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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Thu 28 Dec, 2006 3:42 pm    Post subject: Historical Scabbard Cost         Reply with quote

Historically, what was a relatively typical sword-to-scabbard cost ratio during the Middle Ages? I've read some places that scabbards and grips were more disposable items, as the sword could be re-gripped and/or re-scabbarded a number of times throughout a sword's working life.

Today, we see high-quality scabbards approaching the cost of the sword itself. I've heard that back then, labor was cheap and the materials expensive, where today that equation might be very different.

Are there historical inventories/invoices that list the costs of sword and scabbard separately? Was a good scabbard of the 14th century (or whatever) nearly as expensive (or moreso) than the sword? I'm sure there are cases of wealthy people going all out, but what was typical (if we can know)?

Today, many of us see scabbards as a one-time purchase. Many people don't bother with them at all. What cost ratio do reenactors, who might actually wear (out) and use their scabbards more than many of us, tend to go for? If I were one of them, I would probably tend to go for a less grand scabbard if I knew I was going to have to replace it at least once.

I have no doubt that today's scabbards are fairly priced given the work that goes into them and the maker's right to eat and clothe their families. Happy I'm just curious how the costs of sword and scabbard related to each other in period.

Happy

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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Thu 28 Dec, 2006 3:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

From what I've read while questioning the costs of an albion scabbard, the scabbard cost almost as much (or more in the case of very ornate ones) as the sword itself.

I guess this idea leaches into the myths of Excaliber and it's scabbard.

M.
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Thu 28 Dec, 2006 3:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

M. Eversberg II wrote:
From what I've read while questioning the costs of an albion scabbard, the scabbard cost almost as much (or more in the case of very ornate ones) as the sword itself.

I guess this idea leaches into the myths of Excaliber and it's scabbard.

M.


M.,
Where did you read that? I know I've heard that anecdotally as well, but I'd love to be able to read more about it.

Happy

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Addison C. de Lisle




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PostPosted: Thu 28 Dec, 2006 3:59 pm    Post subject: Re: Historical Scabbard Cost         Reply with quote

Chad Arnow wrote:
I've heard that back then, labor was cheap and the materials expensive, where today that equation might be very different.


It's the opposite now actually, where labor is more expensive than materials.

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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Thu 28 Dec, 2006 4:01 pm    Post subject: Re: Historical Scabbard Cost         Reply with quote

Addison C. de Lisle wrote:

It's the opposite now actually, where labor is more expensive than materials.


I know. Happy I was trying to phrase it diplomatically. Material costs are rising for sure, but wood planks, leather and metal aren't as hard/expensive to procure as they used to be.

Happy

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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Thu 28 Dec, 2006 4:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chad Arnow wrote:
M. Eversberg II wrote:
From what I've read while questioning the costs of an albion scabbard, the scabbard cost almost as much (or more in the case of very ornate ones) as the sword itself.

I guess this idea leaches into the myths of Excaliber and it's scabbard.

M.


M.,
Where did you read that? I know I've heard that anecdotally as well, but I'd love to be able to read more about it.


On the armour archive (don't post there much these days).

M.
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Allen W





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PostPosted: Fri 29 Dec, 2006 4:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

IIRC there is a section in the Salic law fixing prices for armament with a sword alone being worth three Sous(sp?) and a sword with scabbard being worth seven.
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Richard Fay




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PostPosted: Fri 29 Dec, 2006 4:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello all!

Interesting question. I found a few lists of costs that might help put things in perspective. I wonder; might the cost of a scabbard sometimes be included in the cost of a sword? I didn't find anything specifically about scabbards, but I did find mention about "repair of the royal sword" during Edward II's reign. Could this include a new scabbard? Anyway, here's what I found in Armies and Warfare in the Middle Ages: The English Experience by Michael Prestwich (note the sections I put in bold-face type):
Michael Prestwich wrote:

