Incomplete sets can still have significant value
The Japanese tin toy 1962 Chrysler with original box sold for $17,500 in a recent sale at Bonhams San Francisco. (Bonhams / March 21, 2014)
A: The reader adds that while pieces from both sets are either missing, chipped, or cracked, seven cups and saucers plus coffee and tea pots from the Asian set remain. The decorative Italian set, a circa 1960s gift, has a damaged sugar bowl. Five cups and seven saucers remain. Teacups are usually the first items broken.
The Asian set is Japanese and was made for export to the West. Attractively hand-painted in the Nippon style with a dragon, it is embellished with moriage, a technique of raised and painted enamel much used in Nippon decorating.
The bottom mark is a Noritake-style stamp with a laurel wreath. Many potteries at the time copied or varied the mark in the same manner that fakers today copy designer labels. The difference is that some knockoffs then were of excellent quality like this tea set.
We tried, but the exact mark was impossible to trace. Our reader adds that pieces vary in intricacy and that only the most intricate bear a bottom stamp. I suspect that parts of the set were made by individual potteries, with specific pieces receiving more attention plus a stamp. The whole was probably exported for sale in finer stores. That's how the set ended up as a wedding gift.
The set with a hand painted "Italy" mark is notable for the lavish amount of liquid gold painted onto surfaces. Some pieces are almost 100 percent covered. This is not inexpensive to do. The look makes the pieces very attractive to buyers.
A professional restorer could repair the sugar bowl; the reader has the fractured fragments. Repair can be pricey, but when it is important to restore a family treasure, who's counting?
With incomplete sets such as these, separate pieces can still be sold piecemeal. So yes, the individual pieces have value. I think your best bet for selling is online.
Q: Can you tell me if Ernest Sohn's teapots are collectible or valuable? I have a rare, majestic looking teapot in the shape of a pumpkin. I've searched everywhere, but cannot find anything like it.
A: To clue readers, Ernest Sohn was a mid-century giftware designer who designed for Red Wing Pottery and Glidden. His Ernest Sohn Creations showroom in NYC opened in 1951. Working in ceramics, wood and metal, Sohn specialized in stylish mid-century design.
His ceramics, known and collected by fans of mid-century design, were made by Hall China. Today, he's most celebrated for his very modernist ceramics, the more space age the better.
I'm wondering if the reader's teapot is stamped Ernest Sohn Creations. If so, it is a showroom design, though I would never think of Sohn and "pumpkin" in the same context.
We found 226 listings for Sohn on eBay. A covered jar in the shape of a pepper was offered for $26. Items in completed sales were all around or under $20.
AUCTION ACTION: Certain Japanese mid-century toys are hot collector items. So when the tin model of a 1962 Chrysler Imperial 4-door hardtop sold, along with its original decorative box, for $17,500 at Bonhams recently, few were surprised. The collection from a Japanese private collector was well known. And the car, a 15-inch black vehicle by Asahi, is one of the most sought after Japanese mid-century toys. The car is in bright condition, plus the colorful box has very minimal wear and no fading.
Q: What does the M in the Noritake laurel wreath mark represent?
A: It stands for Baron Ichizaemon Morimura IV who, in 1876, opened Morimura Brothers, a trading company based in Tokyo and New York City for the export of traditional Japanese gift items, including ceramics.
(Danielle Arnet welcomes questions from readers. She cannot respond to each one individually, but will answer those of general interest in her column. Send e-mail to email@example.com.)
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