This Japanese Tanto sword was sold to a Canadian collector for $61,600 on April 28.

LISBON — It’s possible to surprise even the most experienced auctioneers and appraisers.

So when a Canadian collector paid a little more than $61,000 for a Japanese tanto — a short sword — it was something even Daniel Buck couldn’t predict.

In the business for 40 years, he runs Daniel Buck Auctions and Appraisals, and spent 11 years appearing on the PBS television series “Antiques Road Show.”

“Absolutely it was a surprise,” Buck said. “We put a conservative estimate on it, it was a pleasant surprise.”

It was a unique item, especially in Lisbon. Buck said people often come to him not realizing what they have, but it doesn’t usually end with such a large haul. His client brought the tanto to him knowing little about its history. The client’s grandfather had given it to them, having brought the tanto to the U.S. after serving in World War II.

Buck quickly came to realize the untold story behind the artifact extends well beyond the war.

“I had originally thought it was early 20th century,” Buck said. “Then you do your research on it. You can still see all of the markings on the handle and blade, which is probably around 800 years old.”

The tanto auctioned by Buck has a nine-and-a-half-inch blade.

At the April 28 auction, Buck could tell the item would do well as bids started to come in. Through online and phone bidding, the final price tag reached $61,600. He couldn’t wait to share the news.

“When I called the gentleman after the auction he said ‘you’re joking with me,’”  Buck said. “I get excited with an item like that, I genuinely do.”

There have been a few other items he’s auctioned off that have garnered similar interest. In the past two years, Buck said, there was a World War II artifact that sold for around $50,000 and a German impressionist painting that went for $300,000.

The tanto had a $40 to $60 pre-sale estimate, although Buck still thought it would do well, given the age and markings.

To research an artifact that’s not only unique to Lisbon, but to the continent, Buck relies on the other experts he’s met in the business.

“In this business, you always find something new,” he said. “One of the nice things about being on the “Antiques Road Show” for 11 years was I met a lot of people and made connections.”

Beyond the excitement of auctioning rare finds like the tanto, the connections Buck has made appraising is another reason he enjoys the business. He fields calls and emails daily with others seeking his expertise to appraise an item. It’s the reciprocal nature of the business he enjoys. He’s an experienced appraiser, the only one in Maine to have appeared on the PBS show.

With the tanto, he learned it was still possible to be surprised.

“You never know what you have,” Buck said.


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