History of Made in Japan Ceramics
1860s-1891 JAPONISME ERA
Before 1891 ,goods exporated to America did not have to be stamped with their country of origin in English. Japanese ceramics usually had no backstamps, or they had artists or their patrons names in Japanese characters.
NIPPON/HAND PAINTED NIPPON ERA
The McKinley Tariff, which took effect March 1,1891, required that all imported goods be stamped in English with their country of origin. At the time, "NIPPON" was considered to be an acceptable name for Japan, so most Japanese ceramics of this period were backstamped "NIPPON" or "HAND PAINTED NIPPON." often with a company logo as well. However, not all were stamped that way. There were still unmarked pieces, and pieces stamped "JAPAN" as well.
1921-1941 NORITAKE ART DECO ERA
Noritake Art Deco are the high end of Made in Japan ceramics. They were of better quality and most beautifully decorated. Noritake Art Deco pieces generally are priced higher than similar Made in Japan pieces.
1921-1941 EARLY MADE IN JAPAN ERA ("GOLDEN AGE")
The U.S. Customs Bureau ruled that "Nippon" was no longer an acceptable synonym for Japan. As of August 1, 1921 all goods were supposed to be backstamped "Japan" Technically, the Made in Japan Era began when the Nippon era ended in 1921, but it really was not that precise. At some point the US Customs Bureau may have required that the words," MADE IN" be added to the backstamps, but this was not always done. Unmarked pieces sometimes slipped through Customs, but most of the ceramics from 1921 to 1941 are marked either "JAPAN" or "MADE IN JAPAN" . Sometimes all pieces in a set are not backstamped. The profit margin on ceramics was slim, and a factory could save a little labor cost by not marking every piece in a set. If pieces in a set have different backstamps, it is because there often was not room for “MADE IN JAPAN" or a company logo, so they just used "Japan" on some of the smaller pieces.
1947-1952 OCCUPIED JAPAN/MADE IN OCCUPIED JAPAN ERA
The US occupied Japan from Sept. 2,1945, until April 28, 1952. The Occupied Japan backstamp Era truly began August 15, 1947 when the first shipment of Occupied Japan ceramics arrived in America. The US Customs Bureau decreed in 1949 that Japanese goods could be marked "OCCUPIED JAPAN". "MADE IN OCCUPIED JAPAN","JAPAN" or "MADE IN JAPAN". Again, some were not marked at all.
1952-TODAY- POST-WAR MADE IN JAPAN ERA
When the Occupation ended in 1952, marks no longer contained the work "Occupied" so pieces were again marked only with "Japan" or "Made in Japan". This is when the paper label era really began. Prior to WWII, paper labels were flimsy and the glue was often not strong, so the Customs Bureau usually made importers replace the labels with indelible ink backstamps. In the 1950s, technology improved and paper labels were allowed. The two most common types of labels seem to be small oval or rectangular blue or black paper with white letters or two -color metallic, such as black or red with gold or silver lettering.
FROM COLLECTOR'S GUIDE TO MADE IN JAPAN BY CAROLE BESS WHITE.