Whether you’re an antique weapon enthusiast or a peace lover, intricate and elegant swords of the past can be very appealing to the eye. Not only highly decorative, but these antiques also have incredible backstories and some even possess legendary status.
Today, we will take you on a tour of the globe from Japan, through China, France, and Great Britain, taking a closer look at 8 of the most expensive swords in the world. We’ll delve into the world of rare swords and sabres, highly decorative Talwar, and famous Samurai blades such as Katana.
We’ve also provided you with a price guide, and a buying and selling guide including all the information you need to start forming a sword collection or make sure you get the right place for a rare sword in your possession.
9 Most Expensive Swords: Round-Up List
Before we get started let’s address the elephant in the room when it comes to swords – are knives swords? Some would say yes, they are simply shorter swords with sharpened edges that have been made for a more tool-like or display purpose. However, a more definite classification is that knives are shorter than 6 inches long, and swords are fighting weapons which means it is their tips that are the sharpest points.
Here, we’ll take a middle ground and focus on swords which are longer than 6 inches and have been used or made as either fighting weapons or for aesthetic display purposes. The prices stated are accurate as of September 2022. In no particular order, meet the most expensive swords in the world!
1. Napoleon Bonaparte’s Sword
Place of origin:
$6.5 million USD (in 2007)
This incredible sword is a work of art, and highly valued thanks to its famous owner – Napoleon Bonaparte! As far as historians can tell, this distinctively curved blade – complete with a gold and ebony encrusted hilt and an intricate sheath – was used Napoleon in 1800 during the Battle of Marengo where he launched on the army of Austria.
The ultra-high quality of the hand crafting suggests the sword was custom-made for Napoleon by on of the top sword artisans of the time. The patterning present on the hilt and sheath are said to have been inspired by his drive to “conquer the whole of Europe and the East” following his invasion of Egypt and Syria between 1798 and 1801.
In 2007, the sword was sold along with the sheath at Osenat Auctions, and bought by a private buyer for the equivalent of $6.5 million USD! At the time, it was the second most expensive sword ever sold. The auction house stated the historical sword will be kept in possession of the Bonaparte family according to the wises of Napoleon himself who handed it to his brother.
2. Boateng Saber Sword
Place of origin:
$7.7 million USD (in 2008)
The distinctive S-shaped design of this sword, whereby the handle curves gracefully downwards and the tip of the blade curves upwards, makes it instantly recognizable and very beautiful. The handle features a pattern of detailed leaves and a floret carved from white jade. The blade itself is single edged, has a high carbon content, and is inlaid with shining gold, silver and copper.
As far as historians know, this sword was owned by the Chinese Emperor Qianlong. This has been assumed according to the inscriptions on the blade. The Boateng saber was crafted between 1736 and 1795, while Emperor Qianlong was in power.
In 2006, the saber was sold for $5.9 million USD. This price was smashed when it was re-sold for $7.7 million USD in 2008! We cannot find a record for this more recent sale, but here you can find out more about the original auction in 2006, and loads of fascinating background information about the sword and its historical origins.
(Note: the image above is not the exact Boateng saber in question, but a similar saber from the same era).
3. Steel-Hilted Talwar
Place of origin:
$5700 – $9200 USD (in 2021)
Another incredible sword, or Talwar, from India which features an elegant, curved blade forged from watered steel. The original sheath, or scabbard, which was maintained alongside the sword is made from wood and velvet, and embellished with gilt flowers. The blade is unusually and highly decorated with the 10 avatars (forms) of Vishnu:
- Matsya (the fish)
- Kurma (the tortoise)
- Varaha (the boat)
- Narasimha (the man-lion)
- Vamana (the dwarf)
- Parasurama (the angry man)
- Lord Rama (the perfect man)
- Lord Krishna (the divine Statesman)
- Balarama (Krishna’s elder brother)
- Kalki (the mightly warrior)
Talwars were widely used in India around the time when this steel-hilted Talwar was crafted. Today, they are more commonly seen only at special occasions such as big, traditional weddings and festivals in India.
This steel-hilted Talwar is one of the most expensive swords in India, as it was sold for between $5700-$9200 USD in 2021, along with an incredible lot auctioned by Sotheby’s auction house, featuring arts from the Islamic world and India.
(Note: the image above shows a selection of fine Talwars, but not the Talwar in question).
