View Full Version : Advice sought buying a sword

10th March 2007, 11:44
A friend of mine wishes to buy a katana for his son's 18th birthday to start off a collection. His budget is about 500 pounds sterling.

It is many, many years since I bought a sword and am completely out of touch so would appreciate any guidance that members can give me as to a good supplier/source that fits this budget.

Thanks and osu

10th March 2007, 19:21
Aloha, Trevor. Is it the intent of your friend to purchase a sword that will (or might) be used in a martial art like iaido? Or will it be the first in a collection of Nihonto? Big difference in the approach, based on that answer.

Let me know.

10th March 2007, 20:06
Hello Ken

The first in a collection - no training intended whatsoever.


11th March 2007, 02:36
Sorry for the delay, Trevor. Linda & I just got back from three hours of rather intensive MJER practice.

My first piece of advice is to stay completely away from eBay. Several of my collector friends do sell there, but unless your friend knows a whole lot more about how to spot a genuine Nihonto than I think he does, it's best to look elsewhere. In fact, there is a rather useful posting at http://reviews.ebay.com.au/Buying-Nihonto-and-what-to-be-aware-of_W0QQugidZ10000000000779082 that summarizes some of the pitfalls.

My next piece of advice is to have your friend locate one or two collectors in his neighborhood, Trevor, & to then ask their advice on starting a collection. This does two things: first, he will then have a lot more experienced people to advise him, & second, they are often willing to help find a less-expensive Nihonto, possibly from their own collections. My wife & I joined the Japanese Sword Society of Hawaii, & now have almost more help than we can use :rolleyes:.

It also helps if you can start learning more about the flaws & appearance of blades, even more so than learning about the blades themselves. I've bookmarked a number of Web-sites that I refer to, such as http://www.geocities.com/alchemyst/kizu.htm & http://www.ksky.ne.jp/~sumie99/flaws.html, which go into detail on what are bad versus unimportant flaws. Another set of Web-sites I go to are ones that describe what fake swords look like: http://www.nihontokanjipages.com/fake_japanese_swords.html & http://www.geocities.com/alchemyst/repro.htm are good ones to start with.

One of those sites has the following advice: "If you have $200 - $300 to spend on your first sword then STOP. Go spend it on some good books instead, seriously. Read and learn as much as possible before parting with your hard earned cash, STUDY STUDY STUDY. I cannot emphasis this point enough. Then, maybe in another 6 months or so, after you have saved up a bit, buy something decent, ask for help, join a club and do as much as possible to ensure you buy a good, genuine Japanese Sword the first time round. You wont regret it, I guarantee it." I agree that this is excellent advice, Trevor.

Although it's unlikely that his budget of 500 pounds Sterling will allow it, he could look for Nihonto that have NHTBK or NTHK papers. Without a lot of detail (which you can look up), these organizations examine blades very carefully, & then assign a small number of them with one of four grades: from Hozon (the lowest) to Tokubetsu Juyo (the highest). These grades guarantee the authenticity of the blade up to what is listed on the papers. You do pay for this, however, as it is not inexpensive to get the Nihonto graded.

Last, but not least, your friend & his son have the opportunity at this point to choose which Nihonto they want to study (I assume here that these blades won't just be "wall-hangers"). They could probably start with late Edo-period Nihonto (which minimizes the cost). We started with late-Muromachi Nihonto, & are finding our budget stretched rather thin when we want to acquire a new sword....

Hope this helps get them started!

11th March 2007, 09:54

I am extremely grateful and will pass on the information.


11th March 2007, 11:56
good advice... buy books first, join the Token society, THEN spend the money. I doubt you'd get a katana for that price anyway, but perhaps a nice tanto... See below for the Token society of Great Britain. The meetings are a bit irregular and scattered, but at least its a start...


11th March 2007, 21:41
Many thanks.


Michael Hodge
12th March 2007, 16:48
You've already received a wealth of useful information, Trevor.

My input is to simply suggest your friend buy a iaito from one of the higher-profile online stores (ask around). That way, his budgetary issues are addressed, his son receives a relatively nice sword, and if his son decides to turn from owner to practitioner, he'll have one ready.

Michael Hodge