Christie’s, London, August 2011, Sale 7088, lot 437, Japanese Silver Bowl
Price realized $2,646.00 (Two thousand six hundred forty six dollars)

Notes From An Appraiser July 2016

This month I received an inquiry from a sansei, (third generation American-Japanese) to help value and discuss places to sell much of the Japanese property that had been in storage for years. Her children, in late 40’s, did not want any of these things, most passed down to her from her parents. We agreed to work together, she would make an office appointment and bring the property to me, and I asked her to send me photos first.

After reviewing the twenty plus photos, I asked her to bring the silver for me to inspect. Included in the photos were large Imari porcelain platters, porcelain dolls, bronze urns and cloisonné vases. All property I have seen frequently over the last 35 years and that is at the bottom of the market regarding value. Suggesting places to sell this material has been something I do almost weekly. Japanese 19th & 20th century silver on the other hand, I see occasionally, and there is a market, both in stores and auction.

The client had polished all of the silver before bringing it for inspection, so the group of more than thirty pieces sparkled on my table. I had seen a few Japanese silver tea sets during March at Asia Week NY. I researched “Japanese silver” and found information regarding the marks, the styles, and the important makers. Then I needed to research the different market layers, from auction to dealer. The quality of the 19th C silver tea set, for making powdered green tea, suggested the top of the market. It was stamped on bottom of each piece but I was unfamiliar with the mark. The Western tea service in style was so very simple, had to look on bottom to know it was Japanese, but it had tongs to go with sugar bowl and no tray. The quality was pristine, but nothing jumped out and said “different”.

I gave the client information on a place to put all the Japanese lacquer, porcelain, dolls and more on consignment. The quality of the 19th C silver tea set demanded a retail dealer that is known for unusual antique Asian items, specifically Japanese silver. There were two dealers I remembered seeing exhibit over the years in New York during Asia Week. They had the top quality with solid retail prices, in the mid four figures for six pieces for a tea set.

At the end of the hour, the client left with good ideas of where to sell mid-level Japanese property as well as the high-end silver tea set. Now I’ve seen over 150 examples of Japanese silver and have a good idea of the appropriate market to send a client. I even know where to sell an antique sterling silver Japanese ‘pusher’. The material I learn!