by Robert Haynes (October 1995)

Alan Harvie and I tried a little experiment at this last San Francisco Token Kai. We handed out a hundred sheets asking for comments and suggestions on any subjects that the members would like to have published in future news letters, or any where else for that matter. The experiment was a complete failure. We received ONE reply! Since there seems to be this complete ennui with such a tiresome effort to spur acquisitiveness in the membership, we shall not give up but keep making suggestions in the hope that somebody out there is as interested in the word as the object. Which brings us to this next experiment.

With the above in mind I shall take the lead in what we hope will inspire the FULL participation of the membership to take pen (or computer) in hand. Tell all of us WHAT YOU COLLECT, AND WHY.

I shall not go into a rehash of the "early years" since that has been published in the NEWSLETTER of the J.S.S.U.S. (Vol. 27 No. 1, pages 1-16). I think I started as most have with some interest in some form of weapons. Mine was: KNIGHTS IN ARMOR. Since at age 15 (1945) I could not find or afford European arms and armor, I switched to buying tsuba for $1.00 and Japanese armor for $3.00 to $30.00. What came out of all this was my "first" collection. By 1960 I had been a collector for almost fifteen years and had amassed about 500 tsuba and other fittings. After I returned from my years study with Dr. Kazutaro Torigoye, in 1960, I realized that at least 300 of the tsuba that I had collected over these fifteen years would have to go. They were just not good enough for the type of collection I was now going to form. Because of my "new" knowledge of fittings, and trained by the greatest master of his day, I wished now to have a pure "Japanese" style collection. One of everything that was in the Furukawa Collection book. So for the next few years I collected only those pieces that were classic to a great collection in Japan. By 1970 I had done such a good job of this style of collecting that when Dr. Junji Homma saw the collection on display he said to me, "Haynes-san, these tsuba are equal to a fine display of tsuba in Tokyo today". Well I had my "ONE OF EVERYTHING" collection, and I was very proud of it. By 1972 I realized that this was not "MY" collection, in reality, but what I was supposed to collect by Japanese standards, not my own taste or preference. Oh, there were many pieces in this "second" collection that I liked very much and out of the 700, or so pieces, there are about a dozen I still wish I had today. For the most part when I sold them in the early seventies, I do not regret it now. Most are published in one book or catalog or another and many of my friends who now own various pieces seem to value them far more than I did when I owned them. Perhaps that is because they came so easily to me.

While all this tsuba collecting was going on my other passion, that has not waned, to this day, is my book collecting. I started collecting books on tsuba and many other areas of Japanese art and history almost as soon as I bought my first tsuba. In this fifty years of book collecting I find that they have given me as much information and pleasure as the objects themselves. Even today I find books that I can add to the many hundreds in my library that add to my knowledge and my interest in Japanese sword fittings. I can not say, in all truth, that I am a collector any more. I do not have that burning desire to "own" objects, as I did 40-50 years ago. This does not mean I have stopped acquiring fittings, but those that interest me today are not what I thought I should own thirty years ago. Now I am interested in tsuba types I have never seen before, or pieces that I can not figure how they fit into the study of this subject. I also collect unrecorded signatures, whereas in the past I only wanted "great" names. I still keep a few pieces that are those strange, unusual or out of the ordinary works that I feel I need to study and try to figure how they are part of the whole world of sword fittings. As we all know "collecting" can become a disease that I can now say I am cured of. In fact those pieces that I still acquire I do not keep after I have completed my study of them. The books on the other hand I refer to many times over the years and have kept all of them that are valuable for study year in and year out. Today I am interested in a type of tsuba that no one else seems to have taken notice of. In Japan they seem to have been ignored, and I can not even find one example in any of the "Japanese" books. They are brass plate tsuba usually with a carved or sukashi design, sometimes with both, and they date from 1300 to 1600. Naturally there are many variations during this 300 year period, and I might add, there are very few examples, but I feel that a thorough study will reveal some of the missing information about the iron tsuba made during this same period. The brass examples are better preserved than the iron and seem to have been made for the higher ranking samurai, for the most part. The other characteristic that they all seem to have in common is the surface treatment. Most seem to have been sheet gold covered originally. Most of this is worn away today and can only be seen in the crevices of the carving on the plate. Some have also been black lacquered over the original gold. In some cases they have also been gold lacquered over the black lacquer. This seems to have been done during the enforcement of various sumptuary laws during this 300 year period. I have only found a few of these tsuba so far but I hope to find more so I can get a clear picture of there relationship and influence on the more common iron tsuba of the Muromachi and Momoyama periods.

Well there you have my last fifty years of collecting and some of the whys and wherefores that got me into it and have kept me at it all these years. I am sure many of you have more interesting stories to tell and collecting memoirs that we would all love to read. So get at it and let us know why you collect and what you collect and how you came to do both.


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