If you have visited our Nippon back stamps post, you may have noticed all of the questions we get about authenticating Nippon. We’ve gathered some information for you that we hope will help you tell the difference between fake/reproduction Nippon and the real thing. Because there is a large amount of info, we’re breaking it down into a few important points. Click below to expand the page, as it is picture heavy & lengthy.
FAKE BACK STAMPS
The fake Nippon stamp we see the most often is the “hourglass in upside down wreath”, as shown below. Morimura Bros. (the owner of the “M in wreath” mark), never used an hourglass, and there are no upside down wreaths on any of the known 350+ Nippon marks.
(Thanks to T. for this pic! To see the authentic “M in Wreath” mark, click here.)
Aside from the mark above, there are other fake “M in wreath” marks. You can usually tell the difference because they are crudely reproduced – missing the stem at the bottom part of the wreath on authentic marks, a fancy “K” in place of the “M” with the same upside down wreath as above, and obvious “blurry” or “smudged” marks. They have gotten better at faking the M in wreath, as you can see from the fake mark below (from the reproduction rolling pin shown further down the post):
It’s a very good copy – but you can see the M is not centered correctly, the wreath is not symmetrical, ‘Hand Painted’ is not written correctly/is too large, and the dropped P’s in Nippon do not look right.
Another fake mark that is relatively easy to spot is the popular “Maple Leaf” mark. If the mark you see is 1/2″ in height, it is fake. The fake maple leaf is poorly drawn as well. Real Maple Leaf marks are 1/4″ in height, and the tips of the Maple Leafs are sharp. We do not have a picture of the fake mark, but you can see the real mark here.
Other known fake marks include a fake Rising Sun mark (see the real one here): They feature poorly drawn suns, not enough ‘spokes’ on the sun, missing the ‘Hand Painted’ writing above, ect. There is also a fake RC Nippon mark (see the real one here), this is easier to spot since Nippon is written in a curve (it should be straight), and the entire mark is green, when it should be red & green as shown in the authentic link above.
There are other fake marks, but there are just too many to list here. We highly suggest purchasing one of Joan Van Patten’s books for all illustrations and more information.
QUALITY OF FAKE NIPPON VS. REAL NIPPON
This can be a little confusing at first, but once you have handled a good amount of Nippon, you can easily tell the difference in weight between the real thing & fakes. Nippon porcelain was very transparent and of good quality, thick enough for durability but not ‘clunky’. A good way to check for the fakes/reproductions is to hold it up to a bright light & look through it. Nippon should be pretty transparent. Most of the newer fakes you cannot see through, and they are too thick, but the ‘fakers’ have gotten better at that, too. Also, look for proper glaze finishing – fake vases often show signs glaze not going all the way down inside the vase, unevenness, and many glaze pops. Most fakes are not hand painted, as most Nippon wear was. You can also tell the difference in the gold gilding – authentic Nippon gold has a very light bronze tinge to it & is worn down from age, fake & reproduction Nippon is too bright, yellowy gold and tends to look new/shiny, with no wear from age.
FAKES, “FANTASY” & REPRODUCTION NIPPON
There are three types of Nippon that are not authentic: outright fakes, “fantasy” pieces, and reproductions. Fakes are pieces that are not in the usual, known shapes of Nippon or have patterns/designs that were never in production. Here is a great example of a fake, it is a basket vase in a pattern that never existed. Note the poor finishing on the inside of the vase, and the unevenness at the bottom:
Here’s another great example of a fake, this vase would certainly fool the inexperienced Nippon hunter since it does “look” like Nippon. It is unmarked on the bottom. (Thanks to C. for letting us share these pics.) We’ve seen this same pattern in a bowl, candlesticks, ferner, hatpin holders, a wall pocket, and coffee/tea pot:
Reproduction items are duplicates of a mold or exact pattern of a known Nippon piece. Here is a super example of a reproduction – this 2pc tea strainer set is in a much copied wildflower, green mist pattern (Thanks to T. for this pic!):
Here’s another reproduction, a rolling pin with a Japanese/Geisha girl motif. You can’t see it clearly in the pics, but the pin has a curve in the middle – another hint that this is not the ‘real deal’.
Nippon did make rolling pins, mostly as premiums for companies in the USA & Canada, such as this lovely 1 of 500 produced authentic Ogilvie Flour rolling pin offered for sale on eBay by seller setonyou. These are very difficult to find, so take extra care to verify it’s authenticity if you see one for sale.
“Fantasy” pieces are items that were never manufactured in the Nippon era, such as kerosene lamps, oyster dishes, and wine coolers. We also see a lot of the “Victorian” figural shoes on eBay, these are fake. Nippon did make a figural shoe, but it was not in the shape of a ‘granny boot’, it looks more like a Dutch shoe:
We hope this post will help you determine the differences between real and fake Nippon. As always, we’re happy to answer any questions you may have, just leave a comment below.