Royal accounts provide the best evidence of the costs of armour, but the equipment provided for kings is likely to have been of the highest quality, and proportionately costly. Early in John's reign a hauberk cost 1, and a haubergeon (rather smaller than a hauberk0 one mark. Two hauberks, four haubergeons and six helmets cost, a little later in the same reign, 7 8s. Two surcoats, two corslets, presumably of mail, and two pairs of iron boots were bought in London for Henry III for sixteen marks. Seven haketons (reinforced leather jackets) bought for Edward II early in 1312 cost 10s each; repair of the royal sword came to 9s 4d. In 1316-17 the king's armourer, Hugo Cole, was employed making armour in York from September until April, with three assistants. Including materials, the cost came to just over 20. In 1321 the king bought a new haubergeon, two new swords, and had a range of equipment repaired, for a total cost of 10 5s 8d. The king could afford the best; an account presented by one of Edward III's armourers, Hugh de Bungay, gives an impression of the costs of the best-quality equipment. A pair of plate gauntlets cost 6s 8d. A pair of greaves with poleyns (covering shins and knees), with burbnished fittings, came to 26s 8d. A war helmet cost 2, and a further 5s was spent on a painted crest for it. Two bascinets, much simpler helmets, were bought for 13s 6d. Surprisingly, the most expensive single piece of equipment was the cotton and fustian trapper worn by the royal charger, to protect him from being rubbed by his iron armour. This cost 52s 8d. Edward could be extravagant in buying armour; in the preparations for the 1359 expedition, 113 was spent with one of his armourers, and over 30 with another. Unfortunately, the accounts do not reveal the details of what he acquired. Even these levels are not startingly high, and the costs borne by normal knights must have been much lower than those of the king. An inventory of goods stolen in 1324 from John de Swynnerton shows that a haubergeon with mail fittings (aventail, pisan, and collaret), was worth ten marks. Bascinets were valued at 10s each, and, surprisingly, war swords at a mere 3s 4d - half the price of longbows. A set of leg armour (jainbers, cuisses, and poleyns) came to 15s. Two tents, necessary for campaigning, were valued at six marks. An account of arms purchased by Thomas de Melchebourne for equipping a royal galley at the outset of the Hundred Years War shows that adequate armour need not cost a fortune. Haketons, padded jerkins, cost 5s each. Bascinets, fitted with aventails to protect the neck, were a mere 3s each. Iron gauntlets cost 1s a pair, and lances 6d each. This equipment, however, was perhaps more appropriate for well-armed footsoldiers than for cavalrymen.

I know this didn't mention scabbards specifically, but it does imply that they might not have been as relatively expensive as they tend to be today. It was a relatively common skill to make scabbards in the medieval period, but it's a highly specialized skill today. Of course, highly decorated scabbards would have cost a pretty penny.

I'll dig around some more and see what I come up with.

I hope this wasn't too far off-topic. I thought it might still be interesting.

Stay safe!

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Richard Fay




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PostPosted: Fri 29 Dec, 2006 6:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello again!
M. Eversberg II wrote:

I guess this idea leaches into the myths of Excaliber and it's scabbard.


I believe the legend of Excalibur's scabbard being "worth ten of the sword" refers to it's mystical value, not it's monetary worth. The scabbard had miraculous powers; Arthur would not suffer a mortal wound while he wore the scabbard. That's what Merlin was referring to, not the actual cost of the scabbard.

I wonder, how rare and expensive was wood and leather in the medieval period? Wood was fairly readily available, and tanning was a fairly common profession, and leather was used in many common goods (shoes, belts, harness straps, etc.).

Stay safe!

"I'm going to do what the warriors of old did! I'm going to recite poetry!"
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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Fri 29 Dec, 2006 8:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I knew Merlin was talking about the mystical value, but I figured there might have been a parallel to how they where valued in the middle ages as well.

Additionally, the Norse had a word for swords without scabbards -- I don't know what the Norse word was but it translated roughly to "Troubblesome" and I've been told a Norseman would leave the sword behind if he did not have a scabbard to accompany it.

M.
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Johan S. Moen




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PostPosted: Sat 30 Dec, 2006 2:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think we need to define "scabbard" first, as I believe scabbard prices a couple of hundred years ago would vary as much as today. There would be a distinct price-difference between a simple scabbard made of leather-over-wood versus a wood core covered with, say, velvet and gold/silver ornaments.

As for a "normal" scabbard, wood with leather covering and a belt, I think it might have been somewhat cheaper back then, not necessarily because of the material price versus labour price ratio, but because there were simply more people making scabbards. One cannot deny that both swords and scabbards would be easier to obtain 500 years ago than today, and I would assume that there was at least some degree of competition and price-pushing/dropping between makers back then.

