How to Appraise Antique Swords

Appraise your sword at an antique dealer shop.
sword image by Albert Lozano from Fotolia.com

From medieval swords to samurai swords to Civil War swords, edged weapons are a diverse and fascinating subject. They can also be quite valuable. It is worth knowing a few tips on what to look for in a sword and how to get an idea of what it might be worth. Read on to learn how to appraise antique swords.

Know what type of sword you wish to appraise. Is it a medieval sword? Samurai sword? A sword from the American Revolution or Civil War?

Check the craftsmanship of the sword for design, function and durability. Remember that different types of swords are designed for different purposes. For instance, Japanese samurai swords were generally designed for cutting and slicing, while medieval swords were geared more towards thrusting at gaps in the opponent's armor. Samurai swords were wielded with two hands, while medieval swords were held in only one.

Check the hilt of the sword for carvings or designs. The pommel (the knob at the tip of the hilt) may be carved or molded to look like an animal, such as an eagle or a dolphin. This can add to a sword's value.

Check the blade for sword marks, which may provide clues to a sword's age and origin and help you appraise it. With antique swords from around the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, you will generally find brief text at the bottom of the blade, near the hilt, indicating the manufacturer and the year the sword was made. Antique samurai swords have markings as well, called Horimono. They usually extend up the length of the blade.

Know the type of blade of the sword. Check how many grooves (fullers) the blade has and the blade of the blade.

Check the hilt for the style of grip the sword is and how it is designed. Where is the hand placed in relation to the hilt? This can indicate the style of sword, time frame and region where it was made.

Check out the Sword Forum website, which offers several methods of antique sword appraisal. See the Resources section below for a link.


Keep in mind that a recently made sword can easily be given a fake sword mark, indicating a year and manufacturer that would increase its value. Be sure to check the sword for signs of aging and wear, to help verify authenticity. Different blade, hilt and pommel types do not have universally assigned names, so be familiar with the descriptions and know what to look for in the sword.

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