Look at Samuari Swords on eBay for any length of time and you will no doubt stumble upon quite a few sellers based in mainland China claiming to offer you truly amazing deals..
From "super steels" to all manner of customizations, all seemingly so much more affordable than anywhere else - the deals often seem almost too good to be true..
And that is because, unless you really know what you are doing, the chances of getting what you want (and what you actually ordered) are dismal at best - and you could get down right ripped off at worst..
In this in depth expose article by SBG senior editor Daniel Dacombe we examine the raw facts submitted to our site and forum over the years to mine the data of what REALLY goes on when you buy Samurai Swords from eBay - both the good and the bad - so you can make up your own mind if you think any particular offering of Samurai Swords on eBay is really worth parting with your hard earned cash for.
Article by Daniel Dacombe, Manitoba, Canada
For most people, disposable income is a limited resource, and if you’re going to spend money on “unnecessary” purchases (such as swords, which at this point in history are not currently considered a need!), you need to make sure you are getting the most value for your money. From its inception in 2005, the Sword Buyer’s Guide has always been about helping sword collectors on the Internet and around the world to do exactly that – to find the best sword possible at reasonable price points.
One might think, then, that purchasing budget swords from eBay – especially “direct from the manufacturer” – would be a practice that we encourage. Think about it: instead of going through a website or third party seller you could order swords directly from the forge, cutting out the middleman and all associated costs!
What’s not to like?
Unfortunately – a great deal!
While we at the Sword Buyer’s Guide believe in supporting small business and getting good value for money, the truth of the matter is that many eBay sellers are providing opportunities for neither. Not only are they not small businesses like many third-party websites – in fact, some of these sellers of Samurai Swords on eBay (if you believe their numbers) sell more swords than several legitimate websites combined – but also, they are also not providing swords that are giving customers a good deal… or even what they paid for.
At the end of the day, we have good reason to be cautious of eBay sellers; not only for the potential for individual customers to get “taken for a ride” by overblown claims, false advertising, and outright lies, but also for their effect on the overall market. As we will explore in this article, the impact of dishonest eBay sellers is far-reaching and overwhelmingly negative – and threatens to bring the sword industry to its knees.
Before we talk about the problems associated with buying Samurai Swords on eBay from the so called 'forges', we have to acknowledge the benefit eBay can bring.
For people looking to divest their collection of surplus swords, it can be a useful method of doing so. There are also occasionally antiques, discontinued swords, or otherwise rare and unusual finds you can make on eBay that you can make nowhere else.
Also, eBay (and their financial software PayPal) provide a modicum of protection for buyers – and tend to favor buyers over sellers in the case of a dispute.
We’ve already covered some of the shady business practices in our previous article, “Japanese Swords for Sale on eBay: The Truth Revealed” – but to recap, these are just some of the common and well-documented issues with purchasing swords directly from eBay forges:
1: They aren’t even real forges!
Many of these sellers of Samurai Swords on eBay claim to be operating forges either in China or Japan, and often assert a long and distinguished lineage with master smiths at their beck and call. In reality, these eBay “forges” are (at best) nothing but assembly lines where “custom made” katana are assembled with blades and fittings sourced from elsewhere. Members of the SBG forum actually traveled to some of the addresses claimed by prominent eBay forges, and discovered they were fake – one was even a candy store (keep reading to find out which one)! So, where do their blades come from?
2: Their blades are rejects from other forges, or cheaply mass-produced!
While a centralized workshop - dubbed “Hammertown” by a few industry professionals - does produce swords for many eBay sellers, it mass produces cheap blades at qualities that have to be seen to be believed (in a bad way). Even compared to the entry level swords by legitimate forges, the tangs, steel quality, and fittings are vastly inferior. In some cases, “factory seconds” – blades that were rejected from legitimate forges for structural issues, imperfections, or bends/twists – are bought on the cheap by eBay sellers, straightened out, and sold for high prices. Let’s be clear – no eBay exclusive seller claiming to have a forge has ever had those claims confirmed. Period.
3: Poor or nonexistent communication!
Story after story exists of individuals who have paid for their “high-end custom katana” from a kind and communicative eBay seller, only to have that seller mysteriously become unavailable for emailing after money is paid out. Customers go months without receiving a sword that ought to have taken weeks to arrive, or even longer when the sword is being “custom made.” And eBay protections only go so far to protect customers… some people do wind up left in the lurch. There are also multiple reports of buyers being “banned” from certain sellers for asking very specific questions about quality and construction – almost as if…
4: You might not be getting what you paid for!
