"How To Spot a Fake Japanese Sword on Ebay."
(PS. this goes for Japanese Tsuba, and Mitokoro [Kogai, Kodzuka and Menuki] Too!!!)
This is an important document, because many, many, many ebayers are out there interested in these fabulous antiques, and unfortunately there are a bunch of scam artists out there who are willing to take your money and sell you junk.
You will never get your money back, likely, and perhaps you won't find out until too late. So please, save yourself some time and money, and consider this knowledge that I'm willing to share with you.
IMPORTANT SAMPLE TIPS FROM THIS DOCUMENT
If the auctioneer is based in China or Hong Kong, be very wary of the goods they are selling to you. The Chinese are mass producing poor quality fakes for sale into the western market. Check your seller's location when considering sales. If the auctioneer is conducting a private auction, with the buyer's identities hidden, then you should be very wary of what's going on. Often times an auction like this is aimed at buyers who cannot identify a fake, and the seller uses a private auction in order to prevent Nihonto Cowboys (people with knowledge who seek to warn potential buyers of fakes) from warning the people bidding on their auctions.
There are many reasons to perform a private auction which are legitimate, but this is the #1 bad reason that people use a private auction. Note too that it is AGAINST EBAY RULES to interfere in other people's auctions. Ebay does not allow a Nihonto Cowboy to warn others about bidding on fakes, it is a good rule and understandable why... because then sellers would be trying to ruin other people's auctions, and that would be bad. If the sword you are looking at has parts covered in Red Rust then it's probably been left in the rain for a week in hopes that the rust will make it look old. It doesn't mean for certain that it is a fake, but when you see red rust, especially on the tang, you hould be very wary of what you are buying. A combination of all of (1), (2), (3) above indicates that 99% of the time you are buying a fake.
Auctions on ebay are buyer beware, you really have to do your own research because Ebay cannot police such a huge marketplace. Most people do not educate themselves, and as a result will end up losing money and faith in what is an otherwise fantastic collectible market to be in. Please take some time to educate yourself before buying anything, and you will soon be able to see the fakes very easily.
How to educate yourself? There are many great websites out there to help you with learning all about Japanese Swords. If you go to Yahoo.com and enter the search term "The Japanese Sword Index" you'll end up at the right place. Above all, be a skeptic! American people are trusting, and have faith that other people are as honest as they are. If you're a trusting type then you don't have the right attitude to spot a fake, because you have to start off being skeptical. Let the item convince YOU that it is real, not the other way around. And remember when someone is on the other side of an ocean from you, it makes it very hard for you to get justice if you are scammed. By all means try to ask someone you know who may be an expert before you commit your hard earned money into a collectible like this. You just may save some money.
Sellers with high positive feedback are not necessarily legit. Most of the time they are, but someone who is successfully fooling buyers will probably have lots of positive feedback from those buyers. And if someone does discover that they have bought a fake, many times they will not leave a negative feedback to the seller, because the seller will leave a negative feedback on the buyer to retaliate and injure that buyer. Now the buyer has to surf around with negative feedback points forever because of this dishonest seller and that they tried to do the right thing. I know, because this has happened to me and now I will not leave negative feedback for sellers again, in order to protect my own rating. The lesson here is that if you look only at a list of positive feedback items for your reference, then you just might be looking at a list of successfully duped victims.
Always be wary about what you are looking at, and what you're buying. The highest comfort level can be achieved by bidding on an item that has NBTHK papers. Auctioneers will list these in the auction, since they are a solid guarantee that the item they are selling is legitimate. The NBTHK are experts who evaluate and authenticate Japanese Swords, so their word is usually the best guarantee you can get in the marketplace. Also, these swords will come with a price premium (that is they will be more expensive) because the papers cost time and money to obtain, and there is less risk to the buyer, but you know exactly what you're getting.
However, and importantly, there are many legitimate swords that do not have papers! Buying an un-papered sword just presents to you more risk... and because you're taking on more risk, the price will often be lower on these swords. The lesson here is that if you want an absolute sure thing, aim at a good sword from a reputable dealer who is selling an NBTHK papered sword. There are other good papers out there too, but to avoid complicating this tip even more, it's my opinion that NBTHK are the best to have. Do not let this dissuade you completely from buying an un-papered sword; you can still find something good that is authentic even if it doesn't have papers. I only add this tip for those that want the absolute highest margin of safety and to help educate people who may gloss over and not recognize what "NBTHK" means in some seller's auctions.
That is it for the excerpt from the tips on how to spot a fake. Note that none of these rules are hard and fast. They are only tips to help your "spider sense" to start tingling, and to get you to ask the right questions and make the right decisions. There are some reputable sellers in Hong Kong and especially many in Japan, so don't automatically assume that if someone is overseas they're scamming you. The key thing is to be skeptical and look hard at what you're buying and the person you're buying from. The entire document has at least (9) tips in total, and will be delivered electronically to the winner of this auction.
Please note the auction price, and be sure that you see value in obtaining the 9th tip and the others in this document, as the above may suffice for your collecting needs. I point this out to you because the auction price is high, and I will not be offering refunds to a successful winner of this auction, as there are no possible "returns" of an electronically delivered document. Take care, and do not let the scammers out there take your money because of their greed, because that will sour you on a great hobby, and furthermore it will help us all in preventing these greedy jerks from destroying the market for these wonderful antique weapons of the Samurai. Hopefully you will end up with a fine Katana, Wakizashi, Tachi, Naginata, Yari, or Tanto one day, and it will give you years of pleasure and learning in your future. Good luck, and happy collecting.
IF IT IS A PRIVATE AUCTION AND FROM CHINA, IT IS FAKE 100%
"The sword is the soul of the warrior. If any forget or lose it he will not be excused."
- Tokugawa Ieyasu