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Tantō, friend of a friend’s


Bugyotsuji
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This Tantō has a Shibayama style Koshiraé but what about the blade? It looks to be Shōbu-zukuri but I cannot make out if there is a Mei or not.

There is a date (museum?) sticker ‘10.4.97’ which the owner thinks indicates 1897 as that is how long it has been in his family.

 

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My experience with museum stickers - never a year. Its department/shelf/number on the shelf kind of thing. Yes, museums place it everywhere - I've seen them engraved on blades of all things.

Would REALLY benefit from a quality resolution nakago picture. I want to say shinshinto by default, but nakago can move it substantially earlier... I just can't see anything, there is like even a signature there.

Such mounts do cost today some money.

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Hi Piers

In my experience these Meiji mounted shibayama pieces usually contain either a crude untempered blade of awkward sugata or one of either very modest quality or one with some serious problems. The hamon is often simply a polishing effect similar to Hadori. Can you see any hardened hamon on this one? This  example is not a “knock-out” mounting…..the inlay is very sparse etc. They were produced from mid meiji onwards to sell to the Gaijin in Japan at that time. Some can be mind bogglingly opulent and those ones stand a chance of having a half decent blade. In a previous life I used to restore such items for some of the noted dealers……it was painstaking work carving hundreds of pieces in a variety of shells etc …….and emphasises just how much effort (often women and children) went in to producing such showy things. All the best. Colin

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Riv and Colin. Thanks guys. That fits generally with the messages I passed back up the line. I have not seen the blade myself.

 

These WhatsApp photos are the second round, the ‘good’ ones I was sent after complaining about the first set. None of the Nakago shots told me anything but the one above was probably the best.

:thumbsup:
PS I’ll prompt him for a better shot or two. The problem is he was shooting blind, not knowing what to focus on. 

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Hi piers

well the Koshirae looks a bit better than in the first images. Still not great but not the worst. Can’t see much in the blade but from the nakago and based on many others I’ve handled I would say it’s a poor quality untempered example……which is the norm for these. Can’t be totally sure without better images. All the best. Colin

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Thanks Colin.
Well, there were these two shots in the mix but they were mostly of the Koshiraé even though I had specifically asked for close shots of the Nakago, and he had then paid to get these done professionally.

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Hi again piers 

the koshirae now looks much nicer! In the uk before we banned ivory that would be about £2000, possibly a bit more. Blade still looks a duffer to me. But the value of these is nearly always in the mounts so doesn’t really matter as long as all inlay is there.

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That looks like a typical circa 1920 collectable from a European traveler to Japan. They loved these things. It would cost some good money today, they do well at auctions and in Japan.

The blade is most likely shinshinto or even very early showa.

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I think Shiboyama is very neat.

Europeans absolutely hated shirosaya and overall did not care that much about the blades. Emperor Nicholas the 2nd had something like 10-13 blades outfitted with scrimshaw carved mounts so at least they would have some presentable look rather than shirasaya. However pre-Edo displays also tended to be in expensive mounts and never just shirasaya.

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Hi Piers

I think we need to be clear……shibayama mounts such as this were never made to take a blade out of shirasaya. The vast majority contain blades that were “made” specifically for the shibayama mountings and are usually vague copies of assorted Tanto sugata usually with no hardening and made from whatever steel they could get their hands on. The sugata, as in this case is very awkward and the nakago is hastily formed…..all done to at least look a bit “old” to the Target market…..Meiji and Taisho period Gaijin who knew little about swords but loved works of art. I doubt it has any hada or hamon beyond a polished on Hadori “look alike”…..but that does not affect its value.
Occasionally we find a “real” blade but it is nearly always defective in some way. We can find Wakizashi and Tachi in the same amazing shibayama koshirae and they have a better chance of having something old in them simply because they were aimed at the really seriously rich Gaijin and were  very very expensive at the time. My comments are based on having owned (and restored) a great many of these flamboyant pieces in my previous life as a Meiji Art dealer. 
It’s a nice item….shame our I’ll informed UK government have banned the sale of such things……won’t save a single elephant sadly. All the best.  Colin.

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There was a time when rich Ukrainians and Russians were buying up old ivory pieces. Perhaps they were a law unto themselves.

I think this would not be easy to sell in Japan, certainly not openly. Even the local bric-a-brac auction house is careful to say “We think this is bone”…

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