Adventurous estate sale shoppers often search for vintage porcelain collectibles. Most frequently, shoppers are on the hunt for Nippon vases, well known for their intricate workmanship and colorful designs. Nippon vases have a rich history and, because of their unique craftsmanship, they’re highly sought-after pieces of porcelain. Get valuable tips on identifying sought-after Nippon porcelain pieces.
History of Nippon Vases
The word “Nippon” is actually the Japanese name for the country of Japan. When you view a Nippon insignia on the underside of a collectible’s base, it typically means the item was made in Japan.
Types of Nippon Porcelain
The antique Nippon porcelain industry lasted for several decades, and it encompassed multiple creative styles. Having a workable understanding of Nippon’s different creative styles will come in handy when searching for your own.
Early Nippon vs Late Nippon
In the early Nippon era, families and other groups fabricated the hand-painted Nippon porcelains. Each hand-painted Nippon vase was different from the next.
Over time, the makers of Nippon Japanese porcelain gradually shifted to mass production. Although these methods supplied more inventory for the growing market, the Nippon vases began to exhibit a more uniform appearance.
Art Nouveau vs Art Deco Porcelain
During the late 19th century, most finely-painted porcelain reflected curved, Victorian-style designs and muted floral motifs. Collectively, these elements were examples of the art nouveau style. Other art nouveau pieces, such as large, hand-painted Nippon vases, exhibited bolder-looking floral design components.
Art nouveau gradually ran its course and was replaced by the art deco style. In this motif, a Nippon hand-painted vase displayed a more defined linear design. Individual hand-painted flowers served as colorful accent elements.
Japanese Porcelain Import History
From the mid-19th century until the present, Japanese porcelain has been manufactured and exported to the United States. In 1891, there was a significant change in the laws that regulated the identification of goods imported into the United States. The U.S. Customs inspectors and cost-conscious exporters alike adhered to the new laws.
McKinley Tariff Act of 1891 Requirements
In 1891, the McKinley Tariff Act prohibited the import of foreign products that did not display the country of origin in easily readable English words. Many Japanese porcelain pieces were required to feature the word Nippon on the base’s underside.
World War I and Market Flooding
After World War I began, the United States could no longer receive its European porcelain imports. To fill the gap, Japanese porcelain manufacturers dramatically increased their output to American distributors.This caused the American market to flood with vintage Nippon porcelain collectibles.
In addition, vintage Nippon porcelain was generally less expensive than English or European porcelain. However, cheaper Nippon porcelain often displayed the same high quality as the English and European pieces. The Nippon pieces’ lower prices resulted from Japanese workers’ low wages.
U.S. Customs Marking Rule Change of 1921
In 1921, United States Customs officials decided that imported Japanese goods must be marked with “Japan” instead of “Nippon.” The officials reasoned that “Nippon” was actually a Japanese word rather than an English word. From 1921 onward, imported Japanese porcelains featured a “Japan” stamp.
Nippon Values After Rule Change
Nippon vases and other porcelain collectibles with “Nippon” markings are valued more highly than pieces with “Japan” markings. This very high demand for Nippon-marked porcelains has fueled a market of counterfeits. Collectors should be aware of the potential for counterfeits as well as how to identify authentic Nippon porcelain.
Authentic Nippon Porcelain Style
American consumers were captivated by hand-painted Nippon porcelain vases and other collectibles. Ornately decorated pieces typically made their way to United States markets, while Japanese consumers preferred much simpler designs. These styles that enthralled American consumers of the early 20th century still captivate to this day. Here are some of the style characteristics of authentic Nippon porcelain.
Elaborate Style Motifs
Nippon potters created porcelain that displayed elaborate, flourished motifs and ornate designs. Japanese potters of the time, including employees of the company that evolved into Noritake, received training in European decorative styles. These artisans skillfully imitated the styles of fine European potters including Belleek, Limoges, and R.S. Prussia. Nippon porcelain works did not feature traditional Japanese designs often found on Kutani ware china or Asian ceramics.
Flower and Animal Decorations
Vintage Nippon porcelain vases are embellished with intricate, colorful flowers. Animals such as dogs, owls, and horses also adorn Nippon vases and collectibles.
Applied Texture and Ornamental Designs
Skilled Nippon artisans used innovative techniques to add texture to their works. The finished pieces exhibited two defined texture styles along with other decorative techniques.
Nippon vases often feature the Coralene porcelain decorative process. A typical Coralene (or coral-like) vase features a solid background, such as a beautiful cobalt blue . This background is typically accented by painted colors and often includes raised design elements. The painted colors are topped by clear glass beads, which fused to the vase’s body during the firing process.
Moriage Ware Description
To create Nippon Moriage ware, an artisan applied raised enameled decorations to the surface of a Nippon porcelain piece. To achieve the Moriage effect, the artisan placed very fine dots close together, similar to piping icing onto a birthday cake. Jeweled effects are part of many Moriage pieces.
Versatile Nippon artisans frequently used tapestry decorations to enhance their works. First, they placed a textile piece (such as fabric) onto a wet porcelain vase. Next, they fired the vase in the kiln. The firing process burned away the textile piece but left the often-striking textile pattern.
The best way to identify authentic Nippon style is to look for a Nippon mark. Original Nippon pieces tend to feature green marks. Authentic Nippons tend to have backstamps on the underside of the base. We discuss specific insignias later in the guide.
