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A Sub-Trope of the Cool Sword, the Excalibur In The Rust has an outward appearance which belies its awesome nature. It looks like an entirely ordinary, non-Cool sword. In fact, it's extremely likely to be in an apparent state of extreme disrepair.
Compare to What a Piece of Junk!. If someone who doesn't recognize its true value throws it away, or sticks it in the basement with all the other worthless junk, it's the Grail in the Garbage. See also Wrecked Weapon.
Anime & Manga
- Tenchi Muyo!. When Tenchi first sees the Master Key, a physical blade had been affixed to the hilt. This blade was in a state of extreme disrepair, prompting Tenchi to exclaim, "What a rusty old piece of junk!"
- In the hands of anyone except Inuyasha, Tessaiga looks like a katana that has seen better days. It's also quite dull, though it's still almost indestructible. When InuYasha weilds it, the blade takes its true form.
- Saito's sword, Derflinger, in Zero no Tsukaima. It is eventually revealed that Derflinger is a "spirit sword". The rusted sword wielded by Saito is simply a vessel for its powers; when the blade is broken, Derflinger can transfer its powers to another completely ordinary sword.
- This trope is also inverted near the beginning of the series when Guiche hands Saito a large, bejeweled sword. Saito can't activate his inner strength because the sword is purely ornamental and not actually meant to be used as a weapon.
- Bleach: Most zanpakutou look utterly ordinary when sealed only revealing a special look when they release their powers. The two zanpakutou that exist in permanent shikai form also fit this trope. Ichigo's zanpakutou looks half-finished, missing both a hilt and a cross-guard. It's generated comments from others who think completed swords look far better. It gains a completed form much later in the manga. Kenpachi's sword looks chipped and damaged but it can cut anything.
- In Slayers, Gourry wields a normal looking sword that suited him just fine. But if he were to take off the hilt he can turn it into The Sword of Light.
- In a Field of Blades in King of Bandit Jing, each claiming to be Excalibur, Jing finds that the real Excalibur is not a worn sword but a key to the resident Humongous Mecha.
- Variation in Yu-Gi-Oh!. Rafael's cards are so old that the ink is fading and the edges are frayed. That doesn't change the fact that he has one of the most powerful decks in the series.
- Kyon's Ancestral Weapon is this in Kyon: Big Damn Hero. Subverted in that the sword actually is in a state of disrepair, to the point of being completely non-functional (only the hilt has survived) until Yuki gives it some upgrades.
- In the Conan the Barbarian movie, the Atlantean Sword looks like a solid piece of rust when Conan first finds it in the tomb. That might just be the decayed scabbard, though, since Conan just whacks the sword on stone a few times and the crud comes right off.
- The absolutely ordinary-looking, non-magical sword wielded by Carrot Ironfoundersson. Does not gleam, has minor chips along the edge, and sharp enough to effortlessly nail someone to a marble pillar. His ancestors had explicitly wanted a sword that was really good at killing people rather than looking good.
- Of course the titular blade in The Sword of Shannara is this, just a well-made if nondescript weapon actually found and overlooked by the heroes as they ransack the royal armory looking for miracle artifacts. They soon realize their mistake and spend half the book chasing after the luckless serf they'd let take it away.
- The sword in the Prydain Books, Dyrnwyn is burned black by the fire that killed its first wielder.
- Fyodor in Starlight And Shadows trilogy has a two-handed sword, clearly too heavy... and blunt. Far too many people didn't thought it's serious until they learned a few little details: first, it's enchanted and is sharp enough for any purpose except "friendly fire". Second, while most people can lift it with a visible effort, and that's all, the owner is built like a smith and always carries the damn thing with him, so he can use the ugly piece of metal. Third, this lad is The Berserker, so when in rage he swings it with enough strength to crash a minor golem and enough speed to hit a superhumanly fast drow fencer.
- In Oathbreakers, of the Heralds of Valdemar series, the long-lost Singing Sword of Rethwellan that is used to identify the country's rightful king is discovered to be none other than a rusty, dirty old sword that Kethry picked up along the wayside.
- In The Dresden Files, the Knights of the Cross have three swords that can burn faeries, kill demons, and help dispatch all manner of supernatural nasties. These three swords are fairly plain, save for the nail from the Cross embedded in the hilt.
Live Action TV
- Sikanda, the magical sword from Tales from The Neverending Story, true to the book.
- Sort of played in Merlin where a plain looking sword is transformed into Excalibur by the dragon's breath.
- Commander Kruger carries around an old sword that looks chipped and battered - but when he gets dangerous for the first time, it does too, transforming into a much more impressive blade.