I'm having a new sword and scabbard made right now, for use in living history. I have opted(cheated) for an all-leather scabbard for now(the leather being some 5-6 mm thick), because it is much more difficult to destroy it by tripping over it in a woods battle or somesuch. Eventually, I will be ordering a proper historical scabbard with a wood core for use in camp/demo situations where people tend to inspect your stuff more closely, and because I want to do it _right_.

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David Evans




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PostPosted: Sat 30 Dec, 2006 4:19 am    Post subject: 17th Century references         Reply with quote

In my main area of interest, the peroid 1580 - 1660 I've yet to see references to scabbards alone. I've alway, so far, seen refernces to swords, hangers, girdles and belts. I'm normally reading large scale orders and requests, such as a 1,000 swords for Lord Fairfax's Horse in 1644 or a very small handful of single purchases by Captains of Horse for a sword, hanger and girdle. I suspect that at this level of cost, about 5 in 1642, the scabbard is treated as part of the sword. There are much more expensive orders I've seen where the scarbbard is mentioned and described in some detail
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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Sat 30 Dec, 2006 7:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

To be honest I don't think I as a soldier or whatnot would want any bells and whistles on my scabbard, regardless of my payrate.

M.
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PostPosted: Sat 30 Dec, 2006 9:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello all!
M. Eversberg II wrote:

I knew Merlin was talking about the mystical value, but I figured there might have been a parallel to how they where valued in the middle ages as well.

I thought you might be familiar with the story, if you brought it up, but I wanted to make sure those that weren't familiar with the story were able to get the specifics.

You have an interesting thought there, but I always personally took Merlin's comments as being a commentary about war and peace. I believe Merlin's words regarding the value of the scabbard comes from Malory. Remember that Malory saw the "chivalric" system crumbling in his day; he wrote during the Wars of the Roses. I think his idyllic vision of a king was one who ruled in peace, not by war. The scabbard could represent a sheathed sword, a time of peace, while the naked sword represents times of war. Plus, the scabbard had a practical value of preventing Arthur from suffering a mortal wound. I personally don't believe Merlin's statement of value had much to do with the actual cost or worth of the scabbard. Of course, if it was jewelled, plated in gold, or otherwise richly decorated, then the scabbard could truly have been worth ten of the sword!

Stay safe!

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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Sat 30 Dec, 2006 1:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Richard Fay wrote:
Hello all!
M. Eversberg II wrote:

I knew Merlin was talking about the mystical value, but I figured there might have been a parallel to how they where valued in the middle ages as well.

I thought you might be familiar with the story, if you brought it up, but I wanted to make sure those that weren't familiar with the story were able to get the specifics.

You have an interesting thought there, but I always personally took Merlin's comments as being a commentary about war and peace. I believe Merlin's words regarding the value of the scabbard comes from Malory. Remember that Malory saw the "chivalric" system crumbling in his day; he wrote during the Wars of the Roses. I think his idyllic vision of a king was one who ruled in peace, not by war. The scabbard could represent a sheathed sword, a time of peace, while the naked sword represents times of war. Plus, the scabbard had a practical value of preventing Arthur from suffering a mortal wound. I personally don't believe Merlin's statement of value had much to do with the actual cost or worth of the scabbard. Of course, if it was jewelled, plated in gold, or otherwise richly decorated, then the scabbard could truly have been worth ten of the sword!

Stay safe!



That bit about the naked sword and shethed sword is some good insight; I will have to remember that.

M.
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Johan S. Moen




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PostPosted: Sun 31 Dec, 2006 1:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

M. Eversberg II wrote:
To be honest I don't think I as a soldier or whatnot would want any bells and whistles on my scabbard, regardless of my payrate.

M.


Well, I agree, I'm a sucker for simplicity. But our minds are of the 21st century. Decoration was a way of showing off status and wealth, so a decorated scabbard would be a means to doing that. I'm not saying that ex. a well-to-do Landsknecht would run around with a velvet covered and bejewelled scabbard, but some embossing and gilding(of the fittings) might be in order...

Johan Schubert Moen
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