by Joan F. Van Patten, Director of the INCC

Reproductions of all kinds of items are found from coast to coast, and it's now "buyer beware." Fake Nippon wares seem to be everywhere, and usually bear a price tag comparable to the real thing. A so-called "black mammy" toothpick holder has been advertised for as much as $125. At the reproduction wholesalers it can be purchased for $1.50. Buy six or more and you get a 10 percent discount. Now that's a lot of profit!

These items are currently manufactured in both China and Japan, and to date more than fifty patterns have been found in a variety of pieces. The majority of the wares are of poor quality - the gold is not quite the right color, the weight is a bit heavier than the genuine pieces and the artistic workmanship is lacking. The items just don't feel right to the experienced collector.

The manufacturers usually have the fake Nippon mark placed under the glaze, and attach a paper label to indicate the country of origin. The labels are later removed, and magically the item becomes "Nippon." And all this is perfectly legal the way our current Customs rules are written. If the intent is not to deceive, why would a "Nippon" mark be placed under the glaze?

Until recently all the fake marks have been knock-offs of old Noritake Company backstamps. Twelve fake backstamps are known to exist. They all look something like the real ones but not quite identical. However, now the Chinese manufacturers have it perfect. There is an "M" in wreath mark undetectable from the genuine one. There is also a new pattern that has definitely been copied from a Nippon-era one. If you place genuine items in this pattern next to the fake ones, it is difficult to tell which is which from a distance.

So what do you do? Either know what you are buying or know who you are buying from. Keep in mind that many honest dealers who do not handle a lot of Nippon may also have purchased some of these items without knowing that they were reproduction pieces. Give them the benefit of the doubt. But if you find these fake items in great abundance at any one dealer's shop or booth at a show and they are not marked as reproductions, RUN, don't walk from this person! If in doubt, ask for a written guarantee with return privileges.

Subscribe to antiques trade newspapers and magazines for up-to-the-minute information. Join the INCC (International Nippon Collectors Club) and ask other collectors and dealers for information. Get to know the look and feel of the fakes as opposed to the genuine article. "The Collector's Encyclopedia of Nippon, Fourth Series" has approximately 30 color photos of these items, and "The Collector's Encyclopedia of Nippon Porcelain, Fifth Series," due in early 1998, will show more than 50.

"Antique & Collectors Reproduction News," P.O. Box 12130, Des Moines, IA. 50312-9403, now has an 8-page booklet displaying all known fake patterns for sale. The cost is $7.95 postpaid and is a must for all collectors and dealers. Phone toll free 1-800-227-5531.

Further information about joining the INCC may be obtained from the vice-president, Yvonne Matlosz, 5710 Oak Meadow La., #2504, Raleigh, N.C. 27612. This organization publishes six newsletters annually, which usually have some news on reproduction items. The group also holds an annual convention where this subject is addressed. Questions regarding fake pieces may be sent to Joan Van Patten, P.O. Box 102, Rexford, N.Y. 12148. Include a good clear photo of the item(s), also a self addressed stamped envelope for a reply.

Knowledge is power, so keep yourself armed.

About the author:

Joan F. Van Patten is the author of "The Collector's Encyclopedia of Nippon, First through Fifth Series" and "The Collector's Encyclopedia of Noritake, First and Second Series," all published by Collector Books of Paducah, Ky. She served as the first president of the INCC (International Nippon Collectors Club), presently serves as a director and published the "Nippon Notebook" and the "INCC Newsletter" for five years.

Her Fourth Series book has approximately 30 color photos of fake Nippon pieces. Her Fifth Series (due in the spring of 1998) will show over 50 color photos.