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Katana and an Axe

Posted: 04/10/17 (15:40pm)

It has been a hectic week! I've loved it!
Those of you who follow me on Facebook will know that last Thursday I flew down to London to attend an auction. I left home at 3am in order to catch my flight from Edinburgh and be in London for 8am. It was well worth it.
I went with a reasonably long list of wants, knowing that I was never coming home with everything on the list and hoping that I would at least be able to buy my top three. In the end I was able to buy only one of the swords I wanted. The prices were very high. 

So what did I buy? A Japanese WW2 Type 95 NCO shin Gunto with over 80% of its original paint on the scabbard and hilt and with matching numbers. It is a beauty! 

It was after midnight when I got home from London and after a short lie-in, I was off again, by car this time, driving down to Cambridge. Those of you who know the UK will be wondering why I didn't just go from London to Cambridge, but this trip was more of a family affair than a business one. It was my older brother's 50th birthday and Sue and I both wanted to be there, so I had to return to Scotland so we could travel down together.

As luck would have it, there was a huge antiques fair in Peterborough so on Saturday, Sue and I paid it a visit. I am very glad we did. I managed to do some networking and even made a sale! I also came across the mint condition US P1917 bayonet which I have just listed.

Another of my purchases was something completely different. I thought long and hard before buying it - not just because of what it cost me, but because of what it is and represents. I am talking about the massive executioner's axe which I have just added to the site.
As a collector and dealer in antique edged weapons, I know that it is highly likely that some, maybe many of my items will have taken life. The taking of life in combat, against a similarly armed and atavistic opponent is however very different to the cold blooded killing of a condemned individual, someone whom the state has decided (for whatever reason) to kill. Especially given that many of those poor souls were guilty of nothing more than having offended a local aristocrat or fallen out of the king or queen's favour. It still gives me pause even now despite the fact that, as a dealer, when the time came to act, I bought it. I hope it sells soon - it's not really my cup of tea!

On-line Bidding at Auctions - Caveat Emptor!

Posted: 22/09/17 (16:46pm)

I went to an auction yesterday to buy a sword. Several swords in fact.
I left home just after 3.30am yesterday to drive down to an auction in England. It was raining heavily, very dark and windy and the first hour and forty minutes of my drive was along winding, sheep and dear strewn country roads. The journey didn't improve once I reached the English border and continued down the M6 motorway. The heavy rain meant that the motorway was a fog of dense spray thrown up by every vehicle. My neck was stiff and my shoulders ached five hours later when I reached my destination. It was worth it though.

As always, I had planned my journey to get me to the auction with enough time to inspect the lots prior to the auction starting. This meant getting there several hours before my lots were going under the hammer because once the auction starts, viewing is no longer possible and in most cases, as with yesterdays auction, the lots are off limits.

Why not bid on-line? Why not request additional photographs and condition reports and bid from the comfort of my own home? It is certainly very easy and now-a-days there are several web based groups that facilitate doing so. Why not?
Because as was proved yesterday, and in the past, so many auction houses, while experts in granny's crockery, struggle to accurately identify let alone describe anything sharp and pointy.

I turned up at the auction with a long list of lots I was interested in and was soon crossing them off. First on my list was a WWII Japanese officer's shin gunto, incorrectly described as a Meiji period katana. The gunto was in very poor condition. The blade was terribly (and deeply) scratched. A condition report and additional photos had been requested - by me, and had been posted on the auction website as well as a prominent online auction facilitators site, but the scratches were far more significant than described and were almost indistinguishable on the photographs provided. The tang photographs that I also requested showed a signature however on inspection the blade was clearly machined with an applied hamon. Lastly, the mekugi was missing and had been replaced with a badly carved and ill-fitting piece of wood. None of this was mentioned. In fact the sword was described as being in good condition!  I immediately lost interest in it. As did everyone else in the room. The sword sold to an online bidder for £530 plus buyers fees and delivery costs. Someone has an unpleasant surprise heading their way.
The second lot of interest to me was described as a Victorian Scottish basket hilt. It wasn't. It was a poor replica and not only that, but the scabbard it was photographed with did not even fit the sword! Again, no-one in the room was willing to part with any cash to own it and it sold to an unsuspecting online bidder. Knowing that all requests for additional information and photographs were posted on the auction houses own website as well as on the Saleroom's website, I can say with certainty that the online buyer will have been totally unaware that the scabbard was not correct for the sword or that the sword itself was a copy. 
Not to labour the point but I found a further three fakes within the lots at this auction, all of which sold to online buyers. The buyers of these lots (the fakes) are able to return the items as they were sold as being genuine and not "in the style of," "type" which is usual auction speak for "fake," but first they have to know that they are fake and then they have to return them. They will not get a refund on the delivery or return costs. 

