First of all when buying a katana sword there are a few things you should ask yourself: whether you want the sword just for decorative purposes, or do you instead want a training (dull blade) sword, or battle ready sharp katana. That’s the most important thing you need to figure out, and it will determine your overall budget as well.
Swords for decoration
For purely decorative purposes literally any sword will do. You can find very cheap stainless steel decorative replicas, usually under $50 which is quite an affordable price for anyone. They can be made of stainless steel or even wood, since they won’t be used for any kind of cutting and don’t need to be sharp or durable.
Swords for practice
There are three types of practice katana you can get:
- Bokken (bokuto) – basically a wooden curved-shaped stick used for Kendo, Iaido and some other martial arts training. It’s typically not used for actual hitting or parrying as they aren’t very durable.
- Shinai – shinai is used in kendo for combat practice. It’s much more durable than bokuto.
- Unsharpened steel swords – there are durable dull-blade swords with rounded tips that can be used for safe training, and they are also quite cheap. Never attempt any kind of training or practice with a sharpened katana!
Swords for cutting
Stainless steel is fine for kitchen or Tanto knives but definitely not for swords. If you intend to do any kind of cutting you’ll need to find a katana made of folded steel or carbon forged steel. Such materials are far more durable and will withstand most punishment, but of course it comes at a slightly greater price. Sharpness however isn’t the only thing you need to watch out for when buying practical swords.
One thing that’s extremely important for a sword is whether it’s full tang or not: full tang means the metal blade extends inside the entire handle of the sword, and that the handle scales are attached to the sides. If the handle isn’t a tang your sword will most likely break at any more serious impact, which can even cause injury to yourself or someone else. Clearly a full tang, battle-ready sword is much more sturdy and durable and I highly recommend you to pay extra $10-$50 and get one. You can always end up using it as a decorative sword if you wish.
Sharpened swords made of quality steel will occasionally require maintenance (5-minute oiling and cleaning every few months) so keep that in mind.
High-end collector swords
If price is not an issue for you, consider buying a quality authentic or unique katana. These are most definitely worth every penny and are nearly works of art. The downside (other than a fairly high price) is that these swords will require some care and maintenance every now and then; it’d certainly be a shame to let swords like these to rust. The prices can range anywhere from $500 to $10,000.
Whether you choose a quality sword or just a wall-hanger, it will certainly be an impressive addition to your home of office. For more quality samurai swords from known manufacturers I recommend you take a look at my selection of Masahiro, Musashi and Hanwei swords. Their battle-ready sharpened swords rarely disappoint their owners.