the moment you get it out the door. In good market, you might gain it back with appreciation in maybe 6-7 years, but unless you repaper to higher level.... 

 

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Where do we start to camp out for the $60k Masamune? Can the line start after me?

 

This line about there being $60k Hozon, Tokubetsu Hozon Masamune that will lose their status, I think is begging to see some tangible examples.

 

As for handling many of them, I don't know where you are going that you can poke around in a drawer full of inappropriately papered Tokubetsu Hozon Masamune.

 

Here is why you cannot price such a thing at $60k:

 

1. if it has so many issues and is so full of doubt, it is not worth $60k and nobody is likely to buy it

2. if it is not with that doubt, it will not be priced at $60k or if it were, that would last for a few picoseconds until someone picks it up and resells it at a price the market supports

 

Consider a simple gold coin.

 

If it is a real one ounce gold coin and you put it on ebay at $200 it will be gone in that same picosecond, to be sold for the price that gold fetches in the market every day and the lucky person will have themselves a profit.

 

If it looks like it is made of copper rather than gold (i.e. so full of doubt) then nobody will pay $200 for it.

 

We see this of course every day with the green papered Masamune that are constantly on Yahoo auctions.

 

The sellers are not stupid, so they float them at zero so the speculators will bid to whatever the price of speculation will drive them. Or, they will price them at the price the market will pay for a Masamune. To price them at 20% of the price of a real Masamune is literally "neither here nor there." It is low enough to cause suspicion and it is high enough to cause suspicion. It is so low that the speculators will take pause. It is so high that the speculators will take pause. It is so low that the legitimate collectors will take pause. It is so high that the legitimate collectors will take pause.

 

The market is not necessarily rational but it sure is very efficient.

 

If you are encountering "many" of these by your own words, and were not impressed, you are implying that the NBTHK is cranking out Tokubetsu Hozon Masamune with great frequency. It's like saying you went into someone's house and saw "many" cockroaches. If you saw one only, it implies the existence of a good number you can't see. If you saw a good number, then there are many. If you saw many then there are a very large number.

 

If there is a very large number, or even if there are many, then others of us will also be encountering them in person or online.

 

Japanese well understand that green papers are garbage and yet there is still some kind of a speculation market on Yahoo auctions for green papered "Masamune". A modern Tokubetsu Hozon Masamune one can buy for $60k regardless of the impression level a foreigner may have for the blade, will not matter because of market efficiency. These items will be snatched up and find their way to major auctioneers or to Yahoo auctions at the bare minimum.

 

If nobody has seen any except for one person who claims to have seen many, then there is some difficulty in explaining this phenomenon if we are to take it at face value. Because honestly there are enough low end dealers that would be able to lay their hands on those and turn them over for big prices on Yahoo auctions that they would simply appear there.

 

Yet they don't.

 

The idea that rather instead they are laying around in drawers inactive in the market, at low prices that would be blown through on an auction site, is far fetched. Everyone would speculate on such pieces and believe them to be easy Juyo. We have seen already on Sotheby's a Tokubetsu Hozon Norishige fetch more than this likely with this kind of speculation.

 

Should such a "Masamune-prime" exist, it would have as well to have so many attestations and historical reasons to be a Masamune that it could go to Tokubetsu Hozon and yet, be so, so very wrong that it cannot approach the standards for Juyo, that again, it would be something that would fail to have any value.

 

As you increase the level of the smith involved you increase the stakes dramatically. The higher you stake that claim on day one, the less room you give yourself to maneuver later. If the NBTHK were in the habit of tossing around Hozon for fake Masamune like used kleenex, the damage it causes to the organization as a whole is substantial. You are entering fraud lawsuit areas that you don't enter when you mix up Bungo Bingo Bongo. There is no point to stick your neck out at Hozon and Tokubetsu Hozon for Masamune when there is a great chance you will get your head cut off at Juyo. This is instead where you stick your neck out as den Yukimitsu and then give yourself another chance to reconsider at Juyo with more people and more attention.