4. 13th Century Yamato Katana Sword
Place of origin:
$23,750 USD (in 2007)
The oldest sword on our list today, and one of the most expensive antique swords in the world is the 13th century Yamato katana. This katana is of particular note because it is attributed to the renowned Japanese swordsmith school – Taima. This swordsmith school was active until approximately the end of the 14th century. Very few swords that were forged here have made it through to the 21st century! Taima swords were regularly commissioned by monks. This meant that the blades were typically thinner and remained unsigned by the craftsperson.
Some of the amazing details which have been added to the black-lacquered scabbard include stars, roosters, crashing waves, a tortoise, and demons. This katana is noteworthy for the fact it features the signature of the maker on the blade – Hasebe Kunishige.
The rarity, history, and stunning detail featured on the Yamato katana fetched $23,750 USD in 2007 when it was sold by Christie’s auction house. It is one of the most expensive katana swords ever sold.
(Note: see the image above for a modern recreation of this type of Katana).
5. Honorary Sword of Lord Northesk
Place of origin:
$100 thousand USD (in 1994)
Lord Northesk (more correctly known as William Carnegie, 7th Earl of Northesk) was presented with this honorary sword following the Battle of Trafalgar. This was a particularly notable naval battle within the Napoleonic wars, fought between the British navy (headed by Lord Nelson) and the combined French and Spanich navies (headed by Napoleon himself). Lord Northesk was positioned as part of the Mediterranean Fleet, defending the sea link which was vital for the UK to reach other key parts of the British Empire.
The Battle of Trafalgar was won by the British, and Lord Northesk was presented with this custom-made sword for his efforts. The sword is gold-encrusted, and was inscribed with “England expects every man to do his duty”, a quote from Lord Nelson himself.
The history behind this sword is the most notable attribute and led it to fetch a high price during a famous auction containing items from the Battle of Trafalgar in 1994. Objects from this battle are incredibly rare, making this sword one of the rarest swords in the world. It fetched over $100,000 USD – find out more about the auction and see the sword on video here!
6. Shah Jahan’s Sword
Place of origin:
$275 thousand USD (in 2019)
Another sword wielded by a well-known character from history, Shah Jahan’s personal sword is almost legendary. The steel blade, artfully inlaid with gold was originally forged in Europe c. 1600 although the exact location is not known. Although the design of this sword is known as a Talwar, when a Talwar has been made in Europe and imported into India (something which was common around this time), it is technically called a Firangis.
Intriguingly, there is evidence the blade was altered to possess a double-edged tip rather than simply a single edged sword with a single edged tip. It is believed this was done for Shah Jahan in the Mughal armory. The hilt features a koftgari decoration of grapes and vines, a typical feature of this century.
The intricacy and legendary status of this sword boost its value greatly. In 2019, Shah Jahan’s talwar (or firangis) was sold for a stunning $275 thousand USD by Christie’s auction house. This makes it the most expensive sword in India (so far!).
7. 16th Century Samurai Tachi Sword
Place of origin:
$105 million USD (the most recent appraisal!)
While we are featuring 2 Katana swords on our list today, we have only one Tachi sword. Literally translated, Tachi means “long sword” and is appropriately named because it is the longest sword of all Samurai swords. The Katana became more widely used over time, but originally the Tachi was the traditional sword of choice for a Samurai warrior.
The particular sword we are talking about belonged to Fukushima Masanori, a famous and great warrior and one of the Seven Spears of Shizugatake. It is unknown whether and which battles Masanori used the Tachi in, but it is possible he fought with it during the Battle of Shizugatake.
This is perhaps the rarest Samurai sword in existence, rarer still for its authenticity and excellent condition maintained through the centuries. Ancient Samurai swords are highly prized as significant symbols of a long and proud culture. This 16th century Samurai Tachi has not been sold but rests in the Tamoikin Art Fund. It was recently appraised at more than $105 million USD!
(Note: see above for some similar examples of Samurai Tachi to the sword described here).
8. 13th Century Kamakura Katana Sword
Place of origin:
$418,000 USD (in 1992)
Now we come to the most expensive katana sword ever sold – the Kamakura Katana sword dated back to the 13th century. This sword was sold in 1992 by Christie’s acution house as part of a private collection of Dr. Walter Compton. The entire auction raised $8 million USD overall, with the Kamakura Katana fetching the most impressive price – $418,000 USD! It was mysteriously bought by an anonymous collector from Europe.
