Antique Japanese Samurai Swords
Antique Japanese Samurai swords are traditional Japanese weapons that were worn by the samurai class of feudal Japan.
History & Description
Historically referred to as katana, samurai swords were produced in Japan in 6 time periods: jokoto (until 900AD), koto (900-1596), shinto (1596-1780), shinshinto (1781-1876), gendaito (1876-1945) and shinsakuto (1953-present).
Katana - or samurai swords - are generally three foot long with a curved blade which is made of steel, making these swords strong weapons. The sword’s temper line – known as ashi – has a crystal clear, almost transparent frame and the end is slightly curved towards its point.
Guide for collectors
Although antique Japanese samurai swords are frequently sold through national auction houses, records indicate that the most valuable and important examples are typically sold through international auctioneers, such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s.
The price of a sword is determined by its condition, age, materials and decoration of the blade, hilt and tsuba (sheath). The highest quality swords are either made of folded steel or high carbon steel. There are some antique examples made from stainless steel, but these are typically of inferior quality.
Collectors should be aware that a true samurai sword is forged. This means that each sword is unique and a testament to the craftsmanship and skill put into its making. Due to the number of reproductions, collectors should make sure that the seller provides as much information as possible to guarantee that you are purchasing an authentic.
Notable auction sales
On October 23rd 2009 at Christie’s in New York:
- A late-Kamakura, early-Nanbokucho period sword, attributed to Yoshihiro Sugata, circa fourteenth century, realised a price of $194,500.
- A Kamakura period sword, attributed to Katayama Ichimonji Nobufusa, circa thirteenth century, realised a price of $146,500.
- An Edo period sword, signed Hizen Tadayoshi, circa early-seventeenth century, relaised a price of $122,500.
On November 9th 2011 at Christie’s in London, a Kamakura period sword attributed to Kamakura Ichimonji Sukezane, circa 1250, relaised a price of £70,850.