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Ask A Worthologist Question: Art Nouveau-Style Chocolate Service Set

by Mike Wilcox (10/24/11).

WorthPoint member Denise wants to know about this “coffee set” she inherited from her great-great-aunt. The Art Nouveau style does not go with her black and white minimalist/Zen décor and wants to know if it would be safe to give it to Goodwill without losing a valuable antique.

WorthPoint member Denise A. has what she was told is a coffee set that dates from the late 1800s, the former property of a relative who traveled extensively during the 1920s and collected things from all over the world. While Denise likes the look of the set, it really does not go with anything in her Designer Minimalist “Black and White” apartment and has spent the last five y

The “Nippon” mark that complied with American trade tariff known as the McKinley Act that required “country of origin” markings for anything imported into the United States.

ears forgotten in a kitchen cabinet along with other pieces still boxed from at least three moves ago. Other than what she was told when she inherited it about 10 years ago, she knows nothing about it. She would like to know if the set is worth anything or should she just donate it the local Goodwill store. Denise contacted WorthPoint’s “Ask a Worthologist” service to inquire about this piece, its origins and value. Her inquiry was forwarded to me. Here’s her question:

“I inherited this coffee set about 10 years ago from a relative, a great-great aunt I’d never met on my mother side. My mother said all she knew was that my great aunt spent most of the 1920s traveling all over the world and that her old home had been crammed full of stuff and nobody recalled exactly where it came from. The set is very pretty, with the pot and four cups/saucers, but really just does not go well with my modern apartment, as much of it is decorated in a Black and White Minimalist/Zen decor. Since I redecorated about five years ago it’s been gathering dust in the top kitchen cabinet along with boxes of things I’ve not even unpacked from my last three moves. Most of this stuff I’m determined to get rid of, either by selling it if it’s worth something, or giving it away to Goodwill. This set was at the front of the cabinet and will

the first thing to go. What I need to know is whether it is worth a substantial amount of money or can I just donate it to charity without any worries about giving away something quite valuable. The set has a stamp on the bottom that says “Nippon,” and “hand painted,” everything is in very good shape with no wear to the gilding or any cracks or chips”

Here’s my response:

From what I can see in the images this is not a “coffee set,” rather it is actually a pretty typical turn-of-the-20th-century chocolate set, meant for serving hot cocoa. Sets like this were made between 1890 and 1915 and are generally in the Art Nouveau style, also popular during this same period. The marking on it of course is a version used by the famous Japanese porcelain company Noritake* (circa 1911-1921).

During the period, these pieces were popular and nearly all potteries were marking their wares with “Country of Origin” markings, such as “Germany,” “France,” “Austria” or “Bavaria” to comply with the American trade tariff known as the McKinley Act. This trade law prohibited any importation of items into the United States that were not marked to indicate a country of origin. The U.S. was the largest growing market during the late 1800s, so most overseas manufacturers were very quick to fall in line and apply such markings.

The word “Nippon” used on the mark is the Japanese word for “Japan,” and was used until about 1921/22, at which point the word Nippon was changed to Japan.

Values for these sets depend a great deal on the maker, the quality of the decoration and the pieces current condition. Today comparable Noritake Chocolate sets like yours often sell at Auction in the $200-$250 range.

* Noritake’s roots date back to 1876 when Baron Ichizaemon Morimura IV formed the trading company “Morimura Kumi” with offices in New York and Tokyo, with the main business being exporting Japanese gift ware and china to Europe and the U.S. The company began production of its own line of china after 1904, the first exports to the U.S. occurring about 1910.

Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.

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