Care and Preservation of Antique Swords

Preserving antique swords is often the domain of specialists, but with a few tips and tricks you will learn how to care for your sword and guard its value for years to come

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Preserving the blade metal is an important part of the conservation process.

The correct care and preservation of a sword is not an easy task.  Many a fine sword has been ruined by overzealous cleaning, and poor attempts at amateur “restoration”.  If you are new to this field of collecting, the basic rule is:

IF YOU ARE NOT SURE ABOUT HOW TO PRESERVE YOUR SWORD, OR FEEL THAT YOU DO NOT HAVE THE NECESSARY SKILLS TO COMPLETE THE PROCESS, ASK SOMEONE WHO DOES.

This “someone” might be a fellow collector with experience of restoration, a dealer who might be able to tell you him/herself, or “knows a man who knows a man“.  As time goes by, you will meet people who can offer sound advice.  They will be speaking from years of experience, including mistakes that they themselves made at the start!

Expert restorer

If the restoration job is complex, it is always better to hand over your sword to an expert restorer and let them do the tricky work.  Expert restorers can be found through word of mouth via dealers and collectors, and some advertise through related militaria journals and magazines.  There is also a lively circle of dealers and collectors who speak to each other through internet web sites devoted to collecting edged weapons and they are always more than happy to exchange tips and contacts.

Sound investment

You might think that after paying a considerable sum for your sword, the very last thing that you are wish to do is spend even more cash.  This attitude is wrong, and if you intend to keep and preserve a fine collection of British military swords, a little extra spent on preservation will be a sound investment.

Emergency Procedures

Saying this, I do not mean to frighten away the collector by saying that they cannot or should not do any kind of preservation work.  Far from it.  An expert should normally be called in when there are complex or detailed areas of preservation or restoration work to be addressed, particularly when this might require the sword to be taken apart or broken parts to be repaired.  I have visited too many auction rooms and fairs to see the results of amateur botched repairs to hilts, blades and scabbards.  Here are some basic emergency procedures that are relatively simple to undertake but vital if wishing to hold back the ravages of time, and ensure that the sword does not deteriorate any further.

BLADES AND METAL SCABBARDS/FITTINGS

One of the first problems that you may encounter concerns the accumulation of corrosion e.g. rust.  The use of a Break Free oil which dislodges the rust is recommended, but not on blades with blue and gilt finish, as it has been known to loosen the gilding.  Alcohol or kerosene is light enough to clean these delicate blades, and when completely wiped clean of this, a covering of fine carabellum wax is applied.  This provides a protective seal which keeps out moisture.

renwaxThere are a number of specialist waxes on the market. I recommend Museum Wax or Renaissance/Becketts Wax.  All these products are available from specialist hardware or gun supply shops, and a quick trawl through the internet will also locate a number of merchants who can supply mail order.

Vaseline petroleum jelly or pure mineral oil/gel will also protect the blade from future moisture, but it is important to stress that you will need to inspect the sword on a regular basis to see if any rust or corrosion has returned.  Some swords have very heavy areas of rust where the use of  Break Free might not be very effective and other options need to be considered.

In these cases, a very fine abrasive might be used, but you must decide whether the blade etching or hilt/scabbard plating might be damaged or worn by this method.  It all comes down to how you want the sword to look, and there are some collectors who cannot resist removing the age or patina of a sword because they believe that a highly polished sword is more attractive.  Thankfully, there are not a great number of these individuals, but you will continue to see swords that have been polished to a gleaming state and there is little you can do to return its character.  Do not let this be a reason not to buy a particular sword.  I would rather acquire a highly polished but rare piece, than none at all!

Another important point to remember is that constant handling of the sword will endanger its condition, especially when moisture from hands comes into contact with the blade.  Any collector of Japanese swords will testify to the permanent damage to the blade that can result from finger marks that have not been immediately removed.  The wearing of lint free cotton gloves might sound a bit drastic but it ensures that the sword is kept dry.  Remember to invest in a couple of pairs.  This ensures that there is a spare pair on hand when that inquisitive friend pays a visit.

HILTS, SCABBARDS AND LEATHER / FISHSKIN GRIPS

A toothbrush and some ammonia detergent or soapy water is effective in rooting out dirt and grime from recesses in hilts and scabbard mounts.  The main priority is to save any original gilding, so do not use any abrasives in this area.

Use a good leather care product on grips and scabbards to avoid drying out.  It should also have a high wax content as it will act as a long term anti-drying sealant.  Regular inspection of leather fittings should be done in conjunction with the inspection of the metal parts.  Try not to display swords with leather scabbards or grips too near areas of heat, particularly central heating radiators.  It is probably stating the obvious but direct sunlight will never be advantageous to an antique piece.  For fishskin grips I recommend a little baby oil or olive oil to allow the material to breathe again.  Do not rub too hard on grips as they can be very flaky and pieces can easily come away.

WEB LINKS: https://www.blademag.com/article/Museum%20Tips%20For%20Home%20Knife%20Care/

 

History of the Medieval Sword

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A History of the Medieval Sword

The Medieval broadsword is representative of a distinct period in military history when the use of a sturdy and practical fighting weapon was crucial on the battlefield.  These wide-bladed, double-edged broadswords were designed primarily for hacking and cutting in the melee of battle and for several hundred years, it was the primary weapon of offense for both the knight and ordinary soldier of the Middle  Ages.

Most examples are relatively plain in design and were produced with mortal combat, rather than public show in mind.  Existing and genuine swords are now extremely scarce.  Most are found in museums or established collections, but the collector can still occasionally purchase these swords from specialist auctions and reputable private dealers.  They do command very high prices, but the acquisition of one can be viewed as a unique window into a time when the carrying of such a highly prized and expensive blade, conferred both status and power.

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Historical Background

The typical style of the “Knightly Sword” that has entered into our imagination was firmly established by the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. In general terms it comprised a long, broad-bladed sword with double fullers.  A plain cross-bar hilt with wheel, brazil nut, ovoidal or mushroom-shaped pommel finished this profile.  This basic sword design had remained virtually unchanged since the time of the Vikings, and over the next three centuries, there was little need for change.

Some blades are encountered with inlaid decoration, mostly in the form of large lettering or symbols, normally of a religious or mystical nature.  Pommels of this period can also be found with inset heraldic devices, denoting particular royal or noble families.  Rare specimens have pommels of agate, inlaid gold, or rock crystal. Before the fourteenth century, soldiers wore a heavy chainmail vest and leather jerkin for protection.  This configuration allowed a relatively easy route of entry for a sword through the natural gaps provided between chainmail links.  The emphasis was thus laid on producing a sword that was both broad-bladed and a slashing weapon.  Lighter and shorter swords (falchions) could also do this work but when plate mail began to appear in the 1400’s, the slashing and cutting swords of a previous generation were unable to penetrate between the enclosed metal plated that now enveloped the soldier.  A new type of sword blade was urgently needed.  It had to be both heavier and stronger (especially at the tip) to enable a powerful, downwards-thrusting movement from the combatant directly into the armour or in a place of vulnerability.  Blades therefore became longer and narrower and with the penetrating effect of a thrusting spear. The grip was also extended to allow two-handed and consequently, more powerful operation.

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Collecting Medieval Swords

Any serious collector of ancient and early swords will tell you that the scope for forgeries is great.  For many years there has been a lively market both in their production and retailing. It is relatively easy to fake these swords as most genuine examples are in very poor condition, some just retaining the blade and lacking any hilt.

It can be quite simple to age and corrode a new blade using specific chemicals.   The result can be a sword that appears many centuries old.  A recent phenomenon is the use of 19th Century  Sudanese Kaskara broadsword blades.  They are very similar in profile to Viking and medieval blades and with carefully added ageing, they have been known to sell as original Viking or Medieval blades, particularly on internet auction web sites.  A “rule of thumb” when buying medieval swords is that if it appears to be very cheap, it is more than likely to be a fake.  An original Viking or Medieval broadsword in so-called “good” condition (and most original examples are definitely not in “good” condition as they tend to be excavated swords with considerable corrosion) would be worth upwards of $15000, so if you see a “Medieval” sword for sale at a couple of thousand dollars, just think to yourself why is it going for such a cheap price?  Maybe the seller just doesn’t know what he has and I am going to get the bargain of the century!  Unfortunately, life tends not to be like that and invariably, the seller knows exactly what he is selling.  It’s an old and maybe clichéd phrase but one that has served me well – CAVEAT EMPTOR.

© Article by Harvey Withers – militariahub.com

Please note, this article is not to be reproduced without prior agreement.

