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Thread: Tips For The Sword Collector

  1. #51
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    And following on from Andreas' wise words...

    Don't be rushed into buying. It's good to be able to seize an opportunity to acquire an interesting piece, but still take as much time as you can to examine all the available evidence before committing to buy. Be especially wary of eBay "Buy It Now" auctions*, as these are sometimes used by sellers to move suspect pieces quickly. If a piece seems to be amazingly cheap, then take extra trouble to gain as much information as possible before spending.

    John
    * Be even more cautious if browsing eBay late at night or after a good dinner - swords are like prospective partners - they often look better when viewed through beer goggles!
    "If I can't be a good example to others, at least let me be a horrible warning".

  2. #52
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    The pics ...

    Good point about the pics !

    Even if pictures are large and of good quality, but one part of the blade is missing on all of them (for example the tip, or the left side of the guard) there might be a reason why this part is never shown .

    Even if two dimensional pics are great I often ask for a picture taken in the spine - you'd wonder how many blades that look excellent from the side have a horrible bend ...

    ... "they often look better when viewed through beer goggles" ...

    Good point John !Waking up the next morning can offer the same horrors as finally recieving the sword you bought after two bottles of italian red

    Andreas
    As lo, the boy looked upon the beauty of the forward curved blade, and beauty stayed his hands
    and from that day forward, he was financially doomed.

    King Kukri, 2005

  3. #53
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    [QUOTE=John Hart;966328]Be especially wary of eBay "Buy It Now" auctions*, as these are sometimes used by sellers to move suspect pieces quickly.

    John


    Hey, I use BUY IT NOW in my auctions! Are you saying that I'm pushing junk? Those, my friend, are fighting words. Just kdding. My BUY IT NOW price is typically the market price. I offer free shipping with BUY IT NOW to entice the purchase. However, I see your point.

    In follow up about taking your time to purchase --- sometimes if you do not act quickly, you may miss out on a sword. Of course, this doesn't apply too much to auctions, but if the sword you are considering is offered by a dealer, you might ask them to hold it while you are making up your mind. This has worked well for me with dealers from whom I have made prior purchases.

    Andre
    Andre F. Ducote
    Mississippi

  4. #54
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    Listing on international eBay site

    I thought I would caption this "tip for the collector who sells on eBay" seeing as we seem to dwell on this topic alot.

    For those of you like me outside of the US, and who often list on alternative sites like ebay.ca and ebay.co.uk be aware that when you list your sword there is a very good chance it will not appear
    on ebay.com, nor the other international sites.

    This is because ebay limits the number of similar items which will be listed internationally.

    Recently I sold a book I knew would be of most interest to UK buyers and was disappointed to see my ebay.ca listing did not appear when searched on ebay.co.uk. Consequently, after a couple of day I canceled the listing and re-listed on ebay.co.uk with excellent results. I currently have a 1796LC listed on ebay.ca that sadly doesn't show up on ebak.co.uk.

    As a sword buyer I find myself searching the listings of ebay.com and ebay.co.uk daily as I often find swords listed on the UK site which I would otherwise never see.

    You might think this could be avoided simply by listing on ebay.com, however eBay seems to have recently changed their listing policy that won't allow those without a US zipcode to complete their listing.

    Rob
    Vir prudens non contra ventum mingit

  5. #55
    If you are considering a purchase from a dealer with whom you are unfamiliar, try contacting another collector or several other collectors to see if they have experience with the dealer. Chances are that someone knows something about the dealer, and if not, he or she can probably point you in the direction of someone who does. I would recommend contacting people via email or PM rather than on the forum. This can apply to sellers on auction sites as well.

    I once fell in love with a nice Georgian spadroon that was being sold online by a dealer I had only just discovered. It seemed too nice for the price, so I contacted a few other collectors. I heard back from two of them and both cautioned me against buying from this dealer based on photos alone (this dealer was known for making composite swords on occasion). Since the dealer was overseas I was unable to see the sword in person. I am glad I contacted my fellow collectors because only one day later I found a better sword that was just a bit more expensive and it was being sold by a dealer I trusted.

