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So, so many fake Japanese swords

A quick ebay search for “gendaito” results in dozens of purported Japanese katanas for sale.

Hand-made “art sword” gendaitos were very few in number to begin with, maybe a few thousand by 1944, and after 1945, when Japanese swords of all qualities were being melted down, there were a lot fewer left.

When I began collecting antique Japanese swords in 1993, it was a pretty structured environment with plenty of Vet bring-backs available through newspaper ads and at gun shows. But most of those swords were basic Showa shin-Shinto machine made swords of solid stock. Created en masse for Japanese NCOs, they were the great bulk of “samurai” type swords captured and brought back to England and America after WWII. Though justifiably iconic in their own right, as they are beautiful weapons by design, none of them were art swords. None were made by hand in 1562 by a famous swordsmith.

Enter China. And with her came all kinds of fakery of every kind of antique collectible you could ever want. Guns, swords, knives, bayonets, not to mention shoes, purses, clothes etc. The first faked Japanese swords from China were easy to spot. Some were laughably crude, some were pretty good but either missing or overplaying critical aspects of real antique Japanese swords. Either way, only the most gullible or inexperienced buyers took them.

Today, however, you can find practically mint condition gendaito or older swords, with a nice new reddish rust on the tang, selling for half or a third of what such swords used to bring. Lots of them. Most of these fake blades are in authentic WWII military fittings, giving them a false air of authenticity.

The reason for the price drop is that so many fake Japanese swords have been brought to market that the natural demand and market absorption is oversaturated. Thus, supply exceeds demand, and price drops accordingly. Greedy dealers looking to enrich themselves at the expense of  would-be collectors have driven this dynamic.

Oh, there is a demand out there for real Japanese swords. People from all walks of life recognize how perfect these edged weapons are, and how refined and representative they are of the warrior ethos. Japanese swords are iconic, and therefore inspiring. They bring a lot of happiness to their owners, if only to serve as reminders of the old ways, like when men were men.

But sword dealers have now definitely overplayed their hand. The evidence of this fakery is overwhelming.

There is not only no possible way that one dealer can have so many authentic Japanese swords for sale at any one time, and there are dozens of dealers each stocked to the gills with fake swords being represented as authentic antiques, there is no possible way that this many authentic antique Japanese swords were ever available at one time in any one market, except maybe on the entire island of Japan in 1944.

After 1944 and Japan’s fall, swords were outlawed by the Allies, and they were destroyed by the thousands. Just like fabulous rifles in Germany and Austria were destroyed by the Allies. Though highly lamentable, it was all done to protect our troops. Very few Japanese swords or German rifles made it out alive, so to speak.

If I were to describe the ways these fake swords leap off the virtual pages of ebay and other sellers and scream “I am a fake,” I’d write a book. However, I’m just disgusted by it all, and writing a book is not in my future. However, here are some things to look out for: 1) tangs that have reddish rust. A true old worn rust is tough to fake. 2) file marks on tangs running the wrong way. 3) Tang inscriptions that are either perfect or that are cut over the defined edges. 4) Blades that are perfect, or that have a perfect yakiba or perfect hamon. This is the biggest red flag of all. Most Vet bring-backs were abused by the soldiers themselves, through horseplay. The swords were then used by kids in the 1950s for horseplay and cutting experiments. These swords were not then that valuable or collectible, so they were rarely protected from use or abuse. They were simply the artifacts and relics of brutal, cruel, sad warfare that their captors wished to forget. So to see so many shiny, smooth, perfect blades represented as antiques is a huge red flag. Very very few actual antique Japanese swords made it to 2017 unscathed, either through actual battle use or more likely, through abuse in American backyards at the hands of playful boys or demonstrative uncles in the 1950s-1970s. To see such incredibly distinct hamons on so many “antique” Japanese swords is a huge red flag. A real antique blade will naturally lose its luster over time, and the hardened cutting edge will follow that process, to the point where it becomes faint and barely distinct. Most blades will show clear splotches, discoloration, some rust, from having sat in a basement or living room for 70 years.

Guys, it’s tough to say this, but a lot of you are buying fake Japanese swords that are in reality made recently in China for the American collector market. It’s cliche, but caveat emptor. Ask yourself and your seller some really basic questions. The most important question to a seller being: How on earth do you keep finding these very rare swords, in such high quantities, in such incredibly good condition, to sell at such low prices?

You know the answer, or at least you should know it. The sad answer is the sad fact that it appears about 90% to 95% of the purported antique Japanese swords being sold today are fakes, most likely of recent Chinese origin (Pakistanis are getting better at making old looking edged weapons, too).

Do your research. Think hard about how each sword now for sale made its way to market. You’ll come to the natural and healthy conclusion. And you’ll run away, and save your money for real antiques.

Conservation vs Environmentalism

After decades of environmentalism, many Americans are burnt out on the movement’s constant sky-is-falling hype and never-ending Defcon 5 emergency messaging. Environmentalists’ craving for full control of our every motion and breath understandably scares the daylights out of normal Americans.

