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The Admiral Yamamoto Tanto From Pawn Stars Is Worth More Than You Think

In the most recent episode of the hit History series Pawn Stars, one customer was in for a treat when she tried to sell a tanto she believed belonged to Admiral Yamamoto, the leader behind the Pearl Harbor attack and the Battle of Midway during World War II. After the seller originally asked for only $2,000, an expert quickly deduced that the tanto was worth much more.

Tantos are a type of blade that came from Japan. Featuring chiseled tips, the blades had ceremonial purpose and were useful as backup blades. Several different tanto designs existed, and Admiral Yamamoto was known for giving tantos to his World War II soldiers, according to the expert on Pawn Stars, appraiser and curator Mike Yamasaki (who co-owns and co-operates the sword and sword fitting company Tetsugendo).

The specific tanto on the show potentially could have belonged to the Admiral himself, but there's also a chance it was passed down through a World War II Japanese veteran. Yamasaki couldn't be certain that the tanto wasn't Admiral Yamamoto's, which made the customer take it back in order to do some more research. If it was Admiral Yamamoto's tanto, how much would it have been worth?

The real cost of Admiral Yamamoto's tanto

Rick Harrison had it right when he said that he thought the tanto was worth more than $2,000. It's worth $10,000, at the very least. According to Yamasaki, if it actually belonged to Admiral Yamamoto, it's worth around $20,000.

It's a bit hard to backtrack this and see the cost considering that Admiral Yamamoto would have had only one of these in his collection, not hundreds. That means there's not one on the market right now, and there doesn't seem to be a history of it being sold online. The customer could very well have had the real deal. 

On Christie's, there's a listing from way back in 2008 for a tanto that reportedly came from Yamamoto's window, but there's no type of verification or authentication with the piece. The actual handle of the tanto is missing, so only the silver blade was being sold. The price was listed at $20,000 even without the handle, and the listing closed — evidently after selling at that price — on March 17, 2008. An estimate listed beside the "realized" price notes that the handle-less tanto is actually worth between $5,000 and $8,000. A full tanto would certainly be worth and be sold for more, so the one featured on Pawn Stars probably is worth between $10,000 and $20,000.