Many of these sellers claim to be able to offer fantastic blades made from 9260 spring steel, or specially tempered or laminated blades that take incredible skill to produce, or – best of all – to be made from tamahagane… the legendary Japanese iron sand. Unfortunately, these claims are like hot air from the nonexistent forges these eBay sellers claim to have. Review after review showcase a laundry list of failures by even the most “reputable” eBay sellers, everything from receiving a monotempered 1045 blade when a differentially hardened, laminated 1095 blade with specific hamon was ordered, to getting an obviously off-the-shelf sword and fittings when a masterpiece was promised. And don’t believe the claims of master smiths being involved – in China, the title of “master smith” is actually a protected term, and swords by those smiths can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
To summarize – these sellers of Samurai Swords on eBay claim to have forges when they don’t, source cheap or rejected swords, over promise and under deliver, and may simply vanish into the ether when pressed on their commitments.
And that’s not even the worst part about this situation…
As a result of the flood of cheap Samurai Swords on eBay (and their absolute dominance in terms of advertising), an entire generation of sword collectors are starting – and ending – their search for legitimate swords on eBay.
This has two unfortunate effects:
That second point is the most concerning; in
the last few years several vendors have shuttered their
websites and closed down, and other vendors – including the SBG Sword Store – have started to struggle. This financial
impact is beginning to affect the forges that they (and we) source from –
resulting in job loss, higher prices, and less availability of good
Bottom line: thanks to unscrupulous people on eBay
setting up shop and undercutting the legitimate sellers, the industry is
in real trouble – and we could be looking at the end of the sword
industry in its current form.
So what can we do? First thing we can do as sword enthusiasts is to share information – spread our previous article (here is the link again) and do your part to inform people you meet who may be interested in making their first purchase.
The next thing you can do would be to educate yourself – and the people around you – about the specific eBay sellers who are preying on new and inexperienced buyers.
Ryanswords is literally infamous in the sword collecting community. For years people have been showing up on the SBG forum asking one question – hey, is this Ryanswords I bought any good? Experienced collectors are often quick to point out the flaws in construction and reference reviews that are very blunt about the issues found. There are positive reviews of Ryanswords online, however they generally come from the same few people who seem to be able to purchase – and positively review – a suspicious number of Ryanswords… that being said they are obviously successful. How bad can they be?
Ryanswords has had a large number of documented issues, including:
At the end of the day, Ryanswords may be the best example of the worst in the cheap eBay sword game – even a cursory Google search reveals significant issues with honesty and quality.
Huawei (no, not the telecommunications company) has been in the industry for quite a while, and unlike many eBay sellers actually have a decent looking website of their own. For a while there, many sword collectors were quite enamored with them, and they seemed a popular source of customized katana. So how about it – could they really be “phoning it in?”
Huawei has been found to be falling short in a number of quality control areas, including:
The worst part of all the above issues – returns are terrifically difficult to do, are hindered by poor customer service, and often swords sent as returns to China vanish without a trace… leaving the customer (and their wallet) paying the price.
Finally, despite Huawei’s claims of producing swords whose high quality speaks for itself, an analysis of reviews of Huawei turn up a different picture. We examined reviews of Huawei swords submitted to teh SBG forum over a period of many years and found that the vast majority of reviews were actually neutral – i.e. purchasers were not thrilled about what they received, had several issues, but chose not to return the blade due to the hassle or were otherwise satisfied but not overly impressed.
Less than 20% of reviews were positive, though actual negative reviews were relatively rare. Check out the visual below:
If nothing else, the reviews speak for themselves. They certainly have some quality swords at times, and from forum reports if you mention that you will be doing a review they tend to go the extra mile to get you what you want. But like many other eBay sellers, they are refitting blades they didn’t make as “custom” orders… when they are most likely sourced from Hammertown, getting whatever they can.
The eBay seller known as JKoo has actually shown some signs of being a decent member of the marketplace – unfortunately, they also have been known to spread a great deal of misinformation.
