Learn about the Value of the rarest and famous antique swords & how to start a rare sword collection
Serious collectors always turn their attention to acquiring rare swords, weapons of the past that are rich in stories of warfare and filled with extraordinary tales of heroism.
These antique swords not only give us a chance to behold the artifacts of the past, but also a lens through which we can revisit the olden times.
Rare swords are judged according to two qualifications: their scarcity and prestige attached onto them.
The Viking swords for example are considered very rare collectible swords nowadays as most of them are hard to find or deteriorated (the Vikings buried them on the soil, which destroyed their chances for survival in perfect condition) and produced in a very limited quantity at that time (the Vikings fitted them only to their generals and affluent patrons).
Rare swords are also judged according to how prestigious they were in the time they were produced. It is exactly this reason why the swords of kings and national heroes like El Cid of Spain are more coveted than, say, ordinary French officer sword. It is also exactly this reason why the 13th century swords forged by Goro Nyudo Masamune, the greatest of all ancient smiths of Japan, are more expensive than antique Polish army sword made by anonymous sword-makers.
The rarest sword was found in Northumberland, England. Experts have traced its origins to 7th century, a pre-Viking era, a time when Anglo-Saxons had kingdoms in northern England. It was found to contain six carbonized iron strands, a characteristic that was hardest to forge in its time. Most of the swords belonging to the same period have had only four strands.
The 13th century precious swords made by Japanese sword smith Go Yoshihiro are considered the rarest in Japanese tradition. Go Yoshihiro was regarded to be the best student of the great sword-maker Masamune.
Sometimes Yoshihiro’s blades were confused to be that of his teacher, which only proves his mastery and skills in metalworking. Yoshihiro died young, at the age of thirty, and so he produced only very few blades. His prodigious talent in sword-making and his very short life made all his blades to be prized very highly.
Most expensive swords
The most expensive sword ever sold to an auction, and considered one of the rarest swords in Europe, was an ancient Arab sword that once belonged to Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. He reportedly carried it when he went on to war in Italy in 1800. Measuring 32 inches, curved, and ornately decorated, the value of this antique sword fetched $6.4 million. It is now considered a national treasure of France.
Coming closely to Napoleon’s price tag is a ceremonial Chinese sword in 18th century. When it was auctioned in Hong Kong in 2006, onlookers and bidders were surprised to see that the price of this antique sword rose to $5.3 million. Called a Baoteng saber, it is considered the most expensive sword among ancient imperial Chinese bladed arms.
Most famous collection of rare Japanese swords
The most prestigious private collection of antique Japanese swords belonged to Dr. Walter Compton, an American collector who collected rare samurai swords for most of his life in the 1900’s. Dr. Compton was a very known figure in sword collecting, having studied Japanese swordsmanship, metalworking, and Japanese sword history under sword experts. He was also an aggressive collector, flying to different parts of the world just to get a good deal. His entire collection included very rare katana swords, sword accessories, and antique scabbards.
The leading auction house Christie’s opened the bidding of the Compton collection in 1992. After intense competition, Compton’s rare swords collection was worth $7.9million.
What makes an ancient sword famous and expensive?
First of all, a rare antique sword becomes famous for its perfect forging and condition. A very good example of this is the Sword of Goujian, a 500 BC Chinese bronze sword belonging to King Goujian who once ruled the ancient kingdom of Shanghai, China. Archeologists found it buried for over 2,000 years in an underground water system together with the tomb of the King. In spite of the sword’s harsh surroundings, it is the embodiment of perfection: its bronze blade is without blemish and sparkling, its cutting edge sharp, and it can still easily cut paper, wood, or flesh in one swoop.
The Sword of Goujian is now considered a priceless antique sword and a national treasure of China.
Second, a rare antique sword becomes famous for its being legendary. The expensive swords of Muramasa, a 16th century Japanese sword-maker, have spooky stories to tell: their blades were believed to be made from iron, carbon, and human blood. Neighbors and passersby remarked that dead bodies were found sprawling on the street across Muramasa’s forge from time to time. These stories are doubtful in their truthfulness, but they helped establish the priceless value of Muramasa swords.
Third, a rare antique sword becomes famous for its well-known owner. An example of this is the sword of Ali ibn Abi Talib, the son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad. Ali is famous for his participation in a Muslim-Jewish battle in western Saudi Arabia sometime in 627 AD.
He challenged to a duel the general of the enemy’s army, a man who was believed to have the strength of a thousand warriors. With one clean slash of his sword, Ali struck and cut his enemy into two halves. Ali’s sword, a rare antique Arab scimitar, was henceforth called the Zulqifar, meaning the Spinecleaver.
Lastly, a rare antique sword becomes famous for its well-known smith. The extremely expensive Masamune swords are renowned for their exquisite beauty and restrained fatality. Expert opinions have placed these swords as the cream of the crop, the perfection of Japanese swordcraft, because of the genius and extraordinary skill of Masamune.
Buying rare swords: A good investment
Starting your own rare sword collection is a really good investment and a rewarding hobby. Not only it is exciting and fun, it is also a great chance to make money. The market on antique arms and armories is booming, and online auction sites have been trading swords very frequently. This ensures that the antique sword value would continue to increase in the future.
Here are things to remember when starting a rare sword collection:
1.) Choose a type of sword that you have deep interest in. Your fascination and passion will help you study the long and complex history of the sword, which is necessary for you to be able to accurately classify real antique swords from the fake ones.
2.) Equip yourself with knowledge. Some museums, universities, and martial arts groups are offering crash courses, so you can have basic training in sword history and classification. Acquaint yourself with the characteristics of rare swords by visiting museums, rare sword shows, and artifact exhibits.
3.) As you become knowledgeable on the field, you would soon discover some rare swords that have potential future value but are otherwise neglected in the market. You would also come across with dealers who are selling precious rare swords and sword experts who can shed some valuable information through well-informed appraisal.
4.) Be ready in getting good deals by constantly updating yourself with latest auctions and trading. In this way, you can have fresh updates on antique sword prices and the trend of the antique market. Make a killing on rarest swords that you think would become valuable possessions in the long run. There have been many private collectors who bought antique swords that later became national treasures, so it is good to be knowledgeable, aggressive, and well-informed.
5.) If money is scarce, you can still grow your collection by bartering some of your swords in exchange of a more expensive and more valuable sword.
Do not limit yourself to swords. There has been renewed interest in many antique sword accessories, such as fittings, scabbards, and display stands. Other bladed arms, such as ancient daggers and antique sword canes, are also enjoying brisk trading. Your collection would be much more comprehensive and valuable if you collect these items too.