British 1827 Pattern Rifle Officer’s Sword

DSC00650Originally raised as the King’s Royal Rifle Corps in 1755, the Rifle Brigade as we know it was formed in 1800. Initially, officers carried a lighter version of the 1796 Light Cavalry Sword and later adopted the 1803 Infantry Officer’s sword, with a strung bugle motif placed on the knucklebow.  Officers were noted for their elite individuality, both in uniform and tactics, and it is no wonder that they eventually gained their own distinctive pattern of sword.  The 1827 Pattern Rifle Regiment Sword is defined by an all steel hilt and the replacement of the usual royal cypher with a strung bugle in cartouche. This motif symbolised the earlier use of the bugle to control rifle troops rather than the drum favoured by the Infantry of the Line.  Later in the Victorian era, nickel plated examples superseded the original steel hilt.

This pattern of sword is still carried by Rifle Officers in the British Army.  Victorian swords are invariably decorated with the names of regional volunteer rifle regiments.  This is one of the most common of British pattern swords and frequently seen in the market.  Examples appear frequently in country auctions and might indicate that many of the volunteer militia swords strayed no further than the owner’s town or village boundary.  The regular army were rather contemptuous in their opinion of these volunteer regiments and viewed them, perhaps unkindly, as weekend soldiers.  Contemporary cartoons also portrayed the officers as bloated buffoons, more interested in impressing the ladies with their dashing uniforms, than the serious business of military manoeuvres.  This is a crude caricature.  Most volunteers took their duties very seriously.


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© Article by Harvey J S Withers – militariahub.com.  Not to be reproduced without prior agreement.

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British 1845/54 Pattern Infantry Officer’s Sword

DSC00258When compared with the 1822 Pattern, the main difference concerns the absence of a folding guard This change to the hilt was made in the Regulations of 1854. The “Wilkinson” 1845 Pattern single-fullered blade is the most common type to be found with this hilt.  The 1854 Pattern had a very long service life and many examples can be found in the market.   Special mention should be made concerning some excellent 1854 Pattern swords manufactured by Wilkinson.  The quality of these is very apparent, especially in the sturdy hilt construction and the crisp, deep etching to thick, wide blades.  A good heavy duty scabbard was also supplied in both steel and leather on steel.  These swords were made for proper service use and would have undergone strenuous testing at the Wilkinson factory.

This sword also has a picquet weight equivalent carried during social engagements. There were never official regulations for the carrying of these lightweight versions, but they are very common and so must have been accepted unofficially by the authorities.

 

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© Article by Harvey J S Withers – militariahub.comNot to be reproduced without prior agreement.

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British 1822 and 1845 Pattern Infantry Officer’s Sword

DSC01299 (2)The 1822 Pattern Infantry Officer’s Sword was a radical departure from previous designs with its half basket hilt becoming the standard format for British infantry swords until the end of the nineteenth century. Distinctive features of the sword include the “Gothic” style pierced hilt, so-called after its resemblance to the shapes of windows in Gothic architecture, and the “s-shaped” folding guard.  Elegant in design, the slender pipe backed blade was sheathed in a black leather scabbard with decorated gilt brass mounts.  The royal cypher was placed within an oval hilt cartouche and during its lifetime, this pattern saw three monarchs (George IV, William IV and Victoria) featured.  Victorian examples are pretty common with many varieties of design interpretations to the royal cypher.

Both George IV and William IV had relatively short reigns and, consequently, examples are scarce, especially in good condition. They tend to be more delicate than later Victorian pieces and many are found with broken or missing folding guards, and damage to the hilt piercings.  It is a good idea to check carefully to see that the folding guard is working properly as they were easily damaged.  Also take care when folding guards as they were held together with very thin pins and can easily snap.

DSC01301 (2)Late Georgian blades are very finely etched with much less decoration than later Victorian examples. Consequently, the pre-Victorian swords tend to have very worn etching (sometimes to the point of obscurity).  Up until around 1835, there would also have been a black leather hilt lining.  Very few of these survive intact.

Later versions have the single fullered 1845 Pattern “Wilkinson” type blade that became the army standard. I would recommend buying the pipe back version as it is more elegant in profile and truer to the original design.  There is a “picquet”, “levee” or dress form of this sword which is a lightweight version with a much narrower blade.  It was carried by the officer at social functions including balls, mess dinners and probably at Court.

As a fighting weapon, the 1822 Pattern was rather unsatisfactory, the blade being far too weak and the hilt bars affording little protection. When the 1845 Pattern blade was introduced, officers were not required to immediately change to the new pattern.  They were allowed to carry the old pipe back sword blade until it became unserviceable.  As with many new items of equipment introduced into a regular army, it was unlikely to have been a seamless and rapid introduction.  Some years would pass before all officers carried the new official regulation sword.  The idea that in 1845, all British infantry officers suddenly discarded the 1822 Pattern pipe back blade in favour of the 1845, would be a little fanciful and completely impracticable, and not to say, uneconomic.  The purchase of an officer’s sword was a major financial strain on many officers and they were not likely to discard an expensive sword because the authorities deemed it necessary.

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© Article by Harvey J S Withers – militariahub.comNot to be reproduced without prior agreement.

 

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British 1803 Pattern Infantry Officer’s Sword

DSC01542By 1800, this type of curved sabre had already been unofficially adopted by many light infantry officers, and it was only a matter of time before official recognition came in 1803. One of the most attractive of British pattern swords, it has numerous subtle variations in design, most notably to the royal cypher on the knuckle-bow and the lions-head pommel. The knucklebow can also feature either a bugle or flaming grenade above the royal crown, denoting use by both grenadiers and rifle companies.  Blades were also lavishly decorated with blue and gilt.  Its curved, cavalry type blade borrowed much from the eastern scimitar, and it quickly enjoyed quite a vogue amongst officers returning from the recent Egyptian campaigns. Although apparently unsuited to fighting on the ground (its curved blade would have been more effective when slashed from the saddle), style over substance seems to have won the day.  Lieutenant William Smith of the 77th Foot (Middlesex Regiment) carried this pattern as he “hewed and slashed his way through the enemy” before succumbing to his many wounds at the Battle of Ciudad Rodrigo in the Peninsular War.  Most examples are found without scabbards but it is worth holding on until you can locate a complete piece.  This sword looks most attractive when paired with its gilt brass mounted scabbard.  Examples with ivory grips were likely to have been carried by more senior officers.

© Article by Harvey J S Withers – militariahub.com.  Not to be reproduced without prior agreement.

 

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British 1786 and 1796 Pattern Infantry Officer’s Sword

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This pattern of sword was adopted soon after the official abolition of the Officer’s Spontoon, or half pike, which had become little more than a symbol of authority in the field of battle, rather than an effective combat weapon. King George III approved the introduction of a straight bladed, single fullered sword, and early 1786 Pattern spadroon-type versions are to be found with a straight, beaded knucklebow, reeded ivory grip and cushion, vase or urn-shaped pommels (figure 1.).  This was soon replaced by a double shell guard.  It is this pattern of sword that is more commonly encountered.  Early examples of the 1786 Pattern (figure 4.) have a rigid double shell guard that was superceded in 1796 for one that had a folding guard (figure 3.).  This adaptation enabled the officer to avoid fraying his uniform.  An NCO pattern (figure 2.) is also found with plain brass hilt, blade and scabbard mounts.  Hilt and scabbard mounts were plain brass.  It is much rarer than the officer‘s sword as they were normally discarded when unserviceable.

 

P1010827The 1796 Pattern was the mainstay of the British Infantry Officer for over 25 years and the design influenced many other countries, most notably the United States, where the Model 1840 non-commissioned officer’s sword bears a striking resemblance.    Its obvious defects and fighting inadequacy were no doubt the cause of many unnecessary deaths amongst British officers.  Protection to the hand was minimal, and the blade was rather thin and flimsy.

 

It is not a scarce sword for the collector to acquire but most examples are in poor condition due to the fragility of the folding guard. Worn blades, and the tendency for the quillon to snap off (look out for poorly re-attached quillons) are also common.  This is made worse by the frequent absence of the gilt brass and leather scabbard which easily perished both in the field and after years of careless storage.   Swords with substantial blue and gilt decoration remaining to the blade and complete with original scabbard, can command very high prices.  Good examples are becoming extremely difficult to locate in the market.  Many examples are marked “JJ Runkel” to the blade edge.  John Runkel had an office in London and was a major importer of German blades for the British Army during the Napoleonic Wars.

© Article by Harvey J S Withers – militariahub.com.  Not to be reproduced without prior agreement.

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Napoleonic Swords – Booklets for the Collector

FIVE BRAND NEW SWORD BOOKLETS FOR THE COLLECTOR!

by Harvey J S Withers

CLICK ON BOOKLETS FOR MORE INFORMATION

The British 1796 Pattern Light Cavalry Trooper’s Sword

Classic Arms and Militaria Review

“The author is well known as a leading sword dealer and authority with some six well-produced books already to his name. This is a new volume in a projected series of about 15 monographs on individual types of British military sword. This is a welcome venture, rather reminiscent of the Arms and Armour Press monographs from the 1960’s that so many collectors cut their teeth upon and which are still highly rated today.

