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Don Stanko

Location: ohio
Joined: 27 Apr 2004
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PostPosted: Fri 09 Oct, 2020 4:17 pm    Post subject: Ulfberht inscribed sword         Reply with quote

Thoughts or first impressions?

Was wondering if anybody knew where it came from?
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Martin Kallander

Location: Sweden
Joined: 25 Sep 2018

Posts: 121

PostPosted: Sat 10 Oct, 2020 12:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

*Preface this by saying I don't know what I'm talking about*

Looks very fake, no sword that old I know of has aged like that.
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Peter Lyon
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Location: New Zealand
Joined: 20 Nov 2006
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PostPosted: Sat 10 Oct, 2020 11:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The only way I see this being authentic, if it were found in one of the retreating ice fields in northern Europe (at least one has been found that way recently , and the intense cold has slowed corrosion so much it has given it an almost unbelievably good state of preservation).

Otherwise the corrosion is too light/wrong for preservation in other circumstances. Swords buried under fine and even silt get a distinctive hard black coating on them; preservation in air leads to significant corrosion over time due to heat and moisture cycling; and burial leads to severe corrosion and often leaves only traces of iron oxide in the ground - so I don't think it could be from any of these sources.

This is a well made sword with some detail and the inlaid iron is hard to get right, but then a decent forger could do that too. I don't see the layering I would expect to see in the corroded areas of the blade, making me wonder about the composition of the steel. Though if it is a hypereutectoid crucible steel as suspected for genuine Ulfbehrt blades, the corrosion patterning could be quite different than for pattern welded steels (but that would need somebody with more knowledge than me to clarify).

Very suspicious is they don't have a photograph of the Ulfbehrt word itself - the most important selling point of the whole sword, and a clear way to confirm its authenticity as I expect there will be a degree of regularity between the swords of this type.

Most suspicious is the expected selling price of only 20,000 to 30,000 (whether pounds, euros or dollars): a genuine, unknown Ulfbehrt in this incredible state of preservation should have at least one, perhaps two, more zeros on the end of that price.

The only way I would accept this as genuine would be archaeological site reports and a clear chain from discovery to sale, otherwise it just looks too good to be true.

Still hammering away
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Nathan Robinson
myArmoury Admin

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PostPosted: Sat 10 Oct, 2020 12:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As a somewhat related aside, has anyone read this article:

Virtually Gone! The Internet Market in Antiquities

Many points are brought up that are pertinent to those wanting to buy antiques online.

.:. Visit my Collection Gallery :: View my Reading List :: View my Wish List :: See Pages I Like :: Find me on Facebook .:.
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Daniel Parry

Location: UK
Joined: 08 Apr 2005
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PostPosted: Sat 10 Oct, 2020 1:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think there is a lot of truth in this, particularly as regards the middle east and ancient items as almost definitely political instability and war has made plundering of antiquities easier and more lucrative. And unfortunately a lot of that instability and war ultimately originates in the political interference by western powers and desire to politically control the region to secure oil flow over the last 100 years.

I think there is a tempering required here though in that at the lower end of the market, and not specifically the middle eastern and ancient market which I think may have serious problems, there have been lots of items turned up by farmers, people digging railway cuttings, people who's job it was to comb the Thames foreshore looking for goodies, long before adequate measures where put in place to monitor such activities, even before archaeology really became a proper academic science. And these items went into the general market. The fact some are now sold on the internet isn't necessarily massively different to what went before - these items were sold between collectors and antique shops without the visibility of the internet. That doesn't mean per se they are fake or illegitimately acquired. There are tons of Roman coins for sale around Europe (not something I am into) but that doesn't mean they are fake or illegally acquired as they have been dug up for centuries.

And that does affect provenance. If you have an item that is ancient and truly rare, if it is genuine then would you would hope there to be some provenance. But in the area I collect mostly, which is rapiers and 16th to 18th century, scarcely any item has provenance beyond the collector you got it off and maybe the guy before that. It's simply not famous enough and wasnt dug up. That does not mean they are fake or illegally acquired - it just means nobody kept track, and in most cases they were probably sold originally at auction from family estate sales post WWII where inheritance tax really started to bite and house contents and houses were sold off. And frankly if you'd asked the estate owners in 1950 or whenever as to the provenance they probably would have been pretty hazy. So it comes down to individual judgment. It's hard to track provenance in my area even with museum pieces far beyond the point they were bought. I have one piece I can trace to a senior museum curator in the 1970s and that's good going.

So I think there is a difference between the top end of the market items and lower end, as the lower end always was there albeit not traded on the internet. And there is a very big issue with ancient items and the middle east in particular, and the more policing of this the better in my opinion. That's not my main area.

But there is a lot of non-provenance overseas stuff circulating too, which is down to souvenirs and items bought legitimately or illegitimately (or looted) potentially mostly in the 19th and early 20th century when the fad for antiquarianism really took off and which the provenance of which will probably never be known.

That said no collector I know ever buys things from the sorts of sites which are discussed and (rightly in my view) criticised on this site. Almost everything is between collectors and dealers and you use experience to judge. There are charlatans and fakers out there to be sure, but we make our judgments, and word of mouth about certain collectors or dealers is a powerful thing. But then again my area is not subject to the same degree of fakery I think and certainly not looting, although it is there are some bad elements definitely.

As for Viking swords, I am always suspicious and never buy them simply because I look at all the records I can find of actual recorded finds and there aren't many ! I was struck a coupe of years ago when having never seen a pre-950 Viking sword for private sale pretty much ever outside top auctions, I saw three in one year at different dealers, all with similar Petersen types and all with some variant of silver inlay on the pommel/guard. Hmmmm. You just smile and walk away.

So I think the internet may increase the available distribution network for illegally acquired or fake items. But doesn't mean everything on the net is suspicious necessarily. That said I never buy from these types of sites or auctions.
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