Old Japanese military sword value
A simple guide to determine the worth of antique gunto swords
Right after the 2nd World War, thousands of Japanese military swords, or gunto, were surrendered to the Allied Forces. These were distributed to Allied Army officers who brought them back to America.
It is widely believed that in the 1950’s there are more than a million Japanese swords in the US. Some have been sold to collectors, some became heirlooms, and some might be tucked away in the attic or basement. All of these swords have one thing in common; they’re highly valued in the sword collecting market.
How do you determine the value of an old Japanese military sword?
Finding out the value of an old Japanese military is like an academic pursuit. It follows a series of steps that includes identification, checking of quality, historical research and pricing, an arduous task to someone untrained in swords appraisals.
Having the sword appraised by a professional is the most convenient way to finding out the sword’s worth. But you have to consider the appraiser’s fee. If you’re convinced that the sword is of great value, it’s best to have it checked by a Japanese sword appraiser.
However, if you’re uncertain of the potential worth of your Japanese military sword, an alternative approach is to perform an initial assessment of its value. If the result suggests that the selling price of the sword is enough to cover the appraisal expenses, then you can safely send it with minimal risk of loss.
A preliminary assessment simply looks at pertinent features that have effects on the price of the item. In the case of your old gunto sword, we’re only going to consider two main aspects of the sword – its type and its condition.
What type of Japanese military sword is it?
There are generally four types of swords that were given to the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy officers. These are the kyu-gunto (old military sword), the kai-gunto (naval officer sword), shin-gunto (new military sword) and NCO shin-gunto (new military sword for non-commissioned officers).
Each type of gunto has its own worth in the market as each has a corresponding value on the collecting market.
• Kyu-Gunto swords are easily identified by their resemblance to the Western military swords. These old swords have chrome-plated scabbards and wrap-around hand guards. Kyu-guntos come in both hand-forged and machine-made varieties.
The presence of a wooden peg (mekugi) on the hilt of the sword means that it’s hand-forged and will be valued no less than USD 1,000. Machine-made kyu-gunto, on the other hand, is priced, at least, USD 500 depending on its quality.
• Kai-gunto swords were used by Japanese Naval officers. The scabbards and hilts of these swords were made of ray skin. These are relatively rarer than the other Japanese military swords making them more valuable.
The selling price of machine-made kai-guntos can range from USD 500 to 2,000 depending on its condition. Hand-forged varieties are more expensive with values not lower than USD 1000.
• Shin-gunto swords were given to officers of the Imperial Japanese Army from 1935 to 1945. Most of these swords are machine-made but some are hand-forged.
A hand-forged shing-gunto is recognized by its swordsmith’s mark engraved on the tang (nakago).
Much like the kyu-gunto and the kai-gunto, hand-forged pieces in good condition are worth no less than USD 1,000 while machine-made will be worth at least USD 300.
• NCO Shin-guntos are machine-made swords that were provided to non-commissioned officers of the Imperial Japanese Army. These swords feature a prominent serial number stamped on its blade, scabbard, saya and tsuba.
A shin-gunto with matching serial numbers on its blade, tsuba, saya and all other Japanese sword parts (Samurai sword parts) is usually priced no less than USD 750. The usual price marked for an NCO shin-gunto with mismatched serial number is between USD 300 to 1,000 depending on the quality.
Condition of your old gunto sword
Once you have established the type of military sword that you have, it’s time to check its condition. Sword collectors don’t expect military swords to be without flaws. However, there’s a line between “acceptable” damages and devaluing ones.
Any form of damages (cracks, dents and chips) on the sharp edge (ha) of the blade will lower the sword’s selling price; but such imperfections will not be devaluing if they’re on the back of the blade (mune). Chips and cracks that measure more than 1 cm will automatically devalue the gunto by half.
Scratches and slight rusting on the blade are considered normal and have no effect on its worth. A gunto covered with rust is valued as scrap and will not be considered by collectors.
By now, you should an idea of how much your vintage gunto will sell in the collector’s market. With cost in mind, you can choose to either have it appraised by a professional or not.
Finally, you have to understand that the appraised value of your antique Japanese military sword is just an opinion of its value. It’s real worth is the amount that the buyer is willing to pay.