This very useful book concentrates upon the iconic 1796 light Cavalry sword carried by Wellingtons Light Dragoons and Hussars throughout the Napoleonic wars. It has a very ‘busy’ format with photos of many views of the swords interspersed with contemporary and other pictures.

The book starts with an introduction before moving on to the parts of the sword – particularly useful for new collectors – its historical background, examples and variants, the Regulations for Sword Exercise for the Cavalry (1796), makers, collecting tips and notes on preservation and care.

This series will build up into a useful reference work on British military swords and Classic Arms and Militaria wishes Mr Withers every success with his endeavour. Excellent value for money.”

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The Scottish 1828 Pattern Highland Basket-hilted Broadsword

Classic Arms and Militaria Review

“This is number 2 in the series covering the distinctive sword still carried in Highland Regiments to this day. It follows the format of volume 1 with numerous views and illustrations. There are sections on swords marked to individual regiments as well as those swords carried for fighting or undress with the crossbar guard instead of the full basket. A very useful, in-depth study.”

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British 18th and 19th Century Naval Cutlasses

Classic Arms and Militaria Review

“Volume 3 fills a much-needed gap for those collectors whose passion is for the fighting sword of the lower deck in the Royal Navy. The book starts with non-regulation types that proliferated before the celebrated 1804 Pattern with the figure-of-eight guard. Throughout this period the emphasis was on producing a cheap, robust, no-frills sword for the seaman to use when boarding, repelling boarders of on landing parties. The Royal Navy was never known to lavish much attention on personal arms for the seaman, believing instead that resources were better spent on the ships themselves and their artillery of great guns.

The Napoleonic era is illustrated with a nice plate of Henry Angelo’s Cutlass Exercise of 1814. The 19th Century cutlass tended to be very much better made and more sophisticated. The Patterns of 1845/58, 1889 and 1900 are all dealt with in detail. The cutlass bayonets, Patterns 1871 and 1859 are covered; they represent an attempt (only partially successful) to make an effective weapon system for the seaman armed with an Enfield or Martini rifle. An excellent, tightly drawn study.”

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Swords at the Battle of Waterloo

Classic Arms and Militaria Review

“Specially produced for the 20th anniversary year of this militarily and politically important battle, the author            deviates slightly from his chosen path of British military swords in volume 4 to include those carried by the French as well. Most of the main types – infantry and cavalry – are depicted in what must be seen as a general book. Nonetheless it is a  battle specific guide to what was principally carried by the two main combatant forces.”

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British Napoleonic Infantry Swords Part One

 (awaiting review)

BRITISH NAPOLEONIC INFANTRY SWORDS 1

With over 200-300 full colour illustrations and photographs in each booklet

Glossy softback booklets

Book length average is 64-68 pages

BOOKLETS INCLUDE:

Historical Background

 Examples of the Pattern

 Sword Makers

Maker Marks

Collecting the Pattern

Care and Preservation of Antique Swords

SEE THE SAMPLE IMAGES

ALSO AVAILABLE AS SINGLE BOOKLETS

Harvey Withers Antique Swords

 

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I have been collecting and dealing in antique swords and edged weapons since 1998 and over that time, have been lucky enough to handle many thousands of antique military swords.  They have ranged from ancient Celtic warrior’s swords to superbly decorated 17th Century rapiers, to the very last cavalry sabres used on the battlefields of WWI.  Below are some examples of swords that I have bought and sold over the years.

Antique Swords and Making Friends

I get a terrific thrill from buying and selling antique swords and there is no greater pleasure than attending auctions, antique arms shows or rooting around antiques shops, looking for a hidden gem.  I have met many collectors over the years and like to think that I have also made many friends in the world of antique sword collecting.  I am proud to say that the key to any positive relationship between buyer and seller is trust and I am happy to say that many of my current customers have been with me from my early days of selling.  Hopefully, it means that I am getting something right!  I have always traded on my reputation for providing original and interesting examples of swords spanning many centuries, coupled with a friendly and efficient approach to customer queries.  Emails are always answered promptly and I like nothing more than a good chat about swords!

Antique Swords and Books for Collectors

I have accumulated many thousands of full colour photographs of the swords that I have purchased and since 2003, have put them to good use by producing a series of price guides and reference books for the collector and student of antique military swords.  Click the images below for more information on all the books that I have authored.

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Books will always pay you back many times over

I have always believed that the initial investment in a good reference book will always pay you back many times over and give you the edge when on the hunt for antique swords.  Take a look at my other articles and you will see that I have put together a bibilography of books for the sword collector.  I hope to keep adding to this list and welcome any suggestions.  Just e-mail me here if you have a suggestion for a title to add to the list.  The more knowledgeable we all become can only be a good thing.

Future Articles

As I develop this web site, I hope to produce more articles about collecting antique military swords and importantly, the history of these unique items.  Please check back regularly as I will be regularly adding new articles.  

I hope that you will find then both helpful and informative and please do not hesitate to contact me if you wish to submit an article or make a suggestion.

Happy collecting!
Best wishes,

Harvey Withers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Antique British Swords – Harvey Withers – Libellous Blogs

“A warning to fellow antique sword collectors and dealers…”  harvey-withers-3

Since 2008, I have been the victim of a number of highly libellous and defamatory blogs against me and my business from an individual.

See below for an excellent article on malicious blogging and the internet.

By Jeffrey Billman, eHow Contributor

Just like newspapers, bloggers can engage in libel, a written form a defamation in which a person is unfairly disparaged with false accusations of impropriety. However, while you may be able to sue newspapers that defame you for thousands of dollars, many blogs are not backed up by deep-pocketed corporations, and you can’t get blood from a stone. Still, you can pressure the blogger to publish a correction or retraction, and if worst comes to worst, you can file a libel claim in civil court, which, even if it doesn’t produce a financial windfall, may help advertise the blogger’s libelous ways and prevent larger media organizations from picking up on the false claim.

Some pointers if you are confronted by a malicious blogger

Ensure that the claim is verifiably false. Like it or not, truth is the first, best defense against claims of libel, and that applies to bloggers as much as other journalists. For you to have a legitimate libel claim, the blogger you are accusing must have alleged as fact something that not only drags your good name through the mud, but also did not occur. If a blog post’s alleged fact is true, you will have a difficult time arguing a libel case, even if the reporting of that fact is surrounded by opinion that disparages you. For instance, a blogger can legally say that your new restaurant has the absolute worst pad Thai he’s ever tasted, even if you disagree with such an assessment and it damages your business. However, if he writes that he saw the chef spitting in patrons’ dishes or that he knows that you are using cheaper ingredients than you advertise, and you are certain these facts are incorrect, you may have a case.

Examine whether you are considered a public figure. If you are a politician, celebrity, participant in a controversy or anyone else who can use the media to get his viewpoint out to the masses, the standard for libel is much more stringent. Whereas private citizens have to prove negligence to sustain a libel case — in other words, that the blog was negligent in verifying that the published information was accurate — public figures must prove malice, meaning the blog knew the information was false and published it anyway, either in furtherance of an agenda or out of recklessness.

Contact the blogger and seek a retraction. Reputable bloggers, like reputable newspapers, are eager to correct inaccuracies in their reporting. Call or email the blogger you believe libeled you, and present your case to him: Perhaps he misreported or misunderstood an event or documents. Be prepared to produce evidence to support your claim. If you present a compelling argument, the blogger may publish a retraction or correction; this may not erase the damage done by the initial report, but it could help mitigate the fallout.

Contact the blogger’s Internet service provider and ask it to remove the offensive content. If the blogger does not respond to your query, you may take your case to his ISP. Under the Communications Decency Act of 1996, ISPs may face legal action if they are made aware of libelous content on one of their sites but do nothing. After all, most ISPs require websites to agree to not publish defamatory information. However, the law also prohibits ISPs from being held liable for statements published on their websites if they weren’t made aware of them.

Contact an attorney who specializes in media law. The specifics of the media law differ from state to state and case to case; rarely are two libel claims the same. Moreover, given the rapidity with which mass media is evolving, the law cannot always keep up with technology innovations and changes in how events are reported and debated online. It is best, then, to contact a lawyer familiar with communications law to determine if you have a case and if it is worth taking to court. Even if you have been libeled, if there has been no serious damage to your reputation — for instance, the libelous blog gets only a handful of views a month — filing a lawsuit may not be worth the time and expense.