Though environmentalism is sold as a take-it-or-leave-it proposition by its proponents, the truth is that it represents an unnecessarily confrontational and expensive approach to environmental and public health, with misplaced priorities and unmeasurable outcomes.

Simply put, Environmentalism is the over-reliance upon government coercive force, command-and-control, one-size-fits-all sledgehammer policies to problems that might require a screwdriver, if needing anything at all.

The premise behind environmentalism is that mere daily acts of human existence are pitted against a static natural environment that must be defended at all costs, in the face of change being this planet’s biggest constant. Un-anointed humans are vermin in environmentalism.

Oh, sure, pollution and environmental destruction from human activity do exist: Over-fishing of the shared oceans is resulting in catastrophic population reductions of the most valuable fish (tuna, sharks, some salmon). Low-density residential development and warehousing goes up on our flattest, best, most fertile farmlands while national food security is an ever growing concern. Where will we grow our own clean food, if not on our best farmland closest to our largest population centers? Preventing water pollution is a constant effort. And certain chemicals were not vetted properly, with the burden of proof placed on the hapless citizenry before they were discovered to pose unacceptable health risks.

Republican President Richard Nixon said it best: “What a strange creature is man, that he fouls his own nest.” This is just being honest, though the very people most radicalized about environmental issues are also and equally fouling our collective nest with their own reliance on cars, iPhones, and hip clothing. They aren’t special. In fact the most “special” among them have their own personal jets and huge cars and boats with daily carbon footprints the size of small towns. Hypocrisy has a way of passively degrading and delegitimizing people, and that has happened with environmentalism’s biggest messengers, like Al Gore, Leon DiCaprio, et al.

Each of the real environmental health issues we face can and will be tackled with all of our best Yankee ingenuity. Not every day needs to be the summer of 1968, and not every environmental issue is Love Canal or will result in Planet Earth’s extinction if we don’t implement drastic policies right now. At its worst, environmentalism is virtue signaling and fake moral outrage.

A more measured, more adult approach is needed.

America is hopefully about to see a blossoming of conservation.  Aldo Leopold called it a “conservation ethic,” where a sense of stewardship results in concrete steps to protect natural resources for future generations of Americans.

Yet, conservation is mostly boring as hell. It lacks the screaming and yelling, the gnashing of teeth, the drama of environmentalism. It lacks the big demands for dramatic lifestyle changes and income redistribution that falsely substitute for self-examination, introspection, personal change.

By relying on market forces and free choices by people inside those markets, conservation empowers the very people environmentalists despise.  Conservation involves a lot of actual heavy lifting among and by people who care: Raising private money and judiciously spending public taxpayer money on carefully ranked projects that are of both great symbolic and tangible meaning to the citizens.

It involves natural resource management and planning, which environmentalists decry while using more than their fair share of those same resources.

While land conservation is the best example of conservation, there are plenty of successful, subtle, fish and wildlife management models and even agricultural management models (with pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, fertilizer inputs). Back in 2002, I co-founded the Conestoga River Nutrient Management Project in Lancaster County, to use market forces to address waterway sedimentation finding its way to the Chesapeake Bay.

These are definitely not sexy policies. Conservation does not involve the glitzy rock star concerts, Hollywood celebrity interventions, and spectacular claims of imminent world-end that environmentalism has going for it.

Conservation is for adults, and now the adults are in charge. Hopefully the adults can teach the children to eat their vegetables, so to speak.

 

Obama formally seeks to control the Internet, alter the biggest Free Speech forum on the planet

Acting through the Federal Communications Commission, the Obama administration has issued a proposed rule that will dramatically change the Internet and everyone’s experience on it.

Seeking absolute control of the one information source not controlled by the Left, Obama’s FCC now seeks to tax internet use and establish 322 pages of rules and regulations.

The Federal Elections Commission is also pursuing regulation of political speech on the Internet, like this blog.  Can you imagine? It is totalitarian behavior.

If there is one defining characteristic of the Internet now, it’s that it is a free place, a frontier, a free market, open to as many people as could possibly participate. Surely the utopians among us will be dissatisfied but it’s an incredible feature of modern life.

The Internet needs no regulations. No one will benefit from these regulations, except the Left, because the Net has allowed millions of political activists to circumvent the establishment media, which is 100% in the pocket of and an arm of one liberal political party.

By regulating the Internet, the FCC will determine what is political speech, and whether or not that violates some rule.

Can you imagine putting government bureaucrats in charge of your free speech rights?

No, neither can I, but it’s the Left’s dream to control all communications so their message of forced peace and equality at any cost will find fewer opponents.

We have a state senator here in central PA who campaigned with his name below the Obama name on yard signs. It will be very interesting to hear what this senator has to say about this, because as a member of the Left he stands to benefit from it, but as a representative of the people, he must advocate for their interests, especially their Constitutional rights.