Sword Buyers Digest - Issue 132, February 2019
Good to be back - hope you took some time off over the holiday period and are all refreshed and ready for another year of swordy goodness..

I certainly enjoyed my time off - the longest in 13 years, I spent some uninterrupted time with my daughter and my parents back in Australia and we all made some great memories and had a wonderful holiday together (hard to believe it, but my daughter - who is nearly 12 years old now - had her first swim in the pristine Aussie sea, and enjoyed it so much she wanted to swim even on days that were a bit cold and extremely windy!).

Anyway, its back to work now - and make no mistake - its been a rather hectic last few days of the month as a ton of specials and new products all happen to have occurred at pretty much exactly the same time. So much so that we are calling it a Sword Sale Bonanza..

I will get to that momentarily - but in the meantime, let's kick off the first issue of the Digest in 2019 with the usual mix of SBG madness.
Featured Article:
How Much for a Sword, then and now..
In the age of the gun while swords these days are no more a practical weapon than a kitchen knife, a baseball bat or any other object that could potentially inflict damage to a living thing - in earlier times when they really were a matter of life and death - it is curious to note that sword prices have not actually changed all that much through the ages.

Then as now, historically swords varied in price - from munitions grade blades churned out quickly in times of war to exquisite and highly decorated pieces fit for a King - swords were and still are available on the cheap and for an absolute fortune. Much like today, there were 'entry level' swords that were the equivalent of a Musashi or a Windlass, mid range stuff like an Albion or a Bugei and custom made one off swords that today can cost more than a luxury Sports Car (these days, most contemporary swords sold at this kind of price point are made in either China or Japan by 'living national treasure' level smiths. Custom made European swords are typically 'only' priced between $3000 to $10,000 for something very special).

Arguably the first 'sword brand' in the West was the legendary 'Ulfberht' swords which were made roughly over a 200 year period (approx 800 to 1000 AD) from imported 'Wootz' steel and had a reputation for durability and toughness on the battlefield ( click here for more information on the mysterious Ulfbert/Wootz link)
These swords were made in quantity and yet were highly valued. And as is often the case with any well respected brand, it was not long before (often illiterate) imitators began to churn out inferior copies that on casual inspection looked the part but were poorly made and could endanger the life of the warrior who relied upon them in the heat of combat.. (much like many modern day sellers on eBay - even down to the misspellings!).

By the 13th century, sword ownership was very common - in England under the statute of Winchester (1285) every man between the ages of 15 and 60 was REQUIRED to own some kind of weaponry - at the upper end of society they were expected to own an iron breastplate, hauberk, a sword and a knife - at the lowest end a sword, a sword and a crossbow or bow and arrows/bolts.

Quality and prices would vary - and in the 13th century the starting price of a cheap peasants sword was around 6d, which in today's money is as little as $24, while a decent serviceable blade was around 2s with another 1s for a decent scabbard and suspension system - suggesting that the average price of a 'decent' sword in the late 13th century was around $150, considerably cheaper than today (no doubt because they were a very common item - unlike today where they are very much a tiny niche within the knife industry).
True 'mass produced' munitions grade swords appeared as early as the 1630s - with the English Houslow Sword Company buying blades in bulk made in Solingen Germany. These blades had a reputation for quality and each one was made by several people in 'assembly line' fashion - a smith would forge the blades, another craftsman would temper and harden it, grinders gave it a sharp edge and polishers made it shine - all working together to be able to produce literally thousands of swords.

Re-hilted locally with a basket hilt these swords - the price in the 1630s for these mass produced but good quality blades was recorded as 6 shillings which works out to be around US$50 per sword.. Similar to what the most basic Musashi Katana can be had for, though bear in mind that this was a bulk 'wholesale' purchase so perhaps the individual price for these good munitions grade swords would be closer to $100.

Within the same time period, a late period medieval Lord requested a nice riding sword and set a maximum budget of £5 - which in today's currency works out to be something equivalent to US$680..
To get our modern day $ equivalent we used this handy little 'currency converter' from the UK national archives site - simply enter the amount and the decade and it gives you an estimate in today's money!