Read more: How to Handle Blogger Libel | eHow.com https://www.ehow.com/how_10063207_handle-blogger-libel.html#ixzz273FFvobT

 

Collecting Antique Swords and Edged Weapons – the Market Today

Collecting Antique Swords – the Market Today 

The present-day collector of antique military swords inhabits a commercial environment quite unlike that of past generations. The rapid global expansion of the internet has been the most important development within the antique collecting marketplace, creating a dynamic and ever-changing platform for the sourcing and selling of military antiques.
Dedicated web sites have emerged to cater for the sword collector with both auctioneers and dealers quick to embrace the new technology. Customers now have the unique opportunity to both view and purchase antique swords directly from their own home computer.

Internet auction sites

Internet auction sitessuch as eBay have also become an important hub for both the selling and buying of antique swords. Substantial numbers of swords are traded every week and can be purchased with relative ease from almost anywhere in the world. The idea that a buyer would happily purchase any antique purely on the basis of a few photographs and a brief description would have seemed ludicrous only a few years ago, but this is exactly how antique swords are bring traded today.

This form of business is ideal for those unable to attend regular auctions and antique arms shows, but it must be made clear that this form of trading is not painless and a number of important caveats must be remembered. One of the most crucial is to ask the seller a series of detailed questions. The answers given will prove useful if the sword arrives and it does not tally with the original auction description. In the case of E-Bay, always check the seller’s feedback record as this illustrates the type of seller that you are dealing with and their previous history of transactions.

Auction Houses

The main beneficiaries of this inflationary market are the auction houses who have realised that their business now has a global reach and can offer facilities for customers to view and bid for lots online. The time has long gone when only the bidder standing on the auction floor is guaranteed to take the lots home. Commission bids now frequently win the day. Many auction houses will also send prospective bidders digital pics of the lots via e-mail. Importantly, the emphasis is very much on the bidder to ask the appropriate questions concerning condition or provenance. Having said this, auctioneers are still right in emphasising that nothing can replace actually seeing and handling a sword yourself.

E-Commerce

E-commerce can only expand further and looks set to be a major factor in the evolution of the market. This is not all benefit driven. It is an old adage in the antiques trade that demand invariably outstrips supply. This appears to be the current situation when trying to source good examples of antique military swords. Although it might seem that there is a reasonable quantity of swords available to buy via the internet and auctions, the actual quality of these pieces is sadly deteriorating. Examples in excellent condition are becoming extremely scarce. Added to this is the fact that prices are rising at an alarming rate.

Investment

The investment value of antique swords is obvious, and with average yearly increases of around 15-20%, you will be hard pressed to find a better return in any financial market. To date, the market shows no sign of slowing down or reversing.
Most collectors obviously do not wish to sell their coveted pieces, but it is reassuring to know that once bought, the value of a sword is likely to appreciate over time.

Knowledge

The smart collector should constantly update their knowledge of the subject. The purchase of books and the building of a sound reference library are therefore essential. If possible, make a point of buying a relevant book whenever you attend an arms show. The ability to correctly identify and value a piece will always give you the upper hand, and might even allow you to occasionally purchase a bargain. Do not assume that the dealer on the other side of the table has more knowledge than you. They do sometimes let a special piece slip through because of their own ignorance!

Arms Shows and Auctions

There is no substitute to visiting auctions, arms shows and museum collections. Go to as many as you can and follow some basic rules. When visiting an arms show, the most important rule is to take your time when inspecting a sword. Out of courtesy, always ask the dealer if you can inspect the sword. There is nothing more annoying to a dealer than to see their precious stock clumsily pawed by a novice collector. Always draw a sword out of a leather scabbard with the blade held vertically, point down, so as to avoid the danger of bending or breaking the leather at a weak point.

If the sword comes with a scabbard, put both alongside and compare the blade length with the scabbard length. Sometimes there can be a great disparity in lengths. Scabbards are easily swapped around, although some would have been legitimately replaced during their service lives.

Be wary of sword blades that do not fit snugly into the scabbard or are either loose or tight. Be also aware that with leather scabbards, a tight fit might actually be due to genuine leather shrinkage, so use sensible judgement.

Look at the patination of both the hilt and metal scabbard. Matched patination is what you are looking for. A brightly cleaned metal scabbard and dark patinated hilt are obviously suspicious. At many arms shows and auction houses the interior lighting can be quite poor. Large arenas are notorious venues where this disadvantage can hide damage, alteration and all manner of deceptions done to a sword. View the sword from as many angles as possible. Check that the blade has not been altered by looking at the tang button. It should not show any evidence of having been taken out and re-hammered back in. Unaltered tang buttons are invariably smooth and flush, with a dark age patination.

Buying

When involved in the buying process, do not be afraid to haggle with the dealer but do not offer a silly price. This is both insulting and makes you look foolish. If you have any doubts about the authenticity of a piece ask the dealer to confirm that it is genuine. Their response is normally enough to convince you either way. If the reply that you receive goes along the lines of; “I have no idea what it is.”, be very cautious. For security of mind, ask for a written receipt or official invoice with the dealer’s name, address and telephone number. The vast majority of dealers are honest and fair people so approach your purchases with a positive yet attentive mind. If attending an auction, always stick to your bid limit and don’t get carried away. Remember also to factor in the buyer’s commission when calculating your maximum bid.

Forgeries

Spurious blade engraving or etching has become a recent and troubling phenomenon. In the case of British swords, I have seen an ordinary mid-Victorian cavalry officer’s sword transformed (by the addition of a notable and distinguished name or presentation inscription) to a potentially “historic”piece. Fortunately, the modern forger tends not to possess the skills of craftsmanship inherent in their forebears, and their attempts are usually quite crude when compared with the original blade decoration. Always compare the quality of the two. New collectors will always be caught out by these deceits, and it is only through constant viewing and handling of the genuine article, that you will be able to distinguish between the right and the wrong piece. Even seasoned collectors started out by buying wrong pieces. It is a tough process that all collectors have to go through. Experience is the only educator in this fascinating field of collecting.

© Collecting Antique Swords and Edged Weapons – the Market Today article by Harvey Withers – militariahub.com

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The History of British Sword Manufacture

British Sword Makers

The history of British sword manufacture is a tale characterised by a series of economic highs and lows, due in part to the changing necessities of military conflict, government intransigence, and an on-going “war” conducted by British sword makers, against a flood of cheap, (sometimes inferior) foreign imports, most notably from Solingen, Germany.

Price Competition

For most of the nineteenth century, this inability to compete on price with Solingen ensured the steady decline of British sword making and the resulting emergence of only a small number of companies who were able to trade more on quality than price.  The most notable of these was The Wilkinson Sword Company.  Henry Wilkinson never claimed that he could produce a cheaper sword, but through rigorous testing procedures and innovative blade design, he could certainly rightly claim that his swords were of world-beating standard. In 1900, the German sword trade could sell an officer’s sword to a London retailer for 21 shillings (£1.05), who would then sell on the sword at 30 shillings (£1.50).  If you wanted to buy a Wilkinson “Best proved sword, with a patent solid tang”, a customer would be asked to pay 5 guineas (£5.25).  The price difference is staggering but it is a testament to the high regard in which these swords were held by contemporaries that they were still purchased in such large numbers.

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Combat Reliability

It took many years for the military authorities to grudgingly accept that if you paid a little more for better quality, home manufactured blades, then the critical issue of combat reliability could be properly addressed.   The axiom that you get exactly what you pay for could have been etched, literally, on the blades of many swords purchased by the British Army.  Indeed, there were times when swords supplied to the British Army were regarded as practically useless when wielded in the heat of battle.  Reports from both officers and men detail constant service problems with broken and bent blades that, in some circumstances, led directly to the unnecessary deaths of servicemen.  The actual quality and design of swords carried by British soldiers had always been a bone of contention and, in typically British fashion, led to the establishment of numerous Committees of Enquiry, following a series of very public sword scandals.

Feast and Famine

British sword makers and their myriad suppliers lived through frequent periods of economic feast or famine.  The availability of regular work was particularly erratic and many companies went in and out of business with alarming regularity.  The Napoleonic Wars of the late-eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries brought some stability.  It became a temporary boom time for  sword making and its allied trades, with government contracts placed for thousands of swords, bayonets and guns.  The city of Birmingham was a major beneficiary of this government contracts placed for thousands of swords, bayonets and guns.

Sword Workshops

Individual craftsmen and women (mainly anonymous) were the real sword makers.  In many cases, they provided the finished parts to the “sword maker” who then simply assembled and sold on to the retailer the finished sword.  During the early 1800’s, countless small workshops and homes turned out blades, grips, scabbards and mounts.  Their identities will probably never be known as the “sword maker” or retailer invariably stamped the completed sword with his own company name, but their superb skill and artistry is thankfully passed down to us in the fine pieces that are now available to the collector.

