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4 Reasons not to trust sword reviews

When shopping for products, reviews are a wonderful thing. They are a great way to get more information about a product than the short blurbs provided by the manufacturers. We’ve all seen the reviews where someone clearly does not know what they are talking about, but for the most part they are usually pretty accurate. Unfortunately this system does not translate well in the extremely subjective world of sword collecting. Most things are pretty easy to review. Does the picture on your TV look good? Did the blender chop up the ice cubes? Things like this are pretty cut and dry, but swords are another thing entirely.

Below is a list of four reasons you should always take sword reviews, both good and bad, with a huge grain of salt.

#1 Some people leave reviews for products they have never seen in person
This is exactly what it sounds like. Some people like to “review” items just by looking at the picture. You are more likely to see this with public product reviews than a “dedicated” review posted somewhere. Obviously, this information is pretty worthless. Anyone can look at the picture and decide if they like it or not, so people posting “reviews” this way is not really helpful to anyone, it’s just the review equivalent of a facebook thumbs up (or down in some cases).

#2 Some people have an agenda
Our assumption when we read a product review is that it is unbiased, but that is not always the case. Sometimes a “review” site is also a seller and has a vested interest in reviewing items they offer as better than ones they do not. In some cases, a company will provide someone with a product to review and the reviewer will feel obligated to review it positively. Sometimes a reviewer works for a competing brand and wants to portray their competition in a negative light. The point is that you can not really assume that someone is being honest when they post a review. Always consider the possibility that they have some kind of agenda and think about why they may want to convince you to buy a certain item or direct you to a competing one.

#3 Not enough reviews for an accurate picture
With many consumer products, they will generate enough reviews to counteract any obvious outliers. However, because sword collecting is a very niche industry, specific items do not generate anywhere near the same number of reviews as you will find with many other types of products. As a result you may only find one or two posted reviews about a specific sword. This has the unfortunate effect of making whoever happened to write that review the defacto “expert” on the product, regardless of if they have any idea what they are talking about or not. The very small sample size allows outlier reviews to be the only ones available in some cases, allowing for one person’s possibly biased or inexperienced opinion to dictate the perceived quality of a product.

#4 Some people have no idea what they are talking about
To be able to write a useful sword review requires a certain level of understanding about what the product should be. Unfortunately, this level of understanding only really comes with experience and there are more people without this experience than with it. Sword reviews are always clouded by the reviewer's experience or lack there of and any preconceived notions they may have. Many aspects involved in a sword review are extremely subjective and require comparison to other products to actually hold any value. However, when the reviewer does not have the proper experience, they will “compare” the sword against a theoretical ideal they have in their head, generally resulting in much disappointment. Popular culture portrays swords as near magical items that never chip, can snap an opponents blade, and cut trough concrete. Unfortunately, without knowing any better, some newer collectors believe this to be true, so when they actually receive a real sword and it does not live up to that fantasy ideal, they incorrectly assume the sword is bad and review it poorly as a result.

In my opinion, sword reviews are next to worthless unless you really know and trust the person posting them. The internet has a way of allowing anyone to portray themselves as an expert, regardless of credentials. In most cases there is no way to know if the person posting a sword review has decades of experience with swords or if this is the first one they have ever touched. And make no mistake those reviews will be very different, even when discussing the same item. Is the reviewer a learned sword scholar, an experienced swordsman, or a video game enthusiast who thinks a 6 foot long, 40 pound sword is the epitome of sword design and just bought his first real blade?

I have personally seen some excellent products get bashed in reviews and I’ve seen absolute garbage get glowing 5 star reviews. Which is why it is important to really know the source of the information. I once had a customer return a good sword, I think it was a Hanwei, stating that it was not a “real sword” because it was not as heavy as his “real” Marto swords. For those of you who are not familiar with Marto, they make heavy stainless steel decorator swords. But this guy’s misunderstanding of the product lead him to believe that a 6 pound stainless blade was the “real thing”, so by contrast a properly made, 3 pound carbon steel blade was “no good”. The thing is, he is not alone. I have seen many reviews done by people like this, who either completely misunderstand the product they are reviewing or have very unrealistic expectations about swords in general.

I know that many customers want to see reviews before buying items, it makes sense. But, my point is to take those sword reviews with a huge grain of salt and understand that they may not just be subjective, sometimes they may be biased or just flat out wrong. By all means use them to get a piece of the bigger picture, but never rely on them exclusively if you want the full story.


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