 

There are so very few reasons to paper something to Tokubetsu Hozon as Masamune that cannot go higher, you can count them on one hand. Those are that the condition is so very poor there is no chance, but the blade is legitimate. In which case, someone with knowledge should still find areas in it to be impressed, but to simply feel sad that the blade is worn away; or that the blade is retempered, and in which case the blade is going to have to have status as a famous old piece or else it will lack the exact dimension necessary in which to pass as Masamune (the best quality nie); or that the attribution is so very, very unreliable that the work cannot even classify as one of the better Soshu smiths for which there may be major to minor overlap with Masamune (in which case it does not have the standing to get to Hozon as Masamune, but it will simply be denied if under kinzogan or papered to whatever it is thought to be regardless of stacks of old paper).

 

There is only a major disaster for all parties involved in generating drawers full of Tokubetsu Hozon Masamune that cannot impress a foreigner and do not have the capability to pass Juyo. Furthermore, there just lacks a reason for this to happen other than offering up that the people doing building such a situation are completely without credibility.

 

I point you to an alternative to explain the phenomenon you have noted, if indeed it is real as nobody else has testified to it.

 

That is in this same thread you have maligned the reputation of Honami Kochu and held his papers to be without merit, failing to impress you and so easily faked that they are indistinguishable from the real thing.

 

A drawer full of $60k Tokubetsu Hozon Masamune that are not impressive in the least has such a simple easy explanation attached to it and Occam's razor applies.

 

I've written elsewhere the slow pace at which consideration for Masamune is given. I have not, myself, encountered these large quantities of inexpensive and unimpressive yet faithfully papered Masamune in all of my experience in Japan nor has anyone offered up any links to them in Yahoo auctions in the last 25 years that I recall. I am aware of very, very tired Masamune that are correctly executed and still pass Juyo. There are those that pass Juyo with notes in the setsumei about how the attribution has doubts and even with that the market price on such things are quite high. It is very easy to write "to kinzogan mei ga aru" on papers, or to do den Yukimitsu at Tokubetsu Hozon so you can change that to Masamune and explain in detail at Juyo because it is still, outside of the Masamune attribution, a sword with Juyo features that can stand as such on its own. And if it doesn't, then no reason to do this outside of not knowing your material.

 

I have had in my hands famous pieces from the Kyoho Meibutsucho, and Juyo and Tokuju, Juyo Bunkazai Masamune, and those with no papers and no reputation but still exhibiting enough attributes that I would say Masamune and try to pay a lot for them. I have been able to buy three legitimate ones in my life and I had opportunities to buy unpapered ones at high prices... in such cases I turned one down out of being gutless and saw it after this go all the way to Tokubetsu Juyo.

 

I wish to say I could have handled a Kokuho one, but I have not, I have only had one Kokuho in my hands and it was not a Masamune. But many times with Juyo Bunkazai up to Sadamune and Masamune and so forth from daimyo families and Hideyoshi's personal item that went to Ieyasu and various shoguns beloved pieces.

 

But, I have not encountered a drawer full of Tokubetsu Hozon Masamune that failed to impress me to date.

 

If they are legitimately papered, the line starts after me please at $60k and I will take my chances with any particular foreigner not being impressed.

 

Lastly the proof of NBTHK papers it to look up the serial numbers. Also, the proof of an old Honami Kochu paper can often be verified by looking at the records of collections from whence it came. The best proof though is the eyeball test. Knowing what you are looking at substantiates the paper more than the paper should be used to substantiate the thing you are looking at. If you are routinely looking at junk swords of the highest attribution possible without the capability of passing Juyo you are probably in some kind of strange, uncharted waters that are dangerous to be in.

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On 6/19/2021 at 10:08 AM, Sutraken said:

I would like to mention an exception for the rule that gendaito are more appreciated then shinsakuto, even made by the same smith: Tsukamoto Okimasa. His few post WW2 blades are regard with highest admiration and are considered as his best output in terms of quality. On the other hand, the majority of his swords are gendaito, which is one reason why he is mentioned mostly as WW2 smith in discussions here. Prices begin for his shinsakuto in prestine condition with blade lengths above 70cm and horimono around 10k. This is not extraordinary more than the sums you have to pay for his best gendaito in comparable condition of preservation, but compared with other gendai smiths of this era I find it remarkable. That’s why I write this comment on prices for nihonto. 

 

Stefan 

Were do you see this sword? 

There was one by Okimasa at a dealer website with horimono for 2.3 million yen.