Cut or Thrust?

It should also be remembered that the history of British sword making was driven by great theoretical debate and argument. The fundamental question that ran through the design and development of British swords, namely that of whether a military sword should be primarily one of cut or thrust, rumbled on for many years.  It actually took over one hundred years of trial (and mainly error!) for this debate to be properly satisfied.  By then, the conclusion, that a thrusting sword was the most effective, had become completely irrelevant in a new world of machine guns and static warfare.

Origins of British Sword Manufacture

Let us first take a look at the historical origins of indigenous British sword manufacture.

The recognition of sword-making in Britain as a distinct trade can be traced back as far as 1415, when The Worshipful Company of Cutlers of London received Royal Assent.  The metal producing area of Solingen, Germany, followed this trend later in the century when the ruling council in Cologne granted permission for a guild of swordsmith and cutlers to be established.  The sixteenth century saw the genesis of a more organised method of sword manufacture in Britain.  Henry VIII initiated a thriving armoury at Greenwich, London. It turned out some remarkable pieces of armour and edged weaponry and these can still be seen today.   Even at this very early stage of the story we run into the interminable thorn in the side of British sword manufacturers.  This concerned the use of imported skilled German craftsmen from Solingen and Passau, who were employed in King Henry’s armoury, due to a severe shortage of skilled English workers.   Although it might seem highly contradictory, at least German workers were producing “English” swords in England, rather than in their own homeland.

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For the next three hundred years there would be bitter competition between German sword makers and the small English manufacturers, to win the custom of sword buyers (both civilian and military) within Britain.  It was a competition in which Germany would be the ultimate victor.

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German Immigrant Sword Makers and Hounslow

Following the influx of German Protestants into England due to Catholic religious persecution in the 1600‘s, a number of skilled German metal workers helped to establish a new sword factory in Hounslow (near London), in 1620.

Shotley Bridge Sword Makers

The Hollow Sword Blade Company was also formed in 1690 at a new northern factory in Shotley Bridge, County Durham.  The choice of location was due to the rich iron ore deposits found in the local area, the fast flowing River Derwent that was ideal for tempering blades, and also the fact that its remoteness was handy in keeping the secrets of manufacture away from prying eyes, e.g. competitors. An interesting local story highlights the pride with which these newcomers viewed their enterprise.

“There is a story that one of the Shotley sword-making fraternity, a certain William Oley, was once challenged by two other sword makers to see who could make the sharpest and most resilient sword. On the day of the challenge, the three men turned up, but it seemed that Oley had forgotten to bring an example of his work. The two other sword makers, assuming that he had been unable to make a sword of a suitable standard, began to boastfully demonstrate the strength, sharpness and resiliency of their workpieces.

Eventually their curiosity got the better of them and they asked Oley why he had not brought a sword.  With a mischievous grin, Oley removed his stiff hat, to reveal a super-resilient sword, coiled up inside. He challenged the other two sword makers to remove the sword from the hat, but their attempts nearly resulted in the loss of their fingers. In the end the sword could only be removed by means of a vice. For strength, sharpness and resiliency Oley’s sword was undoubtedly the winner.”

One of the Hounslow founders, Benjamin Stone, confidently declared that he had “perfected the art of blade making”. His swords were “as good and cheap as any to be found in the Christian world.”

Hollow-Ground or “Colichemarde” Blades

These boastful claims were soon to suffer ridicule when it was found that Hounslow and Shotley Bridge could not reproduce the quality of manufacture that was coming out of Germany, particularly in the lucrative area of hollow-ground or ‘colichemarde’ blades used in smallswords, which had become the standard dress arm for both gentleman and military officers.  Solingen had also developed specialist machinery for the production of these blades, which involved rolling out the hollows of the blade.  It was a revolutionary technique and cut down dramatically  the standard dress arm for both gentleman and military officers.  Solingen had also developed specialist machinery for the production of these blades, which involved rolling out the hollows of the blade. Both Hounslow and Shotley Bridge had nothing like this and could only manufacture by labourious hand crafting of the blade.  Rate of production was tiny compared with the established German sword guilds.

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Despite the imposition of heavy taxes by the British Crown on the importation of foreign blades in order to stimulate home production, Hounslow and Shotley were only able to produce simple, flat bladed weapons, rather than the more sophisticated swords being manufactured in Germany, and it soon faded into obscurity.  A typical “Hounslow Hanger” of the late-seventeenth century is now an extremely collectable genre of sword.

Importantly, the secret knowledge of how to hollow- ground blades rested primarily in Germany and determined attempts were made to bring back that technology to England, including an unsuccessful invitation for German smiths to come and settle in England and teach native workers.  A  English patent was granted in 1688 for the production of hollow ground blades but progress was slow, due mainly to the unsettled political environment in England.

Shotley did not appear to turn out many hollow-ground blades and within a relatively short period of time the group of businessmen who started the enterprise sold out to one of its employees, a certain  Herman Mohll.  The name Mohll or the anglicised Mole as it was to later become, deserves a special place in British sword-making history as it is synonymous with the manufacture of British swords, particularly those service patterns supplied directly to the British Army.

The first of Mohll’s hollow blade ventures at Shotley Bridge soon ran into trouble with British Customs, due to his involvement with a cargo of smuggled, partly finished, hollow- ground blades from Germany, that he planned to retail as his own.  We then next see him starting up another company, Herman Mohll and Son, which concentrated on the manufacture of military blades.

This he eventually sold out to Robert Oley (nee Ohlig), in 1742, who carried on the business until 1832 when Robert Moll, a descendant of the original family, bought back the firm, and changed the name again to Mole.  They continued as a military contractor of swords and bayonets until being subsumed in 1922 by the Wilkinson Sword Company.

It is interesting to see that Shotley Bridge had high ideals when it came to proclaiming the quality of their blades and even impressed a running horse mark to blades in imitation of the running wolf marks seen on Solingen / Passau blades.  Shotley Bridge has interest for the student and collector in that it was a historical starting point for British sword manufacture rather than a beacon of technological and artistic prowess.  For that we need to adjust our gaze to the cities of London and Birmingham.

LONDON

Up until the late eighteenth century when Birmingham took over the primary role of service sword manufacture, London was at the centre of both sword making and retailing.  It was an obvious choice due to some basic geography.  For hundreds of years, it had been a port of entry and exit for manufactured goods to the continent.  Countless sword blades were brought over from Germany and either decorated or mounted to London-made hilts and scabbards.  They were then shipped out, most notably to the fledgling United States, where the eagle-head sword is commonly found with an English maker mark.  Many craftsmen were involved in this process and London carved out a justifiable name for herself during the eighteenth century, particularly in the manufacture of silver-hilted smallswords.  Those collectors lucky enough to acquire these exquisite swords, will invariably see a London silver hallmark to the hilt (if not rubbed away) and, if luckier still, the initials of the maker are sometimes present.  The  work of Leslie Southwick (London Silver-Hilted Swords) has made tracing original London sword silversmiths considerably easier and I fully recommend this exhaustive book on English silver-hilted swords.

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Names that the collector of British military swords will be familiar with include many London makers and retailers such as John Prosser, Samuel Brunn, Nathaniel Jeffreys, John Salter, Henry Tatham, Francis Thurkle and, of course, Henry Wilkinson.

The sword and cutlery trade was based primarily in the City of London and included such locales as Cheapside, London Bridge, and Fleet Street.  Prestigious addresses such as the Strand, Piccadilly, Bond Street, and Pall Mall acted as both manufacturing locations and retailing hubs.  Many of the sword retailers and makers became very wealthy and subsequently moved out of the centre of London to more leafy and cleaner areas, although a sizeable number of dedicated sword makers tended to live and die in their original neighbourhoods.

John Salter retired to the comforts of Bexley, Kent and Nathaniel Jeffreys left the City for distant Worcester.

Special mention must also be made of one notable character in the London trade during the Napoleonic period.  His name was John Justus Runkel and his is one of the most frequently observed signatures to be found on British military swords of that period.  J.J. Runkel, was a German immigrant who became a British subject in 1796.  He proceeded to almost corner the market in the large-scale importation of sword blades from Solingen, Germany, via the port of Emden.  In the first years of the nineteenth century he was said to be handling hundreds of blades every month.  No wonder so many are still available to the collector.

He did not involve himself in the actual manufacture of swords, but was purely a conduit or agent for German blades entering into London.  They came as either plain or decorated blades with blue and gilt applied in a standard format.  Look at a number of Runkel blades together and you will see that the motifs are all very similar and seldom vary.  Runkel was catering for an early form of “mass-market”, and the British officer purchasing a Runkel blade would not find too many surprises.  That said, a blue and gilt blade by Runkel retaining most of the original colour is still a very attractive piece, and we should be glad that a reasonable number have survived.