Yesterdays auction was par for the course. It is incumbent on the buyer to satisfy themselves that the items they bid on are correctly described and in good condition - all auction houses have this disclaimer. When bidding online it is very hard to do so. Very often the auction houses themselves are unaware that something is amiss or that damage exceeds the norm and as such these things are not included in requests for additional information and condition reports. Caveat emptor!

So, how did the auction go for me? Very well, I came home with sixteen items, the first two of which I have just added to the site.
It is always better to buy in person from an auction house but if you can't, be very specific about the information you request. Don't just ask for a general condition report.

I will be leaving home at 3.30am again next Thursday to catch a flight from Edinburgh to London. Fingers crossed I will be flying home Thursday night after another successful auction. And yes, as long as the swords are in the hold it is no problem to take them on the plane.

Jaspar Bungen Broadsword Blade Circa 1590

Posted: 15/09/17 (12:08pm)

Well, what a week. Sales have been good and I really appreciate hearing from my customers. It is very important to me that people are happy with their purchase and my service and I am very grateful when someone takes the time to write to tell me. I am always happy to answer questions and help in any way - even if it is just to pass on a link or recommend a particular site for research.

On the subject of research, I was thrilled to discover that a sword I bought recently at a Cornish auction was fitted with a very rare and special blade.
The blade was made circa 1590 in Solingen by a blade-smith called Jaspar Bungen. The spelling of the inscription at first glance does not look like the name Jaspar but in the 16th Century (and later) the letter "I" was used as a "J." On closer inspection of what looked like the second letter "I," I discovered it was actually a letter "P," giving me the name "Jaspar." The surname "Bungen" is clearly legible. There are slight variations on the spelling of this smiths name, the most common of which is "Bongen" which appears on later blades, those produced in the early to mid 17th Century.

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The Solingen orbs and the Passau running wolf further help date this blade.

It wasn't unusual for Infantry officers to replace the standard spadroon blade on their P1796 with one more suited to fighting - after-all, their life could depend on it. It is however quite rare to find one with such an old replacement. Any theory as to how this came about is merely supposition but looking at the swords relatively unadorned guard and hilt and the use of copper instead of silver wire on the grip, I would hazard that we are looking at a sword belonging to a young officer of lowly rank and limited means. Someone who was more likely to re-use a family heirloom blade instead of having a new one made. It would also have been the younger, low rank officers who would have been more likely to have to use their sword in battle, so requiring a more fighting fit blade. 
Isn't that part of why we love and collect these weapons? The great stories and romantic imaginings that accompany them.

French M1829 Artillery Sabre/WW1 Trench Clearance Weapon

Posted: 31/08/17 (14:16pm)

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French M1829 Artillery Sabre shortened for use as a WW1 trench clearance weapon.

This sword began as a French artillery officer's sabre, Model 1829, made by the Chatelherault armoury in 1843. It was issued in France, based on the stamps on the brass D-guard but what action it saw during the latter half of the 19th Century can only be guessed at.

The sword was reportedly brought back to the UK from France after World War 1, where it may have been used as a trench clearance and close combat weapon. Whether the blade was intentionally cut short to make it more suitable for trench warfare or whether the damaged sword was re-pointed for use we will never know. Either way, it would have been an effective close quarters weapon.

I purchased the sword in a catalogue auction as part of a job lot - which included a rare British hooked quillon bayonet, but as with all auctions, the vendor remained anonymous and the only information available was that the items were all believed to be from WW1. I have no reason to doubt this - the other items are beyond question of WW1 use/issue.
I would love to know more about this sword's history but unfortunately that's not going to happen. It makes it very hard to value because on one hand, it's a broken 19th Century sword. On the other, if it was a WW1 trench weapon it's a very interesting artefact and presumably, to the right people, highly collectable. As it's definitely the former and I can't prove the latter, I have decided to go with what I feel is a very reasonable price - £75. After all, it is a very interesting piece, whatever its story.
If only it could talk...

Italian Model 1900/09 Prototype Cavalry Sabre

Posted: 10/08/17 (12:22pm)

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It is not always easy thinking of what to blog about. Things have been slow lately, I guess everyone is planning what to do with the kids now that they are off school or are already away sunning themselves. Of course, my Southern Hemisphere friends will probably not be on holiday but I am sure they are having an equally busy time.
Anyway, this week I thought I would highlight a particularly interesting and rare cavalry sabre. A sword that was ahead of the curve (no pun intended) but behind the times. Ultimately, like the British P1908 and US Patton sabre, developed too late for its own good.

The sabre I'm talking about is the very rare Italian M1900/09 prototype Cavalry Trooper's sword made by the Serafino Gnutti Arsenal in Brescia, Northern Italy.

The sabre has a narrow 91cm pipe-back blade that tapers to a spear point. It is an ideal thrusting blade made at the turn of the century when the debate as to whether the point beats the edge had been debated to exhaustion.

Cavalry regiments across Europe were adopting thrusting blades over cutting blades and were experimenting with the hilt and blade designs of their existing cavalry sabres. The frequently encountered Italian M1871 sabre was re-worked in 1909, receiving the designation 1871/09 and is a good example of this.

