Swords are popular collectors' items. Swords can be categorized in several ways. For example, there are replicas, movie props, martial arts weapons and antique swords. Of these, antique swords are the most valuable. They are frequently faked, however, and there are cases of fakes being marketed as authentic antiques. By looking for certain tell-tale signs, you can identify authentic antique swords. There are also outside resources which you can use to help you identify a sword if you are still unsure about its authenticity.
Determine whether or not your sword is a replica, fake or authentic antique. Look for signs of modern construction and technology. Temper lines which are etched into the blade with acid are a sure sign of a fake Japanese sword. Look at the grain of the metal on the blade itself. Antique Japanese swords will have tiny streaks along the blade which are a result of the folding process used to make them. Authentic antique swords will always have been handmade. Any part of the weapon which shows signs of being created with modern technology will give away a fake or reproduction.
Take note of any carvings, etchings or signatures which are present on the blade, scabbard or hilt. Carvings and etchings that are poorly done can quickly identify a modern reproduction. Antique swords tend to have decorations which are precise and artful. Noting any designs and signatures can help you identify exactly what type of blade you have as you move on with the identification process.
Compare the sword to published resources with images that you can match to your sword. There are free and paid resources online which can help you do this. The Arms 2 Armor website offers a large free database of information on antique swords. This includes pictures and historical information on most types of blades. Old Swords is another website which can help with sword identification, but requires a membership fee.
Refer to books written on the subject by experts on the particular type of sword you are trying to identify if you need further help to identify the sword.
Take the sword to a professional weapons appraiser. It is a good idea to get final verification from an expert so you can confirm with total certainty that you have an authentic antique weapon.
Be very cautious buying antique swords online. Ebay has become notorious for the number of fake swords being sold as antiques. Refer to one of the guides available online designed to help identify fake swords on eBay before making such a purchase.