In contrast to the Birmingham trade who produced most of the plain service swords required by the ordinary soldier, London was noted for her skill in combining the art of the jeweller, leather worker and blade decorator.  Many presentation swords, particularly those made during the Napoleonic Wars, were of London origin.  Andrew Mowbray, in his book on American Eagle-headed Swords (The American Eagle-Head Pommel Sword), remarks that London was regarded as producing a higher standard of fire-gilt finish to blades than those seen in Birmingham, and that a London blade could be recognised purely within that criteria.

London sword makers enjoyed a flourishing trade within Britain and on the continent for many years.  It was only after the 1820’s, and the re-emergence of Solingen, combined with economic depression at home, that we see a dramatic reduction in the capital’s ability to re-capture past sword-making glories.

Nineteenth Century

As we move into the nineteenth century, the British Army realised that there was an urgent need for better standardisation of production and quality within the issue of swords.  This led to the belief that a manufacturing facility, based in Britain and better controlled by the military authorities, was an urgent necessity.  A Board of Ordnance had already been set up since the seventeenth century with the job of overseeing the standard of arms produced for the monarch’s forces.  There was a system of inspection within the Tower of London but improvements were needed and, in 1804, the Board of Ordnance established the Small Arms Factory at Enfield Lock, north of London.  It was later to be designated the Royal Small Arms Factory and became a major supplier of guns, swords and bayonets to the British Army.  Despite this, it was still unable to produce the very large numbers required by the expanding British armed forces and contracts were regularly shared with British and German commercial sword makers.  This can result in the collector encountering both British and German makers’ marks to one particular pattern of sword, unlike the dedicated French government sword makers at Klingenthal or Chatellerault, whose blades are consistently marked with the names of these two famous French domestic government armaments factories.

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Enfield Ordnance Factory, c.1853.

A typical 1853 Pattern Cavalry Trooper’s sword might be seen with both Enfield, Mole and Kirschbaum (German) makers marks

It must also be remembered that many London cutlers had workshops or agents in Birmingham and this situation was reciprocated with the Birmingham trade.  Towards the end of nineteenth century, the number of actual sword makers, rather than retailers, in London, had greatly diminished.  Great names such as Prosser, Salter and Tatham had long gone and companies such as Wilkinson, Thurkle and Gaunt were left to splutter on until the early years of the next century.  Only Wilkinson Sword survived after 1930.

© The History of the Manufacture of British Swords article by Harvey Withers – militariahub.com

Not to be reproduced without prior agreement.

 

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Collecting British Antique Swords and Edged Weapons – A Guide for Buyers

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Collecting British Antique  Swords and Edged Weapons – A Guide for Buyers

The collecting of swords and edged weapons has been both a hobby and business for me over many years.  It has been a fascinating experience and one that has enabled me to handle thousands of British swords and edged weapons.  One thing that strikes me first is the sheer variety of edged weapons that Britain has produced.  We have a long and distinguished martial history and the production and use of the sword has always been an important element in the portrayal of the typical British soldier, both officer and enlisted man.

Status and Rank

The carrying of a sword by a British officer signified their status and rank and before the introduction of the machine gun and mechanised warfare, the use of a sword whether it be on the battlefield or on board a ship of the line, was a symbol of an officer’s leadership and personal courage.  In these modern times when long distance warfare is the norm and an enemy might never be seen before the kill, it is important to note that the sword was a weapon of close quarter and the injuries suffered from its use were horrific and rarely saveable.  If a collector buys an antique sword and admires its fine workmanship and lines (as we all do) it must also be remembered that it had a primary function to kill or maim an opponent and the sword that you have in your hand might just have done that many times.

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Sourcing Antique British Swords and Edged Weapons

If you are lucky enough to be resident in the United Kingdom, there are many opportunities to source British swords and edged weapons.  One of the most accessible are antique arms fairs.  There is normally one being held most weeks somewhere in the country and they range from the village hall to the convention centre.  A good reference for when and where these fairs are being held is the Armourer magazine – here.   They list all the fairs in the UK that are being over a few months and it is handy for noting in your diary and planning your visits.  The magazine is also a good read for the sword and militaria collector!

Antique Arms Fairs

Antique arms fairs are a great opportunity to source British pieces and importantly, actually handle and examine what is for sale.  Even if you don’t see what you are looking for or the price is out of your budget, pick up the sword (making sure that you ask for permission to do so) and have a good look at it, noting the way it has been manufactured, the patination and general condition.  Make a mental note of what you have seen and store it for future use, especially the price as similar swords, particularly official patterns, tend to sell for an average price and you do not want to be paying way over the odds for an ordinary piece.  At the end of the day, experience always counts and you will no doubt buy some “howlers” in your time and learn accordingly – we have all done it and continue to do so!

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Auctions

Antique swords and edged weapons can also be acquired from auction houses and give the buyer an opportunity to purchase swords that might have been in a family for many generations.  They are also used by dealers to sell their unsold stock and some pieces can go on a merry-go-round as they feature in different auctions.  The same can be said for antique arms fairs as pieces are sold between dealers and moved from one table to another (invariably with a higher price!).

Auction houses used to be a reasonably economical method of acquiring items but in the last couple of years (and I speak of British auctioneers) the commission charged has risen steeply and has become quite a sizeable chunk of the overall price paid for a piece.  If you are happy to take that “hit”, then fair enough but always factor in the commission when considering what your highest bid should be – if you are spending several hundred pounds, a commission over 20% can be quite a sum.

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 © Collecting British Antique Swords and Edged Weapons article by Harvey Withers – militariahub.com

Not to be reproduced without prior agreement.

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Collecting Antique Swords

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Collecting Antique Swords – the Market Today

The present-day collector of antique military swords inhabits a commercial environment quite unlike that of past generations. The rapid global expansion of the internet has been the most important development within the antique collecting marketplace, creating a dynamic and ever-changing platform for the sourcing and selling of military antiques.

Dedicated web sites have emerged to cater for the sword collector with both auctioneers and dealers quick to embrace the new technology. Customers now have the unique opportunity to both view and purchase antique swords directly from their own home computer.

Internet auction sites such as E-Bay have also become an important hub for both the selling and buying of antique swords. Substantial numbers of swords are traded every week and can be purchased with relative ease from almost anywhere in the world. The idea that a buyer would happily purchase any antique purely on the basis of a few photographs and a brief description would have seemed ludicrous only a few years ago, but this is exactly how antique swords are bring traded today.

This form of business is ideal for those unable to attend regular auctions and antique arms shows, but it must be made clear that this form of trading is not painless and a number of important caveats must be remembered. One of the most crucial is to ask the seller a series of detailed questions. The answers given will prove useful if the sword arrives and it does not tally with the original auction description. In the case of E-Bay, always check the seller’s feedback record as this illustrates the type of seller that you are dealing with and their previous history of transactions.

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Auction Houses

The main beneficiaries of this inflationary market are the auction houses who have realised that their business now has a global reach and can offer facilities for customers to view and bid for lots online. The time has long gone when only the bidder standing on the auction floor is guaranteed to take the lots home. Commission bids now frequently win the day. Many auction houses will also send prospective bidders digital pictures of the lots via e-mail. Importantly, the emphasis is very much on the bidder to ask the appropriate questions concerning condition or provenance. Having said this, auctioneers are still right in emphasising that nothing can replace actually seeing and handling a sword yourself.

E-Commerce and antique swords

E-commerce can only expand further and looks set to be a major factor in the evolution of the market. This is not all benefit driven. It is an old adage in the antiques trade that demand invariably outstrips supply. This appears to be the current situation when trying to source good examples of antique military swords. Although it might seem that there is a reasonable quantity of swords available to buy via the internet and auctions, the actual quality of these pieces is sadly deteriorating. Examples in excellent condition are becoming extremely scarce. Added to this is the fact that prices are rising at an alarming rate.

Investment

The investment value of antique swords is obvious, and with average yearly increases of around 15-20%, you will be hard pressed to find a better return in any financial market. To date, the market shows no sign of slowing down or reversing.

Most collectors obviously do not wish to sell their coveted pieces, but it is reassuring to know that once bought, the value of a sword is likely to appreciate over time.

Knowledge

The smart collector should constantly update their knowledge of the subject. The purchase of books and the building of a sound reference library are therefore essential. If possible, make a point of buying a relevant book whenever you attend an arms show. The ability to correctly identify and value a piece will always give you the upper hand, and might even allow you to occasionally purchase a bargain. Do not assume that the dealer on the other side of the table has more knowledge than you. They do sometimes let a special piece slip through because of their own ignorance!

