Fencing is an expensive sport.... so just a few words so your money isnt wasted and you keep safe. (please if anyone wants to expand this ..please do!)
This is just a quick "Heads up" to those new to fencing to make sure you don't end up buying equipment that is not what you want or need... I stand to be corrected.
For the last few years it has become mandatory in clubs and competition for equipment to demonstrably reach certain safety standards. Full details can be found from your local club, England Fencing or one of the many suppliers (often mentioned in adverts on Ebay).
Basically certain items eg Masks, underplastrons,jackets and breeches have to have a "Newton rating".. found on a label sewn to them by the manufacturer (homolgomated). This can be 350N, 800N or 1600N (or CEN 1/CEN 2/ FIE) depends what the piece of equipment is, what age group it is for, whether for "steam" or electric fencing and to what level you wish to fence.
OLDER KIT WITHOUT THIS MARKING ON THE EQUIPMENT MAY WELL BE OF NO USE TO YOU AS YOU SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO USE IT AT YOUR CLUB OR IN COMPETITION (conversely, as a seller WITH this marking you should put in in your advert & may get more money!)
Interestingly sword blades dont have such a marking but think carefully if you would want to stand opposite someone holding a piece of metal of indeterminate age/strength.
Also the rules on target for foil are changing. The bib is being introduced as a part of the valid target for foil at higher level competitions from Sept 09 but will probably cascade down through the ranks with time. This means that over the next few years masks will need bibs that can be connected to electric systems... no great biggy at the moment if you are starting out at a club, but in time you will need to spend more money. So please make sure you are happy what you are buying in the meantime.
Please dont take this guide as all encompassing and check the details carefully and ask at your club for advice before you commit your money.