Besides hand-painted Nippon vases and other decorative items, Nippon porcelain makers turned out an impressive array of functional items. You may find Nippon backstamps on teapots, tea sets, chocolate pots, creamers, celery dishes, or toothpick holders.You may also note backstamps on Nippon porcelain hatpin holders, wig stands, jewelry trays, or jewelry holders. Nippon porcelain humidors were also popular.
One unusual Nippon porcelain item was a hair receiver that displayed the pre-1918 Nippon Morimura wreath mark. This two-piece receptacle provided a place for women to deposit hair from their brushes. Eventually, they gathered enough hair to stuff a small pillow or pin cushion.
Value of Nippon Vases
Determining Nippon vase values is an ongoing challenge. Generally speaking, undecorated Nippon pieces are only worth a few dollars.
Other Nippon vases’ values vary according to the type of piece. The item’s decorative elements and general condition also play key roles in the piece’s value. So, a Nippon vase’s value might range from $100 to $500. Highly desirable Nippon porcelain pieces might command $1,000 to $6,000 or more.
Factors that Determine Nippon Value
Finding Nippon vases’ value can present a challenge. Multiple factors influence a piece’s worth, and small changes in variables can mean big differences in price.
A Nippon vase’s value depends largely on its decorative elements. A Nippon porcelain vase with many intricate decorative details might be worth more than a similar item with fewer embellishments. A piece with one type of decoration might be priced higher than a similar piece featuring another decorative style.
Nippon vases’ values are greatly influenced by their artistic style. For example, a Nippon Coralene or Moriage porcelain piece is a very desirable collectible. Therefore, it will likely carry a very high price tag.
How to Identify Real Nippon Porcelain
Real Nippon vases, and other original Nippon porcelain, should satisfy two requirements: superior quality and correct Nippon marks. Although many pieces may meet one criterion, they might not meet the second standard.
Superior Artwork Quality
First, the Nippon porcelain piece should feature superb workmanship. When you hold the piece up to a strong light, it should be translucent. When you run your hand over the surface, you should feel the slightly raised enameled effects.
Correct Nippon Marks
With thousands of Nippon porcelain pieces flooding estate sales and antique shops, it’s crucial to find Nippon vases that display the right Nippon mark. Many original Nippon pieces feature green marks. Here are some of the original Nippon marks to look out for:
- ROYAL NIPPON Mark with Nishiki Globe Drawing
- Nippon Crown and Star Mark
- Noritake NIPPON RC Hand Painted
- Rising Sun Drawing with Hand Painted NIPPON
- Maple Leaf Mark with Hand Painted NIPPON
- Hand Painted RC NIPPON Mark (Royal Crockery)
The Emergence of Fake Nippon Vases
Since the mid-1990s, United States Nippon buyers have seen an influx of newly produced porcelain with fake Nippon marks. U.S. Customs requirements still state that imported goods must show the English word for the country of origin. This requirement may be met with a paper label that says “Made in [Country of Origin].”
U.S. Customs does not care if the piece is also stamped (and fired) with a place name that no longer exists (such as Nippon). The only thing the United States Customs looks for is a label that says “Made in [Country of Origin].”. Given that, an unethical importer could tear off the label and market the piece with its glazed-on Nippon mark.
Numerous Chinese Fakes
From the 1970s through the 1990s, many Chinese workers produced fake Nippon porcelain pieces. Upon comparison with original Nippon works, the reproduction pieces don’t show the quality craftsmanship that was the hallmark of Nippon porcelain.
Types of Fake Nippon Marks
Recently-produced fakes have original Nippon features, including pastel colors and heavy, raised, gold trim. Workers have even copied the original Nippon backstamps.
Commonly counterfeited backstamps include a pale green wreath with a centered letter “M.” Other fake marks include a rising sun, a maple leaf, an hourglass, and the “RC” letters. Always carefully examine marks on a case-by-case basis.
Why It’s Difficult to Spot Fake Nippon Marks
Correctly identifying fake Nippon marks is a challenge. Many Japanese artists received intensive training on how to accurately imitate European works.
In addition, many newer fake porcelain pieces contain numerous original Nippon attributes. To casual collectors, the piece may appear to be an original Nippon vase or collectible.
How to Identify Authentic Nippon Japanese Porcelain
If you believe you’ve found an original Nippon porcelain piece, evaluate it using several different criteria. See if the piece’s style and decorative techniques match valid examples from books or online. Note the general condition of the piece and the quality of the work.
Carefully analyze the piece’s backstamps. In theory, a piece marked “Nippon” was crafted between 1891 and 1921. If your Nippon vase has a “Japan” marking, it was made after 1921. However, many pieces carry fake marks that differ very slightly from the original versions. If you’re in doubt, ask an expert for help.
Nippon Vases: Average “Sold” Auction Prices
The following are average auction selling prices for Nippon vases. Averages were compiled from the mean sale price of four similar Nippon porcelain pieces.
- Coralene Vases: $1175.00
- Moriage Vases:$987.50
- Two-handled Vases:$210.00
- Urns: $628.75
Where to Find Nippon Vases
Finding Nippon vases and other Nippon porcelain pieces should be relatively simple if you know what you’re looking for. Naturally, estate sales should be the first sale venue, as these events often feature a treasure trove of quality collectibles.
Online marketplaces are another “must visit” venue.
For starters, your “Nippon vases” Google search will bring up pages of results, including sources for Nippon porcelain pieces. In addition, eBay, Etsy, Rubylane, and live auction websites may prove to show great Nippon porcelain listings. But be wary of eBay and other online sources. When you can’t evaluate the vase in person, you may fall victim to purchasing a fake Nippon.