Copyright Robert Cole 2015 - No copying or distributing


As long as swords have been traded,a specific system has been applied to the valuation. Anyone interested in trading in the sword market, needs to familiarize themselves with the particulars of this system.

Again, a few simple rules go together.

The value of any antique or of any object with inherent value, such as swords, is not the same as money - any more than money is the same as swords.They are different. A piece is valuable of itself and, being so, should not be equated as money. Money and value translate only as a vehicle of trade. In the trade only, does money and value become hand in hand.

Money becomes attached to the value of individual work but the market is tied to current economic health. Value is firmly established according to smith and condition. If, however, the economy is down, leaving little cash in the hands of perspective buyers, a fine sword might go without bids. In times of affluence, the same piece can be traded continuously. An old fact worth remembering: the finest pieces have always been immune to economics. Products from the most highly regarded smiths will always find buyers.

An old saying, and sometimes law, states that the real value of an article is what "a willing buyer pays a willing seller." Without arguing old sayings, it should be pointed out that prices are more firmly established for Japanese swords than for any other art or antique in the world. Centuries of fervent trading have fixed relative values for products of specific smiths securely.

The numerous Japanese pricing or value-guides, issued for many years, reflect these values. The values are listed in gold, in currency, as value levels or arranged to a point-system. All show relative value between smiths.

Actual sales price becomes a matter between buyer and seller, but the "world market," outside Japan, pins on the trading price in established relative values - which is "wholesale." The price in Japan depends on their current sword market - which, of course, stands against their sometimes quite volatile economy.

The Japanese sword market is insulated from the world sword market. It is their market with their economy. (see "The Japanese Market SAKOKU ")

A changing world economic scene has created evolving influence to the pattern of old sword traffic. The foundation for world price has always depended on interaction with the long established Japanese sword society of expertise, services and opinion. The engine of appraisal recognition and the documentation of relative cultural importance for individual pieces tie pricing to the tiered and conveluted structure of the sword society and market of Japan. (see "The Japanese Market SAKOKU ")

The setting for world sword pricing rests on the foundation established over the fifty years following World War II. To the world, the Japanese sword market appears as an isolated monolith reaching only with the hands of its international traders, the Japanese sword dealers.

Through dealers, the Japanese sword market couches and fires the world sword market.

Unless one travels to Japan and can successfully negotiate sales, the definer for price of Japanese swords is the world sword market. Because the predominate supply of money for the world sword market flows from the distribution network in Japan, the world sword market functions, with the Japanese market, essentially, as a wholesale supplier. (see "The Japanese Market SAKOKU ")

For fifty years, Japanese sword money fed the world market like Pharaonic Egypt's, Aton's hands. Japanese sword dealers are the retailer to their market. Outsiders - foreign dealers and collectors, are their wholesale supply. This has been the system that brought money for Japanese swords. Without this system, there was no system. European and American economies have competed but as yet, only stalled this long established truth.

Price Lists
Many of the currency prices listed in Japanese books are retail. Often, retail is three times that of wholesale.

Many of these book values vary from one to another. If they were to be used, the listed values would have to be adjusted for accuracy and market, when necessary, and converted to wholesale.

While there are swords that will bring retail outside Japan, and more, the average trading price for swords is and always has been WHOLESALE.

While "Wholesale" has always been the trading price, collectors should realize that as higher-paying buyers, including the Japanese, capture available pieces, wholesale markets atrophy.

Paying higher is buying long-term.

An antique market is short-term where "wholesale" is the established trading price. It is a self-terminating arena. To sell wholesale in the face of long-term buying is to lose availability. A sword may permanently leave the market.

Any market that cannot muster a sophisticated purpose is a doomed market. Therefore occasioning "wholesale" may, in fact, not be the desirable field of play. (See Buying and Selling )


Sellers should remember a purchasing habit that attends most sales. Excepting of the unusual piece or the unusual collection, a seller not only sells value but also offers the margin between that value and the price to be paid.

Margin is a tangibility every buyer weighs. An aspect in the buying and selling of swords is keeping a viable margin. This is a consideration for everyone in a market network. - Don't buy too high. Don't sell too high.

Dealers must conserve double margins.

A note to the over-enthusiastic: Swords are worth money. But they are worth more than money ...or they would not be worth buying. Only values that supersede price can drive long standing markets. Since the usual cash trade is a lower potential than actual value, any sale yields loss to the seller.

Whether margin or value headroom, prices can only rise. It's the carrot and donkey syndrome.

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