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Thread: Tips For The Sword Collector

  1. #1
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    Tips For The Sword Collector

    In an effort to educate and share knowledge, I thought that perhaps we could start a tip of the day string relating to anything that has to do with antique sword collecting (identification, conservation, displaying, etc.).


    Here is my tip of the day:

    If you come across a "Confederate" sword that bears a date, it most likely is fake. Confederate swords, with the exception of officer's swords that have genuine period inscriptions of the date (for presentation, commission, etc.), do not have manufacture, inspection or acceptance dates -- unlike their Union counterparts. Above all, beware of the date 1862 stamped on the ricasso of a purported Confederate blade. For some reason, the reproduction artists love the date 1862.


    Andre
    Andre F. Ducote
    Mississippi

  2. #2
    Great idea, Andre! Simple and useful--I like it! I'll try to come up with a tip to add one day this week.

    Jonathan

  3. #3
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    Beware the "T." proof slug.

  4. #4
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    Never hold a sword, point up, under a moving ceiling fan.

    (From personal experience)

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by A.Ducote View Post
    In an effort to educate and share knowledge, I thought that perhaps we could start a tip of the day string relating to anything that has to do with antique sword collecting (identification, conservation, displaying, etc.).
    My tip:

    Money invested in reference books is never wasted - knowing what you've bought and being able to research its history gives an enjoyment beyond simple monetary value.

    (Also:

    Loose guards and grips can be tightened by simply inserting small bamboo shims into the gaps. )

    John
    "If I can't be a good example to others, at least let me be a horrible warning".

  6. #6
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    From my own bitter experience:

    'Never buy a sword from an online auction house without a full condition report'.

    Auction houses tend to be very frugal with the truth. If you don't ask they won't normally tell you.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Hart View Post
    My tip:


    (Also:

    Loose guards and grips can be tightened by simply inserting small bamboo shims into the gaps. )

    John

    That was stolen. I wonder what genius came up with that solution?


    Andre
    Andre F. Ducote
    Mississippi

  8. #8
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    Tips Of The Day 9/26/07

    The British pattern 1853 cavalry sword was widely imported by the United States and the Confederate States during the American Civil War. Only those swords devoid of any British or Indian armoury markings are consider to be American Civil War Swords. Typically, only those which are marked "Issac & Co." or with the inspector's markings "JS" with an anchor and/or with a brass handguard are considered to be Confederate use weapons without clear provenance.

    Andre


    Bonus tip -- along the lines of Wayne Branner's ceiling fan tip --

    When indoors and recounting any famous infantry charge to your friend, refrain from making upwards thrusting motions with a musket which has its bayonet attached. While you will make your point, the point will also make the ceiling.
    Andre F. Ducote
    Mississippi

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by A.Ducote View Post
    The British pattern 1853 cavalry sword was widely imported by the United States and the Confederate States during the American Civil War. Only those swords devoid of any British or Indian armoury markings are consider to be American Civil War Swords. Typically, only those which are marked "Issac & Co." or with the inspector's markings "JS" with an anchor and/or with a brass handguard are considered to be Confederate use weapons without clear provenance.

    Andre


    Bonus tip -- along the lines of Wayne Branner's ceiling fan tip --

    When indoors and recounting any famous infantry charge to your friend, refrain from making upwards thrusting motions with a musket which has its bayonet attached. While you will make your point, the point will also make the ceiling.
    Yeah, but at least you didn't have to explain a hole in the ceiling to you coworkers the next day.

    Hey, let's add these to the original thread.

  10. #10
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    never ever leave a blue and gilt on the cleaning table and walk away to make coffee

    you may never see the blueing again!

    Never use sandpaper on a sword!

    If you dont know how to clean a sword properly, Leave well alone!
    “Do you know what astonished me most in the world? The inability of force to create anything. In the long run, the sword is always beaten by the spirit.” Napoleon Bonaparte

  11. #11
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    Tip for 9/27/06

    Make sure that you are buying what you think that you are buying. The American 1850 foot officers sword is a copy of the French foot sword, 1840 light artillery sabre and 1860 light cavalry sabre. These patterns was also carried utilized by other nations. If you are wanting the American version of the sword, and want to be sure that you are getting the American version, buy one that an American manufacturer or retailers name on it or one with a blade etched with United States symbols. If you are buying an unmarked example, carefully check the spine of the blade. Some unscrupulous people grind off the French markings.

    Andre
    Andre F. Ducote
    Mississippi

  12. #12
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    My tip is if you become Prime Minister of New Zealand and if a middle eastern sultan gifts you a sword, just check out that the hilt is not made of solid gold before you flog it off for $500.

  13. #13
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    Today's tip from me:

    Wilkinson collectors know that there is a large gap in the surviving proof book entries covering roughly the first three-and-a-half years of the First World War. However, I understand that the void isn't complete, with odd entries still being registered during this time, so if you do own a piece with a serial number between 44401 and 54963, it may still be worth contacting www.armsresearch.co.uk and gambling £16 on a request for info, particularly if the sword looks interesting or potentially valuable in other respects.

    John
    "If I can't be a good example to others, at least let me be a horrible warning".

  14. #14
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    if you don't know ask
    Ask here, I have never been lead astray asking on SFI

  15. #15
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    Good tips -- and some of them quite funny to boot!

    We are going to change up the Tips a little bit. Instead of one main tip a day, we are going to go with one a week. Still, anyone who wants to jump in with a tip, go ahead.


    Good tip John. Part of the fun of sword collecting is tracing the history. Wilkinson collectors have been lucky that the company kept good records for many years.