Okimasa died a few years before the post war sword boom and all smiths made very few swords up to that point.

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1 hour ago, w.y.chan said:

Were do you see this sword? 

There was one by Okimasa at a dealer website with horimono for 2.3 million yen.

Okimasa died a few years before the post war sword boom and all smiths made very few swords up to that point.

Yes, I know this particular sword. There are a few more shinsakuto made by Okimasa in this particular era before the sword boom in 1960. I saw another example recently on rice cracker with bo hi but without horimono for around 12k. It has a nagasa above 70cm. Anyway as I wrote before, the main part of Tsukamoto Okimasa‘s work was done during WW2. 

 

Stefan 

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On 6/18/2021 at 11:51 PM, Alex A said:

Depends.

 

If what your selling is appealing

If what your selling is priced correctly

 

If the answer is yes to both it will sell, so long as any potential buyer in this "niche" market has the available funds at that time. 

 

Need a bit of luck with the timing.

 

As for prices, still holding.

 

 

 

 I agree with this. It all depends on what you have and who is buying. It also depends on where you're selling. 

 

I've watched retail prices rise over the last few years where today I can't find a decent katana for under several thousand$. Katanas that were selling for 3k to 5k are now selling for almost double that. I really don't get it because they haven't moved as far as being sold goes. So what dictates the retail nihonto pricing? It seems to be dealers just placing random high prices and hoping for the best because I've seen some swords selling for way less than they should while others are priced way higher than they should... I can't figure it out. 

 

For instance there's an Ebay seller who sells mostly junk but asks 5x what anything is worth but then I'll find something that should be listed for a high price but isn't. It's like someone came to work one day and started randomly raising prices. 

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As long as you have no reserve sellers, junk sellers, fake copies etc. it will never be logical market. That in turn is great for people with knowledge as they have lots great scores all over But SUCKS for beginners. 

 

I know inside and out another 2 separate industries and I can say for certain that nothing is more illogical than the nihonto World. You go figure..

 

 

John

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In economic downturns, hard assets can be acquired for less. People sell, and will sell for less, when they feel financial pressure or stress. Currently, we've got significant inflation -  the purchasing power of currencies is decreasing. Darker financial times are likely ahead. We could eventually see deflation in asset prices. To me it makes sense that there may be better deals ahead for knowledgeable and patient buyers. There may be more pressured, or desperate, sellers in the years ahead willing to sell for less.

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There used to be two stores that sold Japanese swords in my city years ago. The owner of one store was happy to earn  a small amount on every piece and sold many many blades and fitting. The other person felt that a sword had a right price and that is what he tried to sell things at. He did not sell very much. His customers were happy but few in number compared to the other dealer. The first owner bought and sold in three countries, Canada, USA and Great Britain. He took items from one country to the next where they sold well/quickly. So he moved things around to where they were wanted and bought things that were wanted in the next country. 

So, if you want to sell quickly, sell at a good price. If you are in no hurry, sell at a higher price and wait for the right customer.

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It's a question of business model. Having a shop in Ginza with a dozen employee will have a minimum margin requirement to survive compared to solo operation with website real estate.

 

Competent dealers in Japan have very clear internal systems of pricing. These are "discovered" in the Japanese internal auctions. Dealers will pay what they believe clients will buy at minus the risk premium of not selling the item and the opportunity cost of capital. Once all of this is factored out, there needs to remain a profit or the dealer will go bust. 

 

"hmm...Yukimitsu, early Juyo, 72cm, I can get XX at Japanese auction". Note that these are heuristics but there is a relatively high degree of inter-dealer correlation. The price expected in the Japanese auction forms the baseline value, or the fallback value in case the item doesn't sell and the dealer needs liquidity and the items needs to be flushed out to the next dealer. The rest is a matter of business model. 

 

It's a tough and extremely competitive business. There are too many dealers given the relatively small population of aging collectors, where a few whales reign supreme. 

 

 

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I'm new to this field and I'm still reading the books (the ones recommended on this site of course!) and soaking up info from this message board and other web sit3es and dealer sites.  

 

Reading around the subject is essential, but I haven't yet bought my first blade, so a thread like this which has "real world" info about pricing and mark-ups in different regions is really useful to someone just getting started.  Thanks for the info.

 

Cheers,

 

Jon

 

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