Personally, I think the old adage “if it seems to good to be true, it probably is” is being ignored time and time again with the typical ebay sword sellers. I think we want to believe that we will get gold for a nickle but the truth is that deception, or at least colorfully stretching the truth, is the order of business for many of the Longquan ebay sellers. We, the very few who know more than a couple of things about swords, are a tiny percentage of the sales these guys make. They sell many, many swords to people who either don’t know any better or don’t care and if they occasionally have one buyer call their bluff and have to make a refund, there are 10 more who buy their swords anyway.
I for one have gone lightly on them when there were minor issues in fear of being blown off and never receiving my sword or money or because I would want to try again at some point. This is part of the price we pay when buying from an obscure seller in China and not a more trusted and established vendor like KOA, SnA or SBG, who have excellent and worry-free cs. Really, the only thing that would temporarily hurt them when they pull this kind of crap is to give negative feedback. This still wouldn’t do much in the long run though because they’d probably just start up with a new name anyway.
Positive reviews by people that don’t really know what they’re reviewing hurt the rest of the sword buying communities in my opinion. I’ve seen countless video reviews on youtube of people saying great things about what are essentially pieces of junk or at least clearly average. “I asked for red ito with the shiny gold tsuba and a black shiny saya. and I got everything I dreamed of, the sword is perfect!” Well, close to that anyway. Just from watching the vid for a few seconds I can see the sword they got is worth about $80 at most and definitely not perfect by any means. I’ve also seen people posting pics on fb of very cheap swords, some with obvious fake hamon and all kinds of red flags and people saying “beautiful”, “amazing” and so on.
So what’s the big deal if they are happy with it? Nothing I guess since many watching the review would be just as happy with the same thing. On the other hand, the market gets flooded with these mediocre swords and they become the new standard, hurting the larger manufacturers and vendors in the long run.
I also buy from China. As of now I only buy from one seller and I only buy what I believe they can make well and so far I have not had any big disappointments. They day I get something faked or the quality drops sharply, it’s over for them. I’m also careful to ask only for things that are reasonable from this type of seller and within their capabilities to pull off well. I know their limitations, which are many, and when I stay within these limitations, I am usually satisfied with the end product. If I ever asked for anything over the top, I would not be surprised at all if it came out wrong. Basically, I buy with realistic expectations.
I’m ranting here but I guess the point is don’t be surprised if the thing that seemed to good to be selling for that low price turns out to be a sham or if the ebay seller with a bad rep turns out to be selling you something you didn’t want. There are hopefuls out there but then there are just those that can’t take a hint or flat out ignore obvious warnings. Sanmai, honsanmai, kobuse, shihozume and any other simple or complex lamination is possible, and in some cases not too difficult to pull off but we are seeing more faked laminations than authentic ones lately.
The truth might be that it’s easier and cheaper for them to sell someone a folded steel blade with a carefully and deceptively polished edge to simulate a mono core steel than it is to really find or make a real one. Just be more aware of what you are actually paying for. Do some research, find out what a decent sword should feature for the money, try to minimize your risk and buy from the sellers with a better reputation.
Good luck out there
I agree with everything you said about eBay and people who don’t know better. I have bought some eBay swords and they had issues! I’ve bought from swords of the east and had problems. Would not reply once they had the money they were done! eBay at least trys to help. Though if you have to return something to China it will cost more than it’s worth and take a long time! I’ve been studying and doing my homework. It will definitely a take a while before I’m out of the novice range. There is a lot of parts to a katana and a unbelievable amount of names for the hamon.
When I look at eBay what interests me is not that I think I can get something dirt cheap, but that there is variation. On most other sites so many Katanas tend to look alike. While I have a number of older swords, I have just recently received the only Katana that I ever ordered from an eBay source. The reason I got it was that I wanted to try one with extreme sori. Probably more sori than most anyone would want. I was pleased with it. $200 dollars, 1060 through hardened monosteel, the color changes and tsuba I asked for were correct, and crazy 4.8cm sori, which can’t be found on any of the other sites mentioned. I can place it between my Cheness and my Bugei, and in front of my four Nihontos. It may be weird but I like it.
I recently bought my first katana, and I did but it from a company that also sells on eBay. I’m certainly no expert.
But since we’re on this subject, who would you suggest? It seems that would be there ultimate goal here : to steer those new to the game towards the best quality product they can afford.