I have outlined below some ideas that I picked up after several months of collecting swords. By following the advice here, you, the collector, should begin to recognize the swords and arms of quality and spot the fakes and ringers. Above all, get an idea of the value of the item you are considering purchasing and its relative condition before the actual purchase is made. The two magazines which I have found the most useful as a source of information are Gun Mart and The Armourer, both being excellent regular reading material.
Never buy on impulse, even if you are very keen on the item in question. Take a step back and re-evaluate the item, and then, only if you are absolutely sure, buy.
Go to as many trade fairs and exhibitions as you can. Start to build up a picture in your mind of the quality and cost of exhibits.
Evaluate as many items as you can, check the look and feel of items, whether it is a sword, helmet or handgun. Get used to the weight and balance of the items as well as the condition - this will help you to recognize the fakes.
Buy from dealers that you know or have seen before - if you have a problem there is always a chance you will see them again.
Get to know your local dealers, and make them aware of what you require. In most cases they want your business over a period of time and they will give good advice.
Is it old or new? With so many fakes in the market, check and check again for anything about which you are not happy. If there is any doubt, or you are not sure, then do not buy.
Try and get a written guarantee from whoever you are buying as to the authenticity of the item. You may find the reaction from some dealers varies considerably.
Check any item to see if it has been cleaned or it has been aged. This may well be a deliberate attempt to hide something. Check more closely.
Do not allow yourself to be bullied or made to feel guilty about buying an item. Beware of the trader who does not seem interested or to care whether you buy or do not buy. These are all sales ploys, so be on your guard.
Do not buy anything for commercial gain - buy it because you like it. That way you will always be a winner.
There are many sources of tips on buying items. I personally follow the above principles and have found them to be a good guide. The very best advice is to get to know your subject as well as you can. If at the point of sale you know more about the item than the seller then you have less chance of making a mistake. At the end of the day it is your decision to buy or not to buy.
"The sword is the soul of the warrior. If any forget or lose it he will not be excused."
- Tokugawa Ieyasu