Green Papers Pt. 2

I am glad my post on green papers is getting some traction and the issue is being discussed. There is some of the expected harrumphing and finger pointing going around as people are reacting to the information, and I suggest to not get distracted by it. No handwaving is required and no conspiracy theories necessary about this being a scam wherein the NBTHK accuses itself of fraudulent papers in order to get people to pay twice for papers (kind of like shooting yourself in the face in order to claim insurance).

This is the appropriate response if you think your green papers are good:


If you really believe in it, you can do it.

Continue reading Green Papers Pt. 2


One word can bring the dancing thought of undiscovered treasure through your mind, and it can also bring the crushing thought of buying a fake. 

eBay has its place as a useful tool, but there are a few things to keep in mind. None of this will be news for experienced collectors, but is a short overview for people new to this hobby.

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The humble wakizashi

You may have gotten advice when you started out to buy a wakizashi as your first item. I am not 100% sure yet if this is completely out-dated bullshit advice (like uchiko improving a polish), or if it is meant well and properly. I want to poke at that idea a bit and see if something comes out of it. 

There is certainly a bias in the market against wakizashi. This has some merit, and this in other regards lacks merit. Basically, a wakizashi is a case by case thing. Who made it, why they made it, when they made it, all of this factors into how you should be thinking about them.

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Your swords: not samurai swords. Daimyo swords!

The title refers to a conversation I had with a top Japanese dealer.

I try hard to focus on quality and to weed the weak out when I select something for my site. I don’t want to get commercial grade items and host them, this to me isn’t interesting, and I don’t want to pretend to fawn over items that were basically utilitarian in their time. 

This spawns some thoughts.

Continue reading Your swords: not samurai swords. Daimyo swords!

Green papers = no papers

Actually, green papers on a sword at this point are worse than having no papers. They are a virtual guarantee that the sword was made by anyone else except for the guy named on the papers

“But, Darcy,” you say, “this that and the other thing! This one is real!”


From a standpoint of the offended side in the consecutive incidents having taken place last year, one in Fukuoka Kyushu where the Society’s Local Shinsa of Kicho Token was disgraced by an intrusion of local organized outlaws in March and the other involving forged certificates widely circulated in the autumn, the Society had entrusted the Metropolitan Police Department with investigation into those regrettable incidents. After eight months’ thorough investigation by the authority, eight persons in the forgery ring were arrested and twenty-eight more connected with the ring have been sent the police reports to the public prosecutor.

— NBTHK Token Bijutsu (English), 1981

“But, Darcy,” you say, “I really feel good about this one!”


“But, Darcy,” you say, “let me explain why this one is the exception!”


The bigger the name, the worse it is.

Continue reading Green papers = no papers

Don’t bother, it has no boshi

When I started out in sword collecting, I visited the San Francisco sword show a few times. Like everyone else, eagerly looking over the tables for interesting items.

At this point I was just beginning to be able to read some Japanese, and I saw a sword with a sayagaki to Rai Kunitoshi. This was ranked Tokubetsu Hozon. Like most beginners as soon as I figured out what Juyo was, I wanted to find them myself, submit and get a sword to win in the competition. 

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You can’t teach speed

Deion Sanders ran a 4.27 in 1989. Bo Jackson holds the mythical record of 4.12 from 1986, though debate continues on whether that was an accurate time. Different evaluators and clubs place varying importance on the 40, but the old axiom remains true.

You can’t teach speed.

— Jonathan Jones, Sports Illustrated

Everyone who ever followed the NFL draft hears this when their team picks up a speedy corner. NBA has its own version if you draft a 7 foot tall center, in that you can’t teach height.

This is all true.

As usual, we can find take home wisdom from anywhere and apply it to collecting artifacts of any sort.

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Helpful friends

If you collect things, at some point you will indeed make friends through your hobby. Some of these will be good friends, some will only be linked to you by your common interest, and some others… no comment.

Your friends are your first source of second opinions, because if you choose carefully, at the very least you can get honesty from them. But you need to be careful as to what you do with their advice.

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Out of every ten swords signed “Kotetsu,” eleven will be fake. — Ancient American Proverb

Gimei swords are those that bear a fake signature. These signatures were added either recently or some time in the past for a handful of reasons… all involving deception. The original degree of malevolence involved in this deception can vary. Even now they can be innocently bought and sold, but at some point gimei blades can be weaponized and used to defraud someone.

Currently there is only one good reason to consider a gimei sword for purchase. And a lot of bad ones.

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A good collection tells a story

This is the other part in collection planning, the first being the previous post about how to allocate funds. This advice as well applies to all levels, from someone spending hundreds to someone spending hundreds of thousands of dollars.

A good collection can be more than the sum of its parts, because the parts can act like pages in a book, telling a story. 

Continue reading A good collection tells a story

What I learned from you

My background is as a mathematician and a software engineer. When I was 21 I started a software company with one of my friends, and we made tools for the financial services industry. After 9 years we got bought out by a big company and at that time I focused on my interests and hobbies, one of which was Japanese swords.

When I started my website, it was only as a place to sell from my own collection as my interests changed and grew. This brought up new challenges, like learning the magic of how the Japanese photographers captured blades in such beautiful and elegant ways. It took years to figure out the tricks and making the photography better is a daily task. Becoming a more advanced student meant studying better blades and as my site got better swords and better photography people started asking me to sell their swords for them so I started taking consignments. So, basically you pushed me into becoming a dealer.

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That’s a phrase many travelers have heard from many street hucksters in all corners of the planet. If you go along with that, the special deal is probably highly profitable for the guy offering it.

The trick that these guys pull off has to do with influencing perceptions. A good salesman will tell you that perception is reality. People want to have this perception of a bargain because it makes them feel good about their purchase, and it validates positive opinions they want to have about themselves. That is, that they are smart, perceptive, and able to influence people.

However, if everyone is always out there, getting the bargains, and beating the market, then nobody is. Markets tend to be efficient and if you are only motivated by chasing bargains, then you will probably be negatively impacted by this unless your knowledge level is extremely high because you can end up being lead around by your perceptions rather than facts.


Hozon is a test, Juyo is a competition

The NBTHK in Tokyo is the main organization for authenticating Japanese swords. They currently issue papers at four levels, from lowest to highest level, these are: Hozon, Tokubetsu Hozon, Juyo, and Tokubetsu Juyo.

There is not much difference between the first and second papers, but there is a big leap to the third and fourth level papers.

Continue reading Hozon is a test, Juyo is a competition