Noritake China Value: How Much Are Your Antique Dishes Worth?

If you‘ve inherited a set of decorative dishes from your grandmother‘s china cabinet, there‘s a good chance they might be valuable Noritake china. Noritake is one of the most popular and collectible porcelain brands in the world, with some rare pieces selling for thousands of dollars at auction.

But how can you tell if your Noritake china is valuable? In this article, we‘ll dive deep into the history of Noritake, the key factors that determine a piece‘s worth, and share some notable examples of Noritake collections that have fetched high prices. By the end, you‘ll have a better sense of whether that teapot or plate is a precious heirloom or everyday dinnerware.

What is Noritake China?

Noritake is a Japanese company that has been producing high-quality bone china and porcelain since 1904. Their products are known for their craftsmanship, durability, and beauty. Some of the most sought-after Noritake pieces feature intricate hand-painted designs, lavish gold accents, and rich colors.

Noritake china was widely exported to the United States and Europe in the early 20th century, where it became a symbol of luxury and status. Many American families would reserve their Noritake "good china" for special occasions like holidays and dinner parties. Today, vintage Noritake is highly prized by collectors around the world.

History of the Noritake Company

The Noritake company has a fascinating history that spans over a century. It was founded in 1904 in the village of Noritake near Nagoya, Japan by the Morimura Brothers. The brothers had previously been successful importers of fine porcelain and antiques to the United States.

After seeing European porcelain at the 1889 Paris Expo, the Morimuras were inspired to produce their own high-end products for the American market. They established a factory in Japan named Nippon Toki Kaisha Ltd. The earliest pieces were intricately hand-painted and produced in limited quantities for Morimura Bros., their trading company in New York. These pre-1920 items represent some of the finest craftsmanship in the Noritake legacy.

By 1911, Noritake had registered its first backstamp trademark in the US. In the following decades, the company expanded its production capacity and began mass-marketing more affordable pieces worldwide alongside its premium wares. Noritake continues to produce both fine china and casual dinnerware today, with modern designs that uphold the brand‘s reputation for quality.

Factors Affecting Noritake China Value

Not all Noritake china is equally valuable. The worth of an individual piece or set depends on several key factors:

Age

In general, the older a Noritake piece is, the more valuable it will be to collectors. The earliest and rarest items were produced between 1904-1920 in limited quantities, often hand-painted with meticulous detail. These antique pieces routinely sell in the $100s or even $1000s.

Mid-century pieces are more common but can still be quite collectible, while contemporary Noritake is the most affordable. Dinner plates from the 1940s-1970s often sell in the $20-60 range each, for example, versus under $10 for modern pieces.

Rarity

Aside from very old items, rare pieces from any era can be highly valuable due to scarcity. For example, Noritake has produced limited edition collections for luxury hotels and ocean liners which are coveted by collectors.

Even in later decades when mass production was the norm, Noritake occasionally released small runs of elaborately decorated, hand-painted pieces in the spirit of their earliest work. These can be worth hundreds of dollars apiece. The key is to look for designs and backstamps you don‘t see very often.

Marks and Stamps

If you suspect you have an antique Noritake piece, the first step is to examine the markings on the bottom. The backstamp is the key to identifying its age and origins.

Noritake has used hundreds of different marks over the years, some more rare than others. The earliest pieces were stamped "Nippon," the Japanese word for Japan, to comply with American import laws. Around 1921, the company began using "Noritake" in its stamps. You can find extensive visual guides to dating Noritake marks online.

Condition

As with any collectible, condition has a huge impact on value. Noritake pieces that have never been used, with no chips, cracks, or signs of wear will always fetch the highest prices.

Certain flaws like crazing (small surface cracks in the glaze) or light utensil marks are considered normal for antique pieces. But visible damage or repairs will significantly lower the value. The most desirable pieces look like they‘re fresh out of the factory.

Set Completion

Individual Noritake pieces are lovely, but a complete set is the holy grail for collectors. Noritake produced sets in dozens of different styles with up to 100 pieces each, including place settings, serving dishes, tea sets and more.

The value of a set is often greater than the sum of its parts, especially for rare patterns. Replacements for missing or damaged pieces can be costly, so completeness is key. A partial set in good condition may still be quite valuable, but a pristine, all-original set is ideal.

Notable Examples of Valuable Noritake China

To give you a sense of the upper end of the Noritake market, here are a few extraordinary pieces and sets that have sold for top dollar at auction:

  • Frank Lloyd Wright Imperial Hotel Dinnerware: A 99-piece set designed by the famous architect for the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, produced by Noritake in 1922. Sold for $16,250.

  • Art Deco Fish Bowl: A rare, elaborately hand-painted punch bowl from the 1920s featuring tropical fish and 24k gold accents. Sold for $2,500.

  • Noritake Deco Lusterware Tea Set: A highly decorative 15-piece set from the 1930s with vibrant colors and metallic glazes. Sold for $1,800.

  • Antique Noritake Vase: A hand-painted Art Nouveau style vase from the early 1900s with a nature motif. Sold for $545.

Of course, these are exceptional cases. Most Noritake china sells for much less, in the $50-500 range per piece depending on the factors described above. But these examples demonstrate the high ceiling for rare and pristine items.

Tips for Identifying and Valuing Your Noritake China

If you have Noritake pieces you think might be valuable, here are some tips to assess them:

  1. Check the backstamp first to get a rough idea of the production date and rarity. Compare it to reference guides online.

  2. Examine the condition carefully, making note of any damage or imperfections. Take clear, well-lit photos from all angles.

  3. Look for information on your specific pattern or design online, in collector‘s books, and in auction archives to gauge rarity and past sale prices.

  4. If you have a complete set, make a detailed inventory with measurements and photos.

  5. For a thorough valuation, consider having your pieces appraised by a professional who specializes in Noritake or Japanese porcelain. They can give you a detailed assessment and fair market price.

Helpful Resources

There are many great online and offline resources where you can learn more about Noritake china. Here are a few to explore:

  • Collector‘s Encyclopedia of Noritake by Joan Van Patten
  • The Official Guide to Noritake Collectibles by Bob Page
  • Noritake Collectors Guild & Museum in Nagoya, Japan
  • Replacements Ltd. (online retailer and research center for discontinued china)
  • Antique Noritake group on Facebook

Conclusion

Discovering you own valuable Noritake china is an exciting prospect. By understanding the history of the brand and key factors that influence price, you‘ll be well on your way to identifying any hidden treasures in your cupboards.

Remember, the most valuable Noritake pieces are very old, rare, and in excellent condition. Look for antique items from the early 1900s, unusual designs with elaborate hand-painted decoration, and complete sets.

With some careful research and expert input, you can uncover the true worth of your Noritake collection. Who knows – maybe you‘ll be the next lucky owner of a five-figure tea set! Even if your pieces are more sentimental than monetary in value, it‘s fascinating to learn the rich backstory of this time-honored porcelain brand.

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