Arms Shows and Auctions

There is no substitute to visiting auctions, arms shows and museum collections. Go to as many as you can and follow some basic rules. When visiting an arms show, the most important rule is to take your time when inspecting a sword. Out of courtesy, always ask the dealer if you can inspect the sword. There is nothing more annoying to a dealer than to see their precious stock clumsily pawed by a novice collector. Always draw a sword out of a leather scabbard with the blade held vertically, point down, so as to avoid the danger of bending or breaking the leather at a weak point.

If the sword comes with a scabbard, put both alongside and compare the blade length with the scabbard length. Sometimes there can be a great disparity in lengths. Scabbards are easily swapped around, although some would have been legitimately replaced during their service lives.

Be wary of sword blades that do not fit snugly into the scabbard or are either loose or tight. Be also aware that with leather scabbards, a tight fit might actually be due to genuine leather shrinkage, so use sensible judgement.

Look at the patination of both the hilt and metal scabbard. Matched patination is what you are looking for. A brightly cleaned metal scabbard and dark patinated hilt are obviously suspicious. At many arms shows and auction houses the interior lighting can be quite poor. Large arenas are notorious venues where this disadvantage can hide damage, alteration and all manner of deceptions done to a sword. View the sword from as many angles as possible. Check that the blade has not been altered by looking at the tang button. It should not show any evidence of having been taken out and re-hammered back in. Unaltered tang buttons are invariably smooth and flush, with a dark age patination.

Buying

When involved in the buying process, do not be afraid to haggle with the dealer but do not offer a silly price. This is both insulting and makes you look foolish. If you have any doubts about the authenticity of a piece ask the dealer to confirm that it is genuine. Their response is normally enough to convince you either way. If the reply that you receive goes along the lines of; “I have no idea what it is.”, be very cautious. For security of mind, ask for a written receipt or official invoice with the dealer’s name, address and telephone number. The vast majority of dealers are honest and fair people so approach your purchases with a positive yet attentive mind. If attending an auction, always stick to your bid limit and don’t get carried away. Remember also to factor in the buyer’s commission when calculating your maximum bid.

Forgeries

Spurious blade engraving or etching has become a recent and troubling phenomenon. In the case of British swords, I have seen an ordinary mid-Victorian cavalry officer’s sword transformed (by the addition of a notable and distinguished name or presentation inscription) to a potentially “historic” piece. Fortunately, the modern forger tends not to possess the skills of craftsmanship inherent in their forebears, and their attempts are usually quite crude when compared with the original blade decoration. Always compare the quality of the two. New collectors will always be caught out by these deceits, and it is only through constant viewing and handling of the genuine article, that you will be able to distinguish between the right and the wrong piece. Even seasoned collectors started out by buying wrong pieces. It is a tough process that all collectors have to go through. Experience is the only educator in this fascinating field of collecting.

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© Collecting Antique Swords article by Harvey Withers – militariahub.com

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The Scottish Basket Hilt – A Guide for Collectors

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The Scottish Basket Hilt – A Guide for Collectors

The Scottish basket hilt has become one of the most sought after swords for collectors. It is easy to understand why this is so. The shape and feel of an original highland broadsword is like no other sword. Add to this the inevitable myth and romance associated with such swords, and you will find an area of collecting where competition to acquire good examples is very high indeed.

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Historical Background

Before the introduction of the basket hilt, the Scottish highlander already carried at least three distinct sword types. The first was the claidheamh mor (claymore), or classic “big” sword. This was used from the 1500’s, and is of hand and a half length, with a long, broad blade. It has very recognisable quillons of diamond section, angled towards the blade. The terminus of the quillon is also decorated with brazed iron quatrefoils.

Scottish Two-Handed Sword

In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, highlanders also carried the claidheamhda laimh or two handed sword. It is similar to German or Swiss two handed (Zweihander) swords carried by Landsknechte or mercenaries, and the few surviving examples have Scottish hilts with German blades. The hilt normally includes an oval shell guard and long, flattened, down-swept quillons. The third type of sword is referred to as the “Lowland Sword”. These have very long blades, with characteristic side rings to the hilt, globular pommels and quillons set at right angles to the blade, terminating in knobs.

Scottish Claymore Swords

It must be remembered that it is a common mistake to refer to a Scottish basket hilt as a “claymore”. This is incorrect. They are two very different styles of sword. Having said this, Scottish commentators of the early 1600’s referred to the basket hilt as a “claymore”, but it is still best to differentiate. The geographical origin of this distinctly “Scottish” basket-hilted sword was not actually Scotland. Swords with basket hilts are likely to have originated in Germany, Scandanavia, and even England. Basket hilts of simple form were already known in England during the early 1500’s. The development of an enclosed hilt was a natural consequence of the need for more protection to the hand at a time when the wearing of armour, and particularly the metal gauntlet, had become less common.

Why the sword became associated with highland use is not clear, although it is known that numbers of Scottish mercenaries fought for the English in Ireland during the sixteenth century, and it is probable that basket-hilted swords were brought back to Scotland and their design copied by local sword makers. They were then known as “Irish” hilts.

Scottish “Beaknose” Basket hilts

There are very few visual sources to enable us to determine exactly when the basket hilt began to be carried in the Highlands. The earliest known painting showing a Scottish clansman carrying this type of sword, is recorded as being c.1680. The painting is of a “Highland Chieftain” by Michael Wright, and shows the subject carrying a broadsword with “beaknose” hilt. This comprised a series of welded ribbon-like strips of metal drawn together to form a beak at the front of the basket. The “beaknose” hilt was a specific Highland style and differed from English basket hilts in that the pommel was of “coned form” as opposed to the English “apple” shape. Pommel shape is an important indicator as to whether a basket hilt is either Scottish or English. In these early basket hilts of the 1600’s, there are some defining characteristics between the hilt styles of Scottish and English swords.

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English and Scottish Hilts

The English hilt tended to have thinner, more spaced, bars, whereas Scottish hilts began to adopt wider, rectangular plates to either side of the hilt, coupled with decorative heart-shaped piercings. Problems of correct attribution do occur as we move into the eighteenth century and English swordmakers began to imitate the Scottish style.

These swords were sold to the British Army, and carried by both infantry soldiers and horsemen. Ironically, there are many so-called “Scottish” basket hilts described as such within the collecting market, that were actually produced in such “Highland” areas as London and Birmingham!

Scottish Sword-Making Schools

Where we do know of specific Highland makers, it is only because the maker has signed the hilt. These makers are normally categorised as falling into two schools of sword making; that of either the Stirling or Glasgow schools. They swords are universally acknowledged as being representative of the pinnacle of Scottish basket hilt sword making. The superb craftsmanship and detailing to the hilts marks them out as being of truly historic form. Father and son hilt-makers or “Hammermen”, John Allan Sr and Jnr (Stirling), and Walter Allan (Stirling), produced hilts of rare artistry, many with intricately inlaid brass circles, wavy lines and hatching. John Simpson of Glasgow was admitted as a Freeman of the Incorporation of Hammermen of Glasgow in 1711. His father was admitted in 1683 and became the King’s Armourer in Scotland.

This family produced some very fine basket hilts. The wide variety and breadth of quality that we see in Scottish basket hilts indicates the likelihood that many were produced as part of a “cottage” industry. Most blades were imported from the continent, principally Germany, with the hilts then manufactured in Scotland. Back-street workshops in Glasgow, Stirling, Edinburgh and other locations, produced the swords with a workforce comprising little more than one or two persons.

Post-Culloden and Scottish Swords

After the disaster of Culloden in 1746, the Scottish Highlander lost his right to bear arms, and the carrying of swords was outlawed. Most swords were not handed over to the English but hidden. The ban had a devastating effect on Scottish sword makers and the production of basket hilts went into decline. The subsequent raising of regiments for the British Army in Scotland initiated a requirement for basic military swords, but most of these were actually produced in England. They were still of basket hilt form. One of the most frequently encountered is the c.1750-1770 basket-hilted sword for privates in Highland regiments. It was of relatively poor manufacture, with a thin sheet metal guard and crude cut-outs in the junction plates. Grip was leather on wood. Blades were manufactured in London or Birmingham and are marked with a “GR”, crown, and maker’s name to either “Iefries” (Jeffries, London) or “Drury” (Birmingham).

Most Scottish-made basket-hilted swords after 1746 are likely to have been made for officers in the newly formed Highland regiments.

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Collecting Scottish Basket Hilts

It is not surprising that demand far outstrips supply when it comes to sourcing original Scottish basket-hilted swords. As mentioned, many “Scottish” basket hilts are actually English in origin, and it is worth taking time to study the literature on this subject in order that the new collector purchases the correct piece. Prices are naturally very high for swords of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and when a collection comes into the market via an auction house, estimates are frequently exceeded. Deep pockets are therefore a necessary evil.