Compton had purchased the Katana in the American Midwest, but soon realised it was in fact an important historical Japanese national treasure. The blade bears the signature of Kunimune the Elder, and has been hailed as one of the greatest swords that has ever been crafted. It was unfortunately stolen from a shrine in Japan following World War II, and taken back to America by an American solider. Compton “gave” the sword back to Japan when he realised, and was granted an Order of the Rising Sun in recognition of this act.
Little is actually known about the sword other than its maker’s signature, and the more recent history involving Compton. Suffice to say it is now safe in another collection and guarded from being stolen!
(Note: see the image above for a similar looking Katana to the sword described which is being sold today!).
9. The Honjo Masamune
Place of origin:
Avid sword collectors and enthusiasts may wonder why the legendary sword Honjo Masamune has not yet been included on our list of the most expensive swords today. This famous Katana sword is perhaps the most well-known blade among sword collectors and for 2 good reasons: 1. It is believed to be among the finest swords ever made; 2. It is missing!
The Honjo Masamune is one of Japan’s National Treasures. Masamune was a legend himself – a renowned swordsmith who crafted the best quality Samurai swords during his lifetime. Honjo was a name given to the sword because it was wielded by a general called Honjo Shigenaga.
The complete history of the Honjo Masamune is unknown, but it was kept by the ruling family of Japan – the Tokugawa family – for 250 years before World War II. The American occupation of Japan resulted in a demand that all noble families hand over their weapons, including legendary swords. The Honjo Masamune was shipped over to America and its exact whereabouts since then are unknown.
Some other Masamune swords were kept in the Truman Library but a large part of the collection was stolen 1978 (swords costing more than $1 million USD in total!) and only one Masamune sword remains there today. It is possible these Japanese National Treasures will turn up one day, but the mystery surrounding them makes it very hard to estimate the Honjo Masamune sword price. However, one thing is certain – it would surely be the most expensive sword in the world were it found today!
Most Expensive Swords: Price Guide
There are some simple steps you can take yourself to find out how much an antique sword could be worth. First of all, if you can find a maker’s mark or signature this is a great advantage. Search for the logo or inscription online – if it associated with a well-known maker or manufacturer it is more likely to be more valuable.
The condition of the item is a key consideration when valuing a sword. Retention of the blade edge’s original sharpness will raise the price. Chipping and tarnishing of the blade will lower the price. The condition of the handle or hilt is also important – the closer to the original condition, the higher the price.
Decorative details can also raise the price. For example patterning on the handle, ornamentation on the blade, and an original sheath can raise the value considerably. The type of blade will also alter the value.
Once you have identified your type of sword, a good way to get an idea of its value is to have a look at antique valuing forums like TreasureNet What’s It Worth? or the Subreddit forum WhatsThisWorth. Enthusiasts love to help one another out.
You can also gauge the value of an item by searching for similar items on antique selling sites such as eBay (try the collectible knives, swords and blades section and use the filters to match as closely as you can to your item). Setting filters to have a look at items which have already been sold is recommended, so you can get an idea of the final price items have sold for.
Antique Sword Buying And Selling Guide
There are several factors which raise the price of an antique sword including overall condition, the era and region the sword is from, the style and form, how rare it is, the manufacturer or maker, and the provenance story. Follow these tips to make a successful purchase or sale…
1. Do Your Research
Before buying an antique sword to add to your collection, it is a good idea to form a specific idea of what you would like. If you want something from a certain era in history, a sword with a specialised use, or something from a renowned manufacturer, you need to build your knowledge to make sure you’re getting the real deal.
Familiarize yourself with characteristics of the type you desire, and get an idea of the rough cost of such an item before you buy anything. You also need to do this before selling any items in your possession as this will help you set the right price for your item.
2. Details, Details, Details
Whether buying online or at an antiques fair you should always go for items which include as much detail as possible. Details can include the maker or manufacturer, the condition of the item, any damage, and key features such as a sheath.
Don’t be afraid to ask the seller for more details such as extra close-ups if buying online, or a little more about the provenance of the sword if buying in person. Purchasing an antique sword from a reputable seller is also recommended.
When selling a sword the advice is the same – include as many details as you can as well as close-up images to make a successful sale.
3. Check Reputable Auction Sites
If you are interested in expensive samurai swords for sale, you can try more specialized sites such as the Samurai Museum Shop.
It’s worth keeping an eye out for yard sales and second hand shops – you can find many interesting items for very low prices in these places.