YouTube Amateur historian Matt Easton has a video where he discusses the prices of swords over the medieval period and compares the question to asking 'how much did a car cost in the 20th century?'
It should go without saying that munitions grade, mass produced swords were not a phenomenon exclusive to the West. Even the revered Katana was often mass produced - after all, to be able to field each and every Bushi on the battlefield with the best examples of the craft - the kind that were passed down through the generations from father to son - would require as many world class artisans as soldiers..!
Most of the blades you see in use at the Battle of Sekigahara were mass produced

Such swords were referred to as "Kazu Uchi Mono" and were rather like the sub $300 hand forged blades made by Ronin or Cheness in that:they had cosmetic issues but had an emphasis on durability. These swords were an extremely popular export to Tang Dynasty China, where they were referred to as 'WoDao' and were sold by the case load (click here for an excellent blog post about Kazu Uchi Mono Katana from Nihontonorth.com).
At the end of the day, historically swords varied greatly in cost and quality. Some were affordable to the average person of the era, though as to be expected the cheapest swords would not hold up to a fight very well - and a professional would choose the best they could afford.

Others were a symbol of authority or to compliment the perceived high status of its bearer - after all, while the spear and the bow may have been used far more often and to greater effect than the sword - there were not to the best of my knowledge anything like a 'bearing spear'..

And so it is the same in the modern era, functional swords can be had for as little as $100 and up to tens of thousands (and of course, some are essentially priceless). Historically, entry level swords were not as expensive or impossible to buy as many people tend to think - but then as now - there were many different levels of sword quality..

As the sayings goes "the more things change, the more they stay the same"
Video of the Month
Popular UK YouTuber Lindybeige discusses his personal history with sword training and re-enactment in terms of modern protective armor. From gloves and a skullcap to a ton of protective gear to participate in 'Fight camp' - the discussion touches on all elements of modern sword fighting protective gear.
Best Forum Posts
What does a flex test do to a sword? Is it something you should do when you get a new blade, or is it best left to destructive sword testers. Interesting thread.

An Albion sword may be three or four times the cost of a Ronin Euro sword, but is it really three or four times better? Why buy high end, what to expect, and what's the most expensive sword SBG members have handled. All this and more.

Albion swords are often criticized for being rather plain - but Jeffery J. Robinson gives one his famous brass treatment, and the end result is breathtakingly beautiful..

Most medieval swords, from Windlass to Albion, use a generous amount of epoxy to secure the hilt and tang. But is it really enough?
Custom Saya by Guy Gilchrist
The first part of the month is something of a sword sales Bonanza for SBG. A ton of specials and limited time or limited availability swords are on sale all at the same time - but one new project deserves a special mention - vibrant, custom saya painted by the living Legend Guy Gilchrist, whose portfolio includes Xmen, the Muppets and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Each saya is a custom one off and you can specify what design or what characters you want Guy to paint on them. Available on Dojo Pro Models 1-3 and the Tanto, models 1 and 2. Click here for more information on this special new project and collaboration.
Two More Chapters of the Legendary Swords Webcomic!
Since we don't put out an issue of the digest in January, for those of you who have not been following along, there are two more chapters to check out:

Chapter Four continues from where we left off in Chapter Two with Denisia the Sword Saint knocked out cold and the so called 'Last Thane' standing over her..

And Chapter Five - the current issue - introduces another rough and ready hero and shows he had a darned good reason to be running late to meet up with Aofie and Erin Galad..

Chapter Six is due out on the 15th, so if you haven't already be sure to sign up to the Legendary Swords Newsletter.
Hope you enjoyed this first issue of 2019 - by all accounts it is shaping up to be an interesting year for the sword industry (interesting as in both good and bad, it's always a rather bumpy old ride for this micro-niche industry) and we will do our best to keep you up to date with the latest developments.

In the meantime, stay safe and happy swordening.

Paul Southren

P.S. Until the 12th of February we have a ton of special offers and limited availability swords on offer as part of what has become something of a Sword Sale Bonanza. We have listed most of the deals on the front page of the store here - so be sure to take a look, with so many special offers on right now you never know what you might find.