New Porcelain Marked NipponBy Mark Chervenka
New Porcelain Marked Nippon
Since the mid-1990s there have been a wide number of faked Nippon marks appearing on new porcelain.
The first fake marks of the 1980s were on blanks with decorations unlike that of original Nippon and were relatively easy to identify. Recent fakes have improved tremendously and have many of the features of originals such as heavy raised gold, pastel colors and very accurate copies of original marks.
The manufacture and decoration of pottery and porcelain has been a Japanese tradition for hundreds of years. Japanese porcelain has been commercially imported into the United States from the mid-19th century. By the turn of the century, large quantities of Japanese porcelain were being imported and sold throughout the U. S. The amount increased dramatically when WW I cut off the U.S. from European porcelain factories.
One of the reasons Japanese porcelain was popular in the U.S. was because it was usually less expensive than porcelain from Europe or England. The low cost was not based on low quality, however. It was due to Japanese workers being paid very little for the time and skill they brought to their work.
Japanese porcelain made for export to the United States from 1891 to 1921 is called "Nippon Porcelain" because the word "Nippon" was on each piece. The word "Nippon" was required by the McKinley Tariff Act of 1890. This law stated that all manufactured goods imported to the United States be marked with the country of origin. Since "Nippon" was the Japanese word for the country of Japan, porcelain made there for the U.S. market was marked "Nippon" to comply with the new law. American trade officials accepted "Nippon" as the name of the country of origin until 1921. At that time, it was ruled that "Nippon" was a Japanese word. Since the law required the country of origin to be an English word, the use of "Nippon" was forbidden from 1921 on.
The period between the passage of the McKinley Act in 1890 and the English word ruling in 1921 is the only time "Nippon" appeared in authentic marks. For years, this knowledge was an easy rule of thumb collectors used to their benefit. Any mark with "Nippon" had to be made before 1921 when the word was banned from U.S. imports. This rule held true until the early 1980s when new porcelain began appearing with marks containing the word "Nippon". Did the law change?
Current Trade Law
No, the McKinley Act did not change; nor was it interpreted differently. Goods imported into the U.S. still must be marked with the English name of the country of origin. However, new porcelain, imported from Taiwan for example, meets all current U.S. Customs requirements with a simple "Made in Taiwan" paper label. The appearance of other names on a piece, such as Nippon or R.S. Prussia, Limoges, etc., is not illegal.
Why? The majority of words collectors associate with age or quality--like Nippon, Prussia, Limoges, etc.--are generally place names for countries or regions that no longer exist. For U.S. Custom's purposes, old place names are ignored as long as the present day country of origin is stated. In other words, a confusing mark including the word Nippon is not illegal as long as the piece is also marked "Made in Taiwan (or China, Indonesia, etc.)". Unfortunately most "Made in...." country of origin markings are usually removable paper stickers. New marks with Nippon and other confusing words and symbols are usually under glaze and are not removable. Persons who want to misrepresent a new piece simply remove the country of origin label. It is then up to the buyer to detect the often subtle differences between new and old marks.
Detecting new and old
Detecting fake marks from memory alone can be difficult. No one rule can be used to detect all the new marks. What may be an indication of a fake in one mark, may not be of help when examining another mark. Most marks need to be examined on a case by case basis. Apply the guidelines for new and old only to the specific mark being discussed. Study and familiarize yourself with the key features of original marks listed by the photographs and illustrations in this article. Don't be misled by large areas of raised gold or what appears to be genuine old colors and old decorations. The overall appearance of the latest reproductions is becoming more and more like Nippon originals.
The differences between new and old marks appear below. A summary chart of new and old marks appears at the end.