  6. #56
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    My tip for this week is, well, rather grim, but necessary. While antique swords are a pleasure to collect, they are also an investment. I cannot think of a time in which the market prices for antique swords have dropped. With patience, and finding the right market, over time the value of your collection should increase -- if not remain the same.

    None of us will be around forever. We may think that our families will keep our sword collections, but that may not be so. Because of the value involved as a an assset of the estate, my advice is to educate your family about your sword collection. Tell them what each sword is, how old it is and the value. In the alternative, you might consider taking a print photograph of each sword and write on the back what it is, the age and the value. In addition, write the current date on the photograph for reference. Put the photographs in a safe place, such as a safety deposit box and advise a family member where they may be found. I would hate for my wife to be taken by an unscrupulous collector or sell one of my swords for a low price merely because she did not know what it is and its value.

    Sorry -- grim, but a reality.

    Andre

    P.S.

    The photographs are also a good idea for insurance purposes.
    Andre F. Ducote
    Mississippi

  7. #57
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    Sorry for the delay between tips, seems that we have all been tied up with onething or another, especially in the holiday season.

    Since it is the holiday season, how about a holiday tip? I am, or have been called by my better half a "gift snob." I'm sorry, I would rather get something sword related than a tie anyday. However, in such a specialized hobby, where fakes are plenty, it is too risky to simply tell your loved one that you want something sword related. To that end, I usually give my wife a list of items that I want with websites, phone numbers, etc. One time, I went as far as to contact a few dealers with whom I have formed good relations and told them that my wife might be calling or emailing about something for me and to please steer her in the right direction.

    A story -- my mother-in-law knows that I collect swords. She is an avid ebayer and wanted to get me something sword related. A nice thought, but not advised. What I got was a Shriner's fez that she obtained off of ebay. For those of you who are not familiar, the Shriner's are a fraternal order which does good deeds for children. Their emblem contains two crossed swords. Well, I can't say that the fez isn't sword related, but . . . .

    I doubt I will get around to posting a tip on Christmas Eve or New Years Eve, so Happy Holidays too all. May there be something sharp and pointy for under the tree this year.

    Andre
    Andre F. Ducote
    Mississippi

  8. #58
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    Goodbye 2007, welcome 2008. Hope that everyone had a happy New Years Day.

    Time to get the tips rolling again. Shipping of swords is a topic that we haven't discussed on the forum in some time. The question is, how do you pack a sword when it is shipped? I typically wrap the sword (in scabbard if it has one) with a few layers of bubble wrap and secure it with packing tape. I fill any voids in the box with crumpled paper so that there is little to no sliding during shipment. If there is no scabbard, I usually protect the point by taping cardboard both sides of the blade before applying the bubble wrap.

    Talk about going over and beyond --- I once received a sword (no scabbard) through the mail that had its blade taped securely to a wooden board.

    Tip on shipping -- I'm sure that you all do this, but for those novices out there -- keep the boxes that you receive swords in as well as the packing material inside for reuse.

    Andre
    Andre F. Ducote
    Mississippi

  9. #59
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    Packing

    If you plan to send a lot of swords, it's definitely worth considering buying some custom-made boxes from a packaging specialist. I found a UK seller on eBay who was happy to adapt an existing lidded box pattern he had to make it suitable for swords (this basically involved cutting it down in length and making it slightly narrower so the item doesn't have too much room to rattle around in it). The slight drawback was I had to buy 25 boxes, but I tend to sell quite a few swords so this wasn't a problem - they last me about a year and come to just over £1.50 (< $3.00) each, including postage.

    The advantage of using a specialist is that they can also supply internal corner strengtheners, bubble wrap etc, which not only helps protect the item, but also gives any sword you sell a more professional presentation (nothing lets a seller down more than cheap packaging, risking damage to your expensive sword!).

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

  10. #60
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    Packing for shipment

    I received a piece not long ago with about 4" poking out the end!