    Andre
    Andre F. Ducote
    Mississippi

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by John Hart View Post
    Wilkinson collectors know that there is a large gap in the surviving proof book entries covering roughly the first three-and-a-half years of the First World War. John
    Shamefully I did not. I'll keep that in mind since I've had my eye on an 1821 HC Officer's sword from that period. Thanks for the tip!

    Jonathan

  17. #17
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    If watching an item at a dealer page, be reclusive about it. Even if that means not bringing it to the attention of the dealer that you are interested. items of no apparent interest to others may linger for sale over many years. Certainly, if you are admiring a sword, don't point out to the world that they are missing something of rare form or beauty.

    Just in case, always download all photographs offered for an item you covet. Don't trust that the images will remain after someone else elopes with your sweety. Not doing so has been as big a regret for me as ever mentioning/pointing to some that are quite outstanding. In particular, I'm remembering an 18th century "gentlemans" sabre I posted about once too often. Although it likely found a good home, I sure wish I had saved the pictures. I've sure never seen it since and it was a real treasure.

    Cheers

    Hotspur; if I ever do find that sword again, I wil save and share the pictures

  18. #18
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    If you can do no good at least do no harm.I was going to clean my friends gunto,first thing I was going to do was clean the nagako and see if the blade was signed.Hey you never know,well I thought I should just check on that,SFI to the rescue, never never clean the rust of the nagako.Who knew? RC

  19. #19
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    Tip For The Week Of October 8th

    The end of last week we saw a poster on the forum give disturbing news of how he likes to fake swords and sell them. It appears that to this fellow faking is a game and he likes to trick the "experts." If he is good enough at it to trick the experts, he certainly will have no problem with the novice or intermediate collector.

    This weeks tip is to be careful with what you buy -- especially over online auctions. Look at each sword carefully. Look at the pommel and back strap (if there is one) for signs of tampering. Ask questions if something doesn't look right. If you do not get straight answers, avoid the deal. Look at patination. For example, make sure that the patina on the guard is even and not splotchy -- a sign of chemical aging. Look at any etchings or markings closely. If they are original, the cuts into the metal made by stamping or etching should have patina. Look at the thickness of metal comprising the guard and the blade. I find that many reproductions/fakes have overly thick metal.

    It has been said before, but I will say it again. Buy good reference books and conduct internet research. Study pictures of what you are looking at with an eye towards detail. I have found several reputable dealers who put pictures of fakes on their websites. If what you are looking to buy doesn't look substantially the same as the reference you are looking at, look at it closer and with more scrutiny. I'm not saying that all swords that don't fit the exact pattern are fakes. There are nuances in manufacturing style. However, 18th and 19th century cutlers, even the worst of them, were craftsmen. In my opinion, the worst of what they produced is still better than the best reproduction.

    Not everyone out there is honest. A reputable seller should never be offended by questions.


    Andre
    Andre F. Ducote
    Mississippi

  20. #20
    Attend sword-related events!

    The antique swords market is larger than the internet. The internet is a valuable resource in many ways for the collector, and it has certainly changed the market, but it is still just a part of the market. Dealer websites and eBay are quick and easy ways to explore what is out there, but they do not account for the entire picture. Take the time to do a little research to see if there are any specialist shows, fairs, or auctions in your area. If you are able to find an event that you can attend, do yourself a favor and go! You will be able to network with fellow collectors and dealers, get a feel for prices and availability, view and handle a variety of swords, and ask questions of people who have a good deal of experience in the field. And of course you might find a sword or two (or books) to take home!
    Last edited by J.G. Hopkins; 10-15-2007 at 08:39 AM.

  21. #21
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    Very good point, Jonathon. An up close handling the real mccoy gives so much insight into what is real and not real. Also, its good to put a face with a dealer's name and vice-versa.


    Andre
    Andre F. Ducote
    Mississippi

  22. #22
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    Further to Jonathan's suggestion I am not only attending my local militaria show next weekend, but have decided to set up a table for the first time and sell a few of my swords. If nothing else it will allow other (perhaps shy) collectors to approach me, and who knows what might come of these interactions. I'll keep the group posted of my experience.

    Rob
    Vir prudens non contra ventum mingit

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob O'Reilly View Post
    Further to Jonathan's suggestion I am not only attending my local militaria show next weekend, but have decided to set up a table for the first time and sell a few of my swords. If nothing else it will allow other (perhaps shy) collectors to approach me, and who knows what might come of these interactions. I'll keep the group posted of my experience.

    Rob

    I'm jealous! I was supposed to work a table at a Civil War show two weekends ago for a friend of mine, but wasn't able to make it.

    Andre
    Andre F. Ducote
    Mississippi

  24. #24
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    When starting out in collecting, consider collecting with a theme in mind. For example, heavy cavalry swords in general, or American swords, or swords made by Wilkinson, etc., etc.. Having an ongoing theme to your collecting pattern makes for more continuity, and it's always possible to break out into another theme if you feel stagnant. But more importantly: collect what you like! If the collector feels like he likes everything (which is my problem ) consider collecting swords dating from a specific time period or military campaign that is particularly interesting. This will allow for more flexibility while maintaining continuity. Finally, collect the best examples you can find. If it means spending an extra hundred dollars to get a nicer example, spend it. You'll be glad you did later on down the road!
    mark@swordforum.com

    ~ Hostem Hastarum Cuspidibus Salutemus ~

    "Those who beat their swords into plowshares usually end up plowing for those who don't."
    Benjamin Franklin

  25. #25
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    sell off the bottem two thirds of your collection to improve the top third.

    If a couple of hundred is what seperateds you from what you like and what you love, save a couple of extra months. i.e do not settle for less

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