Starting your collection of Antique Indo-Persian Arms and Armour can be quite daunting. With there being an array of weapons, ranging from Tulwars, Katars, Pesh Kabz’, Shields, Maces and much (much) more it really is hard to know where to begin. But fear not, we have put together a little guide, which should give you a direction as to how to start and grow your collection. Collecting is like anything else, in the sense that it involves mistakes, learning, falling in love, breaking your heart and so on. So just know that you will be on a rollercoaster of a ride and you will probably get addicted to spending your hard earned money on swords (but its worth it).
Study, Study and More Study
We cannot stress enough the importance of studying the subject of Arms and Armour. The study of Arms always begins wide. You will have to read about everything and anything. This will allow you to understand what comes up for sale and what to look for when buying. As you read around the subject matter, you will begin to fall in love with specific objects. This is what you want, as it will allow you to focus on a set amount of objects and build your collection around those types of items. You may love Tulwars and build a collection solely of Tulwars. Become familiar with experts of the field and read their material to get an insight into the types of decorations, builds, and provenance of certain weapons. If you like visual learning, look for reputable sellers and their listings. They contain a plethora of information that you sometimes do not find in books. With access to the Internet, this is easier than ever. Most books are now online and museums have huge databases with images and information. The Royal Collection can be found online, as can the Met Museum catalogue. So be free in your approach and begin wide and then narrow down. Some good books to get you started are:
• Indian Arms and Armour by Thom Richardson and Natasha Bennett.
• Indian and Oriental Arms and Armour by Lord Egerton of Tatton.
• The Indian Sword by P.S. Rawson.
• Hindu Arms and Ritual. Arms and Armour from India 1400-1865 by Robert Elgood.
• Arms & Armour of India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Types, Decoration and Symbolism by Ravinder Reddy.
• Rajput Arms & Armour by Robert Elgood.
• Islamic and Oriental Arms and Armour. A lifetime’s Passion by Robert Hales.
This is just a starting point! As you read these, examine their bibliography and references to widen your research and knowledge. Also look at auction catalogues from reputable auction houses such as Bonhams, Butterfield & Butterfield, Sotheby’s, Christies and Czerny’s.
Yes, there is more studying. But this is fun! Getting hands-on experience is critical. You know the saying ‘you can be book smart, but do you have practical experience?’. Nothing beats holding a sword and examining its quality. Often it is the case that images do not do justice to an item. So if you are able to examine a particular item and handle it, it will allow you to see details and if there has been any restoration, cleaning, damages, etc. You will also gain an appreciation for the object and its decoration, feel and value by holding it in your hands. A great way to get this hands-on experience is to search for auction houses who will be listing items of your interest. Contact them and ask to view the item in person. Most, if not all, auctions will allow this and you can have these small handling sessions every month. Another option is to go to special events or exhibitions of Antique Arms and Armour. Specialists will travel all over the world and showcase their collection. You can often have a handling session with them too. Given that these collectors usually have higher end collectible arms, this experience will be vital and important to your growth as a collector and the expansion of your knowledge. As you slowly build this knowledge and passion for Antique Arms and Armour it will be easier for you to source the quality items.
We all make mistakes
You cannot go through this process without making mistakes along the way. By mistakes, it is usually in regards to the purchase. Auctions will often list items as 19th century but in fact, they are newly made reproductions that have been counterfeited so well. You may be a victim to a counterfeit antique but that is part of the learning curve and goes back to the first two points: study and hands-on experience. When looking at items, pay particular attention to its gold or silver work. It is easier to gauge whether this is new or old. Another ‘mistake’ can be the ‘overpaying’ of an item. This is not so much a mistake, but something that can happen. When you bid at auction, your heart is pumping and you want an item; so what is a little more? These bids can get out of control in the sense that they surpass the item’s market value. So be sure to stick to a budget and do not over-commit. But if your wallet allows you to, it is entirely up to you!
We’ve briefly touched on auction houses a fair bit. One thing you need to do as a collector is network with other like-minded individuals and reputable dealers. Reputable dealers are like teachers – they only give you the good stuff. So items from these individuals are risk-free purchases as the dealer does the research and removes the possibility of it being a fake or low-quality item. Dealers will also help you source specific items and look out for your best interest to help you avoid making mistakes.