I am glad my post on green papers is getting some traction and the issue is being discussed. There is some of the expected harrumphing and finger pointing going around as people are reacting to the information, and I suggest to not get distracted by it. No handwaving is required and no conspiracy theories necessary about this being a scam wherein the NBTHK accuses itself of fraudulent papers in order to get people to pay twice for papers (kind of like shooting yourself in the face in order to claim insurance).
This is the appropriate response if you think your green papers are good:
I GUARANTEE IT.
If you really believe in it, you can do it.
This is a known case of fraud, and the NBTHK self published it, and they warned their own members about it. So, though people want to somehow hang this on my head for making it up, it’s not the case. They didn’t write an article admitting yakuza involvement for no reason nor did they offer up seppuku on entire classes of papers because it was just a tiny issue that affected a small handful of things.
The proper response to this problem is not intramural warfare. It is by working together to extinguish it. For us, for future generations, for the confidence of all people involved on swords.
If you want to claim a green papered blade is good, this is entirely within your faculties and abilities to do, whatever they are. But if you do, and you’re not willing to stand behind your words, it is also fair for people to maintain big concerns about these papers.
The very authoring agency of these papers have disavowed them and warned their membership about them. It’s the NBTHK’s own opinion to not trust these things.
A constructive approach
Here’s a simple agreement structure that tries to respect everyone’s role in a transaction around something with green papers. Sellers do not want to have something hanging over their neck forever. It’s not fair to them. They want a sale to be a sale and if you are not confident, don’t buy it. However, the buyer should just as well be able to say, you’re talking some big talk about this thing, do you walk the big walk too? So, find some middle ground.
- Seller and buyer agree to which organization will be chosen for a re-examination of the item. Buyer gets one shot to clear the item and has to act on the next available shinsa, if they do not, then the guarantee expires.
- Buyer pays all papering expenses out of pocket: he is the one buying the insurance policy, not the seller. If the item returns back with no new papers issued, it is a refund situation less shipping expenses.
- If the item is unsigned, seller and buyer agree that the attribution may change slightly and this is normal as opinions vary between judges. As long as the time period and general level of skill is respected, this counts as affirming an old opinion. Allow for some fuzz: plus or minus one Fujishiro rating is acceptable. A late Nanbokucho blade might become Oei (begining Muromachi). An early Nanbokucho blade might become late Kamakura. This is normal and is not grounds for any adjustments.
- If the blade is substantially upgraded in attribution, then the buyer has to return a 10% bonus to the seller. I would define substantial as moving two skill categories or two centuries in time. If a Nanbokucho blade becomes Heian (it has happened), then the seller should get rewarded for providing such a fine piece to his buyer.
- If the blade is substantially downgraded in attribution, then the seller must return a 10% refund to the buyer.
- Choose a mutually acceptable third party in advance to be an arbitrator for substantial upgrade/downgrade in case you can’t agree after a blade comes back. And, keep your word.
Adjust these terms as seller and buyer mutually agree. The idea is to be fair to everyone, to openly recognize the problems with these papers, and provide some kind of structure to protect everyone against them. If we can come up with a standard protocol like this, it will also encourage more people to get green papers tested, and thereby speed up the death spiral they are in as well as getting any blades left in that pool that are good to be recognized without any further suspicion.
Every time someone says it’s not real because I converted X green papered blades over to Hozon, they are demonstrating the taking of more of the good blades out of the green pool and this increases the concentration of bad ones behind.
If you have a barrel of apples with 10% rotten ones in, if you pull all the healthy ones, a few every hour, eventually you are left with a barrel of all rotten apples.
This is the situation we are looking at as every year, when more good blades get pulled from that barrel, the concentration of rotten ones left behind increases.
Risk cannot decrease from this point on. Either nobody ever turns in a green papered blade for upgrade ever again, in which case, the risk flatlines from here to eternity, or else the risk will increase every year as more good blades get converted over.
It is simple 8th grade mathematics that Mrs. Brown would have no problem explaining and grading out, nor would her students have problems understanding and passing on a test.
As well, as a seller your buyer will thank you and gain confidence in you that day a green papered blade comes back. Or, maybe it won’t paper but they won’t even care and will keep it anyway and appreciate the fact that you were ready to back up the words with action.