The Japanese Sword

Ok, so Holly scored some tickets to the Antique Roadshow (TV Program) for when it was in Raleigh today. Long story short, one of the things I brought is an old sword that family history (for whatever those rumors are worth) claim that my Grandfather received as a gift during the Korean war from the head of a village his unit (“Rice’s Raiders”…seriously, that was the name) liberated. Whether or not this is true, I don’t know. My grandfather (Major(?) Robert L. Rice) died in a wierd car accident when my father was a young boy. There is so much I don’t know about him. Very enigmatic and involved in military intelligence or something. I have a couple of stories about him and some bits and pieces of his military career. I might share them later if there is interest.

Anyway, so the sword is obviously Japanese of origin, plain wooden sheath, taped together with some sort of black tape that reminds me of electrical tape, if it was textured and felt more like adhesive cloth. Sorta. The blade itself is in realtively good condition with a few areas that look like they want to start rusting, and a few scratches (shudder). In the photographs below, you can see what I mean. Oddly enough, the photos make the blemishes look MUCH worse than they do in person, but eh, it is what it is.

The sword has been stuffed in closets and storage around the US and overseas. I never even knew of its existance until several years ago. I’m not even sure how or when my father got it into his possession. I do know that there are other heirlooms (that I should have by all rights as the last son and only direct grandson) but some other relatives have been sitting on this stuff for a rather long time. It is a point of annoyance, but what can you do, eh?

Back to the story. I expected the appraiser at the Antique Roadshow to tell me it was likely mass manufactured or something pre-war, maybe early-mid 1900s. I would have been surprised if it was much older than that.

He almost completely ignored the sheath and pulled the blade right out and whistled. He stated that it was likely Koto (The Old Sword Era, everything pre-1590), and worth at least $2-3k. He suggested that if I could get it evaluated and certified by or through an appropriate organization, it might be worth “$5-7k in the worst case, if the evaluation is dismal in all respects and the blade is graded low quality”. He also mentioned that to get it polished (this is special work for Japanese swords, not like you can just buff it), the cost might be around $100 per square inch or so to have it done “right”. I think the way to consider this is as you would restoring a work of art…you certainly wouldn’t take windex to it to get the dust off, would you? No, I didn’t think so.

Here are some pictures. I plan on wrapping this up and putting it back into the closet until I can have it officially appraised and certified, and then I’ll invest to have it polished properly (preferably in Japan, just cause).

If any readers out there have any insight into any information about the sword, historical, forging technique, dating, whatever, please contact me or comment here. I love history anyway, and I would dearly love to know everything about this piece. Of course, I would be beside myself if I could find out more about my Grandfather, his time in the Korean War, the Multinational unit he was a member of, and so on.

Here you go (apologies for the poor quality, I just put these together, I didn’t have time to setup a proper background/lighting).