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Treasures: Once sought after, Nippon wares are in decline

This extensive set of dinnerware is a great heirloom but demand — and therefore value —are in decline.
This extensive set of dinnerware is a great heirloom but demand — and therefore value —are in decline. TNS

Q: This set of Nippon dinnerware has an “RC” mark. There are extensive serving pieces including coffee service for six, jam pot, ladle, handled serving bowl, large serving bowl, five luncheon-sized plates, six soup or salad bowls, large platter and six bread and butter plates. I have attached a picture of the mark, and a close-up of the design, which has not been identified. The set was purchased in 1914 in Beaumont, Texas, as a wedding gift for my grandparents. Do you have any idea of what these may be worth?

J. S.

A: In 1890, the U. S. Congress passed the McKinley Tariff Act, which among other things required all goods exported to the United States to be marked with the country of origin.

The Japanese chose to use the word “Nippon” as the name of their country, and from 1891 to 1921 that name appeared on many items made in Japan that were meant to be exported to the United States. But there were many exceptions.

Some items had been marked with the country of origin before 1891. Some items that were not meant for export were not marked and came to the U.S. via tourist trade. Still other objects were marked with paper labels that were easily removed. While the McKinley Tariff Act made some objects easier to date, it does not work every time.

The “RC” mark on this dinnerware was used by the Noritake Co., Limited, or Nippon Taki Kabushiki Kaisha.

However, there is no question in our mind that this Nippon set was manufactured close to the 1914 date in which it was purchased. The maker is not hard to identify because the “RC” mark shown in J. S.’ photograph was used by the Noritake Co., Limited, or Nippon Taki Kabushiki Kaisha.

“RC” is said to stand for “Royal Crockery” (we have also found “Royal China”). It might also be noted that immediately after World War II, the Noritake factory lay in ruins and the production was of a lesser quality. Because of this, it was marked “Rose China” and either “Made in Japan” or “Made in Occupied Japan.”

Noritake was founded in 1904 by the Morimura family. The Morimura factory was severely damaged during the war and most records were lost. It may never be possible to identify the pattern belonging to J. S., which has a simple beaded band around the rims of its pieces.

There was a time when Nippon wares were highly sought after by a large number of collectors, but this Nippon craze is currently in abeyance, and prices on Nippon wares are somewhat in a decline. Right now, extensive Noritake Nippon dinnerware sets can sell for as little as $100 at auction, and at retail this set is probably worth $350 to $450.

Write to Joe Rosson, 2504 Seymour Ave., Knoxville, TN 37917, or email treasures@knology.net. Include a high-resolution, in-focus photo of the subject.

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