Discover Vintage America - DECEMBER 2018

Noritake Company has long history creating dinnerware for the West

Q: I have a Noritake (Made in occupied Japan) dinner set for 12 missing a cup, saucer and one large bowl. Each place setting is six pieces and I have several serving pieces. It's all in excellent condition except a small chip on one cup. Can you please tell me a little about Noritake, the pattern name and what I can sell it for?

A: The Noritake of today grew out of a trading company that was originally established by the Morimura Brothers in New York in 1876. This trading company imported, from Japan for wholesale and retail, chinaware, curios, paper lanterns and other gift items. In 1904, the forerunner of the Noritake Company, Nippon Toki Kaisha Ltd, was established in the village of Noritake, a small suburb near Nagoya, Japan. The goal of this first factory was to create western style dinnerware for export. It took until 1914, however, to create the first porcelain dinnerware plate that were suitable for export.

The earliest dinnerware plates were mostly hand-painted, often with liberal applications of gold. By the early 1920s, Noritake introduced assembly line techniques, which allowed for mass production of high quality, yet affordable dinnerware. In the ensuing decades, Noritake continued to perfect its production capabilities and expand to markets worldwide.

Today, Noritake is an acknowledged leader in tableware manufacturing and marketing with subsidiaries, factories and affiliates around the world.

As the company went through changes so did the markings on the back. On your pieces we see the wreath encircling the letter M, for the Morimura, and "occupied Japan" was used from 1948 to 1952.

The McKinley Tariff Act of 1890, sponsored by William McKinley, then a Republican Senator from Ohio, increased the tariffs on manufactured goods imported to the U.S. with the average tariff being around 49 percent. This act also dictated that imported wares must be marked, in English, with the country