The Model 1900 sword was a purpose built experimental cavalry sword with a ridiculously long thrusting blade which was shortened to 91cm in 1909 and this new sword was designated the Model 1900/09. As a prototype weapon, only a small number were made and issued to chosen regiments for field-testing. Most of them saw action in Italy's Ethiopian campaign. Despite the excellence of the design (similar to the British P1908 and USA Patton Sabre), this sword was developed at a time when the use of swords in combat was at an end and as such it never went into full production.

The ricasso of this example is marked with an oval cartouche containing the letters "SFG" for the Serafino Gnutti Arsenal and above that an Italian armoury acceptance stamp. The obverse ricasso bears the number "1552" The blade has an unusual fuller on the spine, which serves to reduce weight while retaining the blades strength and makes it incredibly nimble in the hand.

The two-strap steel bowl guard has a pronounced beak and is almost identical in design to the Italian M1860 Heavy Cavalry bowl guard, giving ample protection to the hand. Interestingly, the Italian use of an indented thumb recess on their guards from the latter part of the 19th Century onwards, was dropped on this design, harkening back to the earlier, non-indented style.

The shaped wooden hilt has a crosshatch pattern with a matching contoured and crosshatched steel back strap that gives the hilt a great aesthetic and feels great to use.

This very rare experimental Italian Cavalry Sword is in my opinion one of the best cavalry sabres ever developed. It incorporates all that is loved about the P1908 and Patton sabre with added Italian style. These swords are very hard to find and do not come on to the market often.

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New Friends and Old Swords

Posted: 19/07/17 (12:43pm)

As usual, life is rushing by. I've been busy forging new friendships and discussing old swords on the different Facebook groups that I have joined. I wish I had done it sooner. There is a wealth of knowledge out there held by great people who are happy to share. I hope my own contributions to the various discussions and requests for identifications and information have been useful and helpful too.
I was really heartened and grateful to the members who looked over my website, gave their approval and wished me luck. Thanks all! :-)

Ok, so I haven't just been surfing the chat rooms and skiving off. I've been working too. 
It gives me a lot of pleasure when items from the website are bought by collectors in the countries from which they originally came. There is a feeling of home-coming when a rare sword is repatriated. It just feels right. In the past I have also had the pleasure of reuniting families with ancestors' swords. Most recently, I was able to return the sword of  William Home-Robertson to Paxton House where it is now on display to the public below his life-size portrait in which he is wearing the sword.
In contrast, I feel great sadness when something historically significant is lost to any nation.
I recently acquired the sword of Commander Victor Lyndsey Arbuthnot Campbell RN, DSO and Bar, OBE, who was the First Officer on Scott's ill-fated 1910 Terra Nova expedition to the Antarctic. Victor Campbell led the Eastern party, and despite a year of hardship, lead his party of six men back to safety. Scott and all his party died, overshadowing Campbell's achievement. Scott's death made Campbell Britain's foremost Arctic explorer. He was also a naval hero, awarded two DSO's during WW1.
I offered the sword at cost to several museums including one run by the Royal Navy and to the Antarctic Exploration Museum and it was of no interest to any of them. I have now sold the sword for a considerable sum and it has left the country and gone into a private collection where I know it will be cherished and cared for, but how sad that no-one in the UK will ever get to see it. 

Last week I spent a really enjoyable day at the BBC Antiques Roadshow which was filmed at Floors Castle. It was fun seeing how the program is made (and Fiona Bruce looks just as good in real life!). I took along a couple of swords to see what the experts would say. It was heartening to hear them confirm my own opinions and identification of them.
One was an extremely rare British River Police hanger, dating between 1798 and 1840 which I have just added to the site.

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The other, a French hunting sword with a colichemarde blade, dating from around 1680 - 1730.

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The colichemarde blade was popular in France from the mid 1600's until early 1700's. 
The blade of this hunting hanger is engraved with the motto "Champion Qui Surmonte" meaning "The one who overcomes everything," and the initials (presumably of the owner), JCS. Despite missing its shell guard it is a great little sword, the brass D-guard and pommel cap are engraved with typical hunting scenes of hounds after stags and foxes (although one of the beasts being hunted is mythical) and the quillon is a beautifully detailed "dogs" head.

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This lovely little sword will be added to the website soon.
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Keywords

French M1777 an IX Socket Bayonet, 1680 English Dragoon Back Sword, Bygone Blades, Antique Swords, Edged Weapons, Iklwa, Zulu stabbing spear, Finnish M27, Finnish M28 Bayonet, Finnish M27 Bayonet, Finnish M29 Bayonet, Finnish M35 Bayonet, British 1803 Infantry Officer's Sabre, Thomas Lowe, WW1 Ottoman Cavalry Sabre. Turkish Cavalry Sword, British 1821 Artillery Short Sword