    For me, scabbardes swords are no problem. I protect the hilt and pad the top & bottom & send them on.

    For a bare blade, I either get a cardboard tube or tie a piece of wood to the blade that is longer than the blade to the blade and go with the same routine. I do have an adversion to putting tape on a bare blade.

  11. #61
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    Here is a tip on what to do when packaging fails. Many years ago I got a unit marked Luftwaffe sword in the mail in which the end of the box came apart and it was repacked (marked damaged in transit) by the USPO. It seems that the scabbard came off the blade and the blade and scabbard protruded through the end of the box. Well, the blade was considerably bent and it was then forced back into the scabbard, which was not. Good job post office!!!

    Anyway, what to do with a blade horribly bent at aprox a 45 degree angle and a perfectly straight scabbard. The blade was plated so simple straighting would not do. I took it to a junkyard that did automobile bumper straightening. I was very concerned to let these grimy men screw around with the blade but it was a desparate last choice.

    The short story (I know... too late for that already) is that the grimy guy who straightened chrome plated steel automobile bumpers all day made short work of my sword. He heated it and drop hammered it and cooled it before my eyes in about as long as it takes to tell this tale. The blade came out straight as a string and with no damage to the plating or the steel. I still have that sword and you cannot tell there was ever a problem with this blade.

    Now... go out and try to find a bumper straightener working at a forge.
    "You can't please everyone, so you have to please yourself." Ricky Nelson

  12. #62
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    I have found this site chalk full of information. Instead of asking redundant questions check the search engine before putting a question to the forum.

  13. #63
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    George,

    Great story on the Luftwaffe sword. Isn't it funny how you can find help where you least expect it.

    Paul,

    Searching the forum is a useful tool. However, there is nothing wrong with asking a question, even if it has already been asked. Often raising an issue again will spur new conversation and quite likely new ideas and opinions.

    Andre
    Andre F. Ducote
    Mississippi

  14. #64
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    Another tip - if you're thinking of bidding on a foreign auction, check the shipping rates ahead of time.
    I just won three swords from an auction in Surrey, UK, and their recommended shipper, local MailBoxes outfit, is charging me 150 pounds, i.e. $300 to ship them. Outfrigginrageous!!! Live and learn.

  15. #65
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dmitry Z~G View Post
    Another tip - if you're thinking of bidding on a foreign auction, check the shipping rates ahead of time.
    I just won three swords from an auction in Surrey, UK, and their recommended shipper, local MailBoxes outfit, is charging me 150 pounds, i.e. $300 to ship them. Outfrigginrageous!!! Live and learn.

    Very good tip, Dmitry. Often we forget to add that cost to what we spend. Not a sword, but I once sold on ebay a large framed print to a US soldier stationed in Guam. Since he was paying my Buy It Now price, I agreed to split the cost of packing and shipping with him. I had the print professionally packed. The only way to ship it was to send it US postal to his base in San Francisco where it would be put on military transport and shipped to him on Guam. I got the dimensions of my box, called the US post office and was quoted a shipping cost. I emailed the fellow and he paypaled his share of the costs to me. When I went to ship, I was told that the box was oversized and had to be cut down. When I said that I got the shipping cost from the customer service number, they worker laughed and said the he didn't doubt it. After I cut the box down, I was then told that the shipping cost was going to be $75 more than what was quoted to me over the phone. I was in a position of either hauling the thing back home or just paying it. For convenience, I just paid it.

    Dmitry is right -- check and recheck the shipping cost!

    Andre-
    Andre F. Ducote
    Mississippi

  16. #66
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dmitry Z~G View Post
    I just won three swords from an auction in Surrey, UK, and their recommended shipper, local MailBoxes outfit, is charging me 150 pounds, i.e. $300 to ship them. Outfrigginrageous!!!
    Yes, Dmitry, this can be a big problem area. As you probably know, MailBoxes is a franchise, so a lot depends on the knowledge and professionalism of the individual franchisee. Many UK auction houses have outsourced the shipping of lots to this company, but it can be hard to get quotes from them in advance of bidding because basically they have no direct relationship with the auctioneer.