- Dragon magazine #14 article "Interview with a Rust Monster": A PC party unknowingly carries the Sword of Toshio. "[It] looks like an ordinary sword, bent and worn from use. But in the hands of a samurai, it takes on its true appearance as a katana of great power."
- The Templars' swords in Deadlands: Hell on Earth are their iconic weapons and often relic or magically empowered. Physically, they are whatever kind of sword you can scavenge in a post-apocalyptic world, most often stolen from ruined museums.
- In Secret of Mana, the player acquires a rusty old sword at the beginning of the game, which is none other than the game's legendary Mana Sword. According to the opening scroll, it actually is Excalibur, as well as many other swords of legend.
- In the first Seiken Densetsu game (Final Fantasy Adventure), the hero acquires a Rusted sword. The same twist applies: it's the Mana Sword. The remake doesn't let you wield it, but it opens the path to the Dime Tower in both versions of the game.
- Pale Justice in Icewind Dale is an extremely powerful sword for paladins, and looks exactly like an ordinary longsword.
- A sidequest during the prologue has you retrieving a broken heirloom sword for a villager named Jhonen (no, not that Jhonen). In the last chapter, if you did this quest, you can talk to him again to find out that the sword magically reforged itself sometime while you were off doing the adventury thing. Not being a fighter himself, he's only too happy to hand over the rather nice Reforged Sword of Aihonen to help you out against the Big Bad. And it doesn't stop there, either - if you bring it with you into Heart of Winter, about halfway through you meet an NPC who will upgrade it even further.
- Dragon Quest IX features the Rusty equipment, the first piece of which you're likely to find is the Rusty Sword towards the end of the game. It's not much use at first, but add a little glass powder and some Unobtainium (Orichalcum, in this case) and you get the third best sword in the game. And then the rest of the equipment is also the third best of its type in the game. It is very difficult to find anything other than the sword.
- Various rusted weapons can be found at a low chance in the Monster Hunter series by mining them or from quest drops. They usually tend to subvert this trope in being generic iron swords, hammers, et al. On the off chance you're lucky, you'll get a "Rusted" or "Worn" weapon which, with a lot of work in getting parts to break the rust, become some powerful weapons. In particular are the Eternal Hate and the Divine Exodus, two Sword and Shield weapons with the highest Dragon attributes in Tri, bar none.
- Glory of Heracles often hands you Rusty items. These are useless until you visit a Polisher, who scours the rust off. Usually you get pretty decent gear out of it. Sometimes subverted in that the rust is so far gone all you get is Scrap Iron.
- In World of Warcraft one of the most powerful knives in the game when it was introduced looked exactly like a small broken bottle. There are also a few magical maces that just look like unadorned bones.
- Many of the Celestial Weapons from Final Fantasy X start off looking this way and being rather useless, but with a little polish, some sharpening, and a number of mini-games, their true worth will be revealed.
- In Assassin's Creed II, the Sword of Altair (best weapon in the game) is actually the simplest and least-adorned weapon in the entire game, especially when compared with the exceptionally ornate blades and hilts of the other sabers, scimitars, and rapiers Ezio can buy. The only real adornment on the blade is a subtle eagle-head carving in the sword's pommel.
- In Lunar: The Silver Star, Althena's Sword (so named for the goddess of Lunar) can only be wielded by her champion, the Dragonmaster--but has been lost since the last known Dragonmaster, Dyne, died. Truth is, it's been hiding in plain sight, crusted over with debris and buried to the hilt in Dyne's monument right outside the (mostly) Silent Protagonist Alex's own village. After proving himself as the next Dragonmaster, Alex is able to draw Althena's Sword from the stone and reveal its true power.
- In the sequel, Lunar Eternal Blue, Althena's Sword is being carried by once-Team Pet Nall, now grown up and in human form. Astute gamers will recognize it right off the bat, even though the distinctive carved golden handle is wrapped up in bandages. Nall later deems not-so-Silent Protagonist Hiro worthy of wielding it, despite him not technically passing the Dragonmaster trials.
- Dark Souls starts you out with a broken sword hilt. It deals pitiful damage and you get a better weapon nearly immediately, but if you hang on to it and forge it with a particular boss soul, it becomes one of the most powerful weapons in the game. Demon's Souls featured a similar weapon constructed from an equally useless sword hilt.
- In Golden Sun: The Lost Age, you can find rusty weapons in certain patches of shallow water in the ocean as soon as you get the ship. If you take these to Sunshine the Blacksmith, he will agree to fix them up, resulting in weapons that are reasonably good for that part of the game.
- Zero's katana in Tasakeru plays with this. It is just an ordinary sword, if a bit scratched and weatherbeaten. But then it gets broken and subsequently reforged by a God...