When did medieval swords become so valuable?
In the first half of the 20th century it appears that medieval swords really weren't valued by collectors, perhaps this is due to their generally unimpressive state of preservation. In reading Ewart Oakeshott's writings some of the circumstances he found them under are really quite amusing, turning up in junk shops, being painted over and used in stage productions. They really weren't seen as much more than novelty pieces of rusty old metal. But these days even pitted fragments of them can fetch a pretty penny. Does anyone have idea of what changed society's attitude towards them so much?
It's a good question.

I suspect a lot of it has to do with the 'interesting times' of the first half of the 20th century, and before that the Victorian period.

The Victorians were a romantic lot, and as such were very into medieval trappings. A LOT of fakes were churned out and flooded the market during this period. As a result, once that period wound up, people weren't impressed-- unless they had the particular knowledge to discern actual medieval swords from a Victorian fake, which would often be shinier and prettier in general, they didn't care.

The wars and the accompanying economic difficulties in general would have thrown the buying of antiquaria under the bus. It became a unnecessary expense that would only be engaged in by the wealthy and the scholarly. Remember that in Europe, the economic difficulties that accompany war went on much longer than they did in the US-- lasting sometimes into the sixties. People would have been trying to make ends meet, not sending antiques off to get assessed for their proper history and pricing.

That's my off-the-cuff guess, anyway. The more scholarly types among us would be better informed, I think :)

Also: Remember that Oakeshott is speaking in *his* specific context (England in the roughly mid-20th century). It's quite possible that swords got a little more respect in other parts of the continent, and we simply don't know because we don't have the literature. Note that two of the seminal works on the Viking sword are Scandinavian originally, Petersen and Geibig.
A few points to consider,

-In our time 18th and 19th century swords are still relatively affordable so it seems it can take several centuries for antique swords to accumulate huge premiums

-They were still making real fighting swords into the early 20th century, the patterns were their own but the quality was phenomenal and traditional training in Western swordsmanship was still easy to come by so they had a contemporary market that could service the needs of interested parties. Antique collecting would have been a specialized field.

-The last one is upsetting to think about but there was a lot more in the way of ancient arms and armor to go around before WWI/WWII blew them up or recycled them.

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