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Antiques Considered - March 13, 2013

An Englishman bought this Imari charger many years ago, and brought it with him when he immigrated to America.  It is 30 inches in diameter, and is in perfect condition, with the colors remaining brilliant.  The back has some decoration, but no marking to indicate the maker.  He is thinking of selling it, and asks what its current value would be.

This charger is one of the finest I have seen.  As noted, the colors are intense, and the gold leaf decoration is not worn.  The charger dates from the mid-nineteenth century, and probably was made for domestic consumption.  After Admiral Perry opened Japan to trade with the West, namely America and Europe, in 1854 the Japanese began producing en masse to meet their foreign demand for their products.

The city of Imari was the porcelain center for Japan, the place where the country’s finest wares were manufactured.  In part the rise of Japan as a porcelain global producer was responsible for the 1891 international trade agreement that required products to bear the designation of country of origin.  As this charger is unmarked, we can be certain that it antedates the agreement, and from the design and color, does so by several decades.

As to value for possible sale, the right collectors would engage in quite a bidding war to get this piece.  At a good auction the winning bid might exceed $2,000.  Pieces of this quality are becoming increasingly difficult to find, and this is a superlative example in every respect.

A final word of caution, I recommend not using this for serving food for two reasons.  First, the glaze might contain lead, bits of which could be ingested thereby causing health problems.  Secondly, the piece has survived for 150 years in such pristine condition, that using it for foods could cause wear on the finish, especially on the gold leaf negatively affecting its value.

This is a piece of art to enjoy, but not to use for the Thanksgiving turkey.

Happy Antiquing!

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