As with all early swords, care must be taken to avoid copies. They are limited in number but some are of high quality. If you are purchasing a basket hilt for the first time, it is probably wise to buy from either a reputable dealer or auction house.

© Scottish basket hilt article by Harvey Withers – militariahub.com

Not to be reproduced without prior agreement.

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Schiavona Sword Collectors Guide

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The Schiavona Sword – A Guide for Collectors

The Schiavona sword has a most distinctive profile, exhibiting a cage-like basket hilt and unique “cats-head” pommel. For the collector, there are many subtle varieties of hilt and pommel styles.

Historical Background

The origin of the schiavona can be traced back to the swords carried by Slavonic mercenaries from Eastern Europe during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. These troops were mainly located in the Balkan or Dalmation region and vicariously employed by both Spain and the Republic of Venice during the sixteenth century.

They gained a fearsome reputation for their rugged fighting spirit. The South German bastard sword is cited as the progenitor of the schiavona, although it is also thought that its distinctive hilt style lends itself to a possible Turkish origin. If we consider that the Dalmation mercenaries came from an area under sustained Ottoman rule, this possibility should not be ruled out.

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Venetian Schiavonas

The schiavona is probably better known for its Venetian association. The Council of Tenor, Consiglio dei Dieci, under which the Doge administered the Venetian State during the 1600’s, hired many Dalamation mercenaries. A large store of schiavonas is still present in the Armoury of the Doge’s Palace, in Venice. Most are stamped with the “CX” mark for the Consiglio dei Dieci. There are different styles of schiavona hilt, but they all exhibit the common feature of having a leaf-shaped guard, and “cat’s head” or “katzenkopfknauf” pommel in brass or iron.

Simple and Complex Hilt Baskets

Early pieces are simpler in form with less complex baskets, whereas later schiavonas are usually of higher quality, with the hilt bars cast in one piece. The sword proved very popular with European heavy cavalry during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The long and wide blade proved very effective as a slashing weapon, allowing both cut and thrust. It was the standard cavalry sword for European horseman during this period, although the “mortuary hilt” was more popular in England, being the weapon of choice for most English cavalrymen during the English Civil War.

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Collecting Schiavonas

Many of the original schiavonas were manufactured in considerable quantities for issue to cavalry troopers and some are of “munition” quality, meaning that they are rather simple and crude in appearance. Despite this fact, there are also superb examples of the sword makers art in the market, comprising finely wrought and intersecting hilt bars and silver and occasionally gold, hilt pommels.

Fake Schiavonas

In recent years a number of fake schiavonas have entered the market been and special care must be taken when purchasing these swords. It is not known where they originate from but I have seen them and they are extremely well made with good forging and detail. What tends to give them away is the patination of the hilt and blade which appears quite uniform and is produced by dropping and trailing acid on the hilt and blade. Look at the blade edge and see if there is any wear or signs of old sharpening. In my experience, the only way ok knowing is by comparing one of these fakes with an original example – once seen, you won’t forget the difference in real ageing and faked ageing.

© Collecting Schiavona Swords article by Harvey Withers – militariahub.com

Not to be reproduced without prior agreement.

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Collecting Antique Rapiers

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Collecting Antique Rapiers – A Guide for Buyers

The Rapier is one of the most elegant swords that a collector will encounter. Some pieces truly epitomise the supreme art and skills of the master sword makers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Prices for the best swords can be astronomical, but this is an area of collecting that can still turn up representative examples that do not break the bank balance. A new collector must be made immediately aware that there are many copies in the market, most notably those manufactured during the Victorian era, ostensibly to fill the great houses built throughout Britain during the Tudor and Medieval Revival period. These will be discussed later.

Historical Background of the Rapier

The rapier is first noted during the latter half of the fifteenth century, but only comes into major prominence during the early sixteenth century. It was primarily a sword designed to be worn by a gentleman and not particularly suitable for use during heavy combat on the battlefield. The traditional broadsword was still the preferred weapon of choice in this arena. During its height, rapiers were worn as the ultimate fashion accessory and signifier of rank. Great competition was placed at Court to be the nobleman with the most grandly ornate sword, and contemporary paintings vividly show the wide range of rapiers available to those willing to pay the vast sums needed to purchase such a “trophy” piece.

The introduction of a more formalised system of fencing in Spain and Italy (and later, England), further enhanced the allure of the rapier and led to a gentleman’s settling of accounts via the duel, a pastime frowned upon by the authorities, but one that continued well into the nineteenth century. Spain is normally claimed as the first country to have introduced the rapier or espada ropera (dress sword), with Italy, Germany and England following soon afterwards. Sword blades were manufactured in Toledo and Valencia in Spain, Solingen and Passau, in Germany, and Milan and Brescia, in Italy. They would have been sent as un-hilted blades and hilted locally at their eventual destinations throughout Europe.

Some blades are maker marked, although many are plain. Notable bladesmiths’ names recurring on rapier blades include PICCININO (Italy), CAINO (Italy), SACCHI (Italy), FERRARA (Italy), JOHANNES (Germany), WUNDES (Germany), TESCHE (Germany), SAHAGUN (Spain), RUIZ (Spain), and HERNANDEZ (Spain). The names of respected bladesmiths were often forged by lesser rivals and it is sometimes rather difficult to know who actually made the blade.

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Types of Rapiers

There are many differing styles of rapier, particularly with regard to the hilt. The evolution of hilt styles coincided with changes in the manner of combat and the lessening influence of plate armour. Previously, swords tended to be of simple, cross-hilted, cut and thrust form, with protection afforded by an armoured gauntlet. As full armour became less popular, the need to protect the hand became more important.

This included the development of a thumb guard or ring to the hilt on early rapiers, leading to the adoption of side rings and later, the typical swept-hilt form most commonly attributed to the rapier. Early blades were of diamond section and extremely long. Some are known to have a blade length of over 40 inches. These early rapiers were designed to be used in conjunction with a left-handed dagger in order to parry an opponent’s blade. The rapier and dagger were normally crafted as a matching pair, although it is extremely rare to find any of these pairs still together. In style and proportions, the dagger was usually a smaller version of the rapier, with sweeping hilt quillons, large terminals, a plate guard and matched pommel. Spanish and Italian left-handed daggers tend to be more elaborate than English and German examples. Right-handed daggers with corresponding rapiers are known, but scarce. As the sixteenth century progressed, blade lengths reduced making the rapier more manageable. Hilt design became ever more complex, with added emphasis laid on protecting the hand.

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Pappenheimer Rapiers

In the 1620’s, we see the addition of more side plates and shell guards. In Gemany, the so-called “Pappenheimer” hilt, named after Gottfried Heinrich Graff Pappenheim, who carried this style of sword during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), comprised a rapier hilt with large plates and recurved quillons. It was very popular in the Low Countries during this period. In time, the natural desire for more hand protection culminated with the design of the cup-hilt rapier. This featured a large bowl guard with pierced or scalloped shell decoration. It proved more popular in Spain and Italy, not being particularly favoured in England. Its very “Spanish” styling was probably regarded with great suspicion by this fiercely Protestant nation, although its use in the Low Countries was again frequent. Examples produced for the nobility are very fine, with exquisite chiselled hilt work in chased silver and gold. They very much represent the epitome of Renaissance craftsmanship.

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Collecting Antique Rapiers

The demand for authentic rapiers has always been very high. Consequently, the market has had to contend with a large number of fakes or copies. As intimated earlier, many of these are not true fakes, in the sense that they were not originally produced to deceive, but in the hands of some unscrupulous or ignorant individuals, they are sold as the genuine article. Most are Victorian in date and manufactured to keep up with the demand for “antique” weaponry displayed in the new baronial or great houses. As many are well over a hundred years old, and probably uncleaned, they have now taken on the appearance of an antique sword, with appropriate wear, patination and pitting. Although the Victorian craftsman was noted for his metalworking skills, it is true to say that when compared with the original, there are a number of clear differences. At a basic level, the copies do not have the correct appearance of proportion. Hilt and blade lack the graceful lines of the period pieces, with the hilt bars tending to be over-sized and thick. Blades are also too heavy and completely un-balanced.

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Victorian Rapiers

Victorian examples were manufactured in age of machine tools, rather than the hand-wrought nature of the original. The Victorians also “made up” rapiers with parts (particularly blades) from genuine swords, combined with new hilts and pommels. This can make the task of identification even harder. If you are buying a genuine rapier for the first time, it is very wise to ensure that you purchase from a source that can verify in writing and so guarantee, the authenticity of the piece. Reputable dealers and auction houses are therefore your recommended first port of call. Please note that if a rapier is described in an auction catalogue as “in the style of”, then it is definitely a copy.

© Collecting antique rapiers article by Harvey Withers – militariahub.com

Not to be reproduced without prior agreement.

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