JKoo is actually one of the better/slightly more ethical eBay sellers out there. However, they have leaded hard in the direction of the “mythology” of Japanese steel, and have had some additional issues including:
They are also claim to be a sword forge in their own right, however later admitted that they only have a 'workshop' and buy all their blades as blanks. See the pictures below, taken by a local Longquan contact who set off to track them down to the address listed on their website and went with camera in hand to pay them a visit..
This suggests that they DO have some ability to customize and modify blades and sword fittings in-house, however claiming to be a large sword forge in their own right is not just stretchig the truth, it is an outright lie..
At the end of the day, JKoo may actually have some decent products – but their marketing hype is promising things they can’t possibly be delivering at those prices, which means legit sellers who are actually offering those products and services (at realistic prices) get left behind.
Hanbon Swords have actually been around longer than many retailers, including Ryanswords. Because of this, they’ve managed to cultivate quite a following – and it’s not hard to see why.
Plenty of customization options, a slick website, even a retailer/dropshipping option for fans who want to offer Hanbon Swords for sale on their own websites. The options are endless, and the prices are unbelievable – clay-tempered, Damascus steel katanas for under $300? And hand sharpened to boot? It’s almost too good to be true.
While Hanbon has been around for a while, they’ve got all the same tricks as the newer eBay sellers – and may even have been the origin of some of them.
Some of the red flags include:
Hanbon Swords could not have lasted this long if they weren’t able to at least live up to some expectations. The reality is, though, they make a great deal of money from first time buyers and don’t seem to mind misleading them to do so.
From what experienced SBG forum members have concluded, if you are ordering from these guys, you’d better ask for pictures of what you are ordering before it ships – and then compare those pictures to the produce that arrives – because your likelihood of getting taken for a ride is not zero.
One of the lesser-known vendors of Samurai Swords on eBay, Lyueswords has the distinction of also being fairly successful on Amazon. They offer similar customization (including Sanmai blade lamination) as other eBay vendors, they have their own website, and seem to have at least made a presence for themselves on Amazon – with an average of 4.8 out of 5 stars, the response seems overwhelmingly positive. Are they breaking the eBay seller mold?
While the average Amazon shopper may be impressed, you get to the experienced collectors on SBG and elsewhere and you start to hear depressingly familiar shortcomings.
Lyueswords is fairly new, and it’s possible these issues are a result of a new vendor. But if that were the case, why are they have the same issues that every other seller of Samurai Swords on eBay seems to suffer from?
It would be impossible to list all the minor individuals on eBay who exist as capillaries of a vast network of Chinese resellers, remakers, and scam artists.
However, we can look at reviews of individual sellers on the SBG forum and look for common trends – and help people to avoid pitfalls when they find similar listings on ebay.
Evansword – possibly not as active anymore, this seller was producing “high end custom” katana and selling them on eBay, but was appeared to be yet another reseller for Ryan Swords
Hero Forge/201liche – by forum report, provided a blade and fittings significantly poorer than ordered, misaligned tsuka, and an appalling fake hamon on a supposedly DH blade – see more below:
More Sellers of Samurai Swords on eBay to be listed here soon..!
For your average sword buyer, buying Samurai Swords on eBay is very much a case of roll the dice and hope for the best. To really get the best deals and to be able to check and verify that what you got is what you paid for requires extensive experience that only trial and error provides.
Yes, you may sometimes get something good - but there are so many obstacles to 'striking it lucky' that you - and the industry as a whole - are much better off buying from a reputable seller than risking 'going direct'..
Because the reality is, you aren't actually going direct at all. The reality is that the actual big forges these resellers often pretend to be simply do not deal with indivdual orders by members of the public. A middleman of some type is ALWAYS needed - whether it be SBG itself with our own Longquan sword project Forge Direct project, or one of these locally based resellers - a third part is needed.
But at least after reading this article, you will have a better idea of who and what these companies really are, and can make up your own mind if you feel they are worth taking a risk on.
For make no mistake, buying Samurai Swords on eBay is a risky endevour. So if it is the path you wish to go down, make sure you cover all your bases and do not make these sellers your primary source of swords - for they are in essense damaging to the sword industry as a whole and if left unchecked, could reverse all the hard work we have put in over the years trying to make the industry clearer and more transparant.
So when you go shopping online, just keep these things in mind and best of luck with your sword buying experiences.
I hope this article on Samurai Swords on Ebay has been helpful. To return to the Ultimate Guide to Buying Authentic Japanese Swords from Samurai Swords on Ebay: Wolves in Cheap Clothing, click here