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
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
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.