    From my own experience, I have had excellent service from some MailBoxes branches (quick delivery, reasonable shipping costs and good packaging) as well as poor (the opposite of the above!) from others. The best you can do is to try to find out from the auction house which branch of the company they use and to get quotes from them in advance. But I agree this all adds to the hassle of buying internationally.

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

  17. #67
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    Quote Originally Posted by A.Ducote View Post
    ... Shipping of swords is a topic that we haven't discussed on the forum in some time. The question is, how do you pack a sword when it is shipped? ....
    I purchased a sword from bladesmith Vince Evans a couple of years ago. He shipped it to me in a concrete forming tube - very robust!!
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  18. #68
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    The suprise of size

    Not unlike some photographic experiences, something you may have viewed on your monitor may seem startingly diminutive in person. One big suprise for me was receiving a yataghan a couple of years ago. i had watched/looked at the dealer pictures for four years and had built my expectations on perspective gained only via those images. Although the overall dimension (a touch less than 30") had been listed, I was still somewhat amazed at how small it was when I unpacked it.

    I now keep a tape measure handy when I browse listings and even those not listing lengths get judged by counting how many grip lengths might make up the blade dimension. That is, figuring grip lengths on many swords are going to be four to five inches.

    Having come to collecting antiques from accumulating medieval reproductions, I did have blade lengths ranging from about thirty inches to thirty-nine but find myself still suprised at how diminutive some 18th and 19th century swords seem. Keeping a tape measure on hand has helped maintain perspective, even when we should clearly be able to mentally relate.

    Cheers

    Hotspur; this and other tips may soon be found in an upcoming title revealing truths about midlife crisis and obsessive/compulsive behaviors

  19. #69
    Here is a nice thread started by Richard Dellar from a few years ago that is worth mention in this thread: French Sword Buyer's Guide. French swords of the Napoleonic era are frequently faked, and this thread offers some excellent points on what distinguishes a fake.

    Jonathan

  20. #70
    And here is one more useful thread pertaining the US M1902: Assigning dates to M1902s. The M1902 is frequently encountered in the US sword market, but there is surprisingly little written on this sword model. This thread identifies some features that will aid collectors in dating their M1902s, and contains additional commentary that might be useful.

    Jonathan

  21. #71
    A few resources for collectors of British swords:

    Have you ever puzzled over the government and regimental markings on your sword or bayonet? This site might provide some clarity: Markings on British and Commonwealth Bayonets.

    Now that you know the regiment to which your sword belonged, why not learn a bit about that regiment's service record? Try www.regiments.org.

    Do you have a nice Wilkinson sword but have no idea where to begin finding out who the original owner was? Your quest begins at www.armsresearch.co.uk!

    Do you have questions that might be off topic to SFI? If you are researching Victorian, Edwardian, or WWI era swords, try asking the knowledgeable fellows at the Victorian Wars Forum (a forum dedicated to the Victorian Military) or the Great War Forum (a forum dedicated to WWI).

    Jonathan

  22. #72
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    Keep an open mind about things and don't judge too quickly. A little questionning may yield surprising results.

    As a US Civil War collector, I've seen alot of French swords offered for sale as federal or Confederate weapons. If they are devoid of any bona fide stamping or etching linking them to the US or CS, then I typically dismiss those offerings as spurrious or misidentified. However, a friend of mine who is a militaria dealer recently burned me on one.

    On occasion, I have given my friend opinions about swords. He emailed me a photograph of a French light cavalry sabre with French manufacture markings and "CV" etched on the pommel. He also sent me the sword's auction description which was something along the lines of "French sword used by a Louisiana Confederate officer." The description went on to say that many French weapons were imported by Louisiana during the war and that this sword has the Confederate attribute of an unstopped fuller. The add linked the sword, possibly, to a Lt. Charles Villiere of the 1st La. Cavalry. He asked me what I thought about the sword.

    I responded to my friend that I thought that the description was a red herring and that what I see is a French sword with no Confederate connection. I had not heard of Louisiana being a large importer of French weapons, but it was possible that some officer's ordered swords from France, especially pre-war. The unstopped fuller is a trait of Confederate manufacuter, but not a Confederate sword pattern requirement. Thus, there is nothing significant to the French sword's unstopped fuller. Finally, the etched initials looked period, but could mean anything. I just didn't see any provenance to declare this foreign sword to be that which was carried by a specific Confederate lieutenant.

    After I took the bait, the whole story was revealed to me. The seller obtained the sword from an auction in which Lt. Villiere's kepi was also sold. Both the kepi and the sword were put on auction by a branch of the Villieres family living in another state. Thus, there is good provenance to identify the sword. However, at first blush it was too obscure to do so.

    The lesson -- investigate before dismissing. Ask for the provenance. I didn't ask, I just dismissed. While it is not a totally unwarranted reaction to dismiss purported provenance with all the fakes, forgeries and fraud in the antique sword collecting world, we must remember to investigate before passing judgment.

    The oddity of this story -- My friend is friends with a descendent of Lt. Villieres who was unaware of the branch of the family that sold the sword or the existence of the sword. The sword is now in the possession of Lt. Villieres' G-G-G-G nephew.

    Even more coincidence -- I have ancestors who served in the same regiment as Lt. Villieres. Mine were lowly enlisted men, though.

    Andre
    Last edited by A.Ducote; 02-22-2008 at 01:12 PM.
    Andre F. Ducote
    Mississippi

  23. #73
    At times it is beneficial to keep your enthusiasm and knowledge in check. At the Baltimore show this weekend I came across a nice British P1803 Infantry Officer's Sword. It was in decent condition, but the hilt appeared to have been tightened at some point, and the fishskin was lifting from the wood core grip a bit, and it did not have a scabbard. However, it was very unique in that half of the lions head pommel was ivory. I had not seen this on a Georgian sword, but I had seen ivory inserts on the pommels of P1822s. The dealer stated that he did not have a clue about the pommel. I told him about the P1822s I had seen with ivory on the inboard side of the pommels, and how I had been told that this feature helped to prevent wear to an officer's uniform.

    While I did not love this sword, it was unique and worthy of further study. I could afford it, but had not been through the entire show so I decided to think on it and return once i had viewed the show in its entirety. Naturally when I came back the sword had sold and was for sale at another dealer's table, and it was now more that I could afford. I took one last look at it, and the dealer gave me the same information on it that I had given the previous dealer.

    I wonder if the dealer would have sold that sword as quickly had I not spilled the beans, so to speak. If I find myself in a similar situation again, I will just shrug, smile, and agree with the dealer that the sword is truly puzzling.

    Jonathan

    PS--Yes, I took a few photos of the hilt and I will post them in the near future.

  24. #74

    Question But what did you bring home with you?

    Hey Jonathan,
    Live and learn? Anyhow... just what (pray tell) did you bring home with you, from the Baltimore show? Any treasures? Oh yes, did you have enough time, or energy, to check out that fantastic antiquities auction nearby? I'm at the edge of my seat, waiting for your show review. This as almost as good as Christmas! "Jingle swords, jingle swords..." Which section are you going to post it in? I love fishing stories. Hopefully, they didn't all get away!

    Ciao, Jon Palombi
    "A wise person aspires the study of swordsmanship. A lucky person finds a worthy teacher, an unlucky person finds yet another student... in the guise of a genuine Master. Sadly, a fool cannot tell the difference either way." Anecdotes of The Unknown Swordsman

  25. #75
    For the collector of British swords, a tip before bed...

    Hart's Annual Army List is a well-known and oft-consulted resource for collectors of Victorian and early 20th century British military swords. Until recently one had to purchase the Lists in either book or CD form, and for many editions of the list this is still the case. However, quite a few editions of Hart's Annual Army List are available for free download via Google Books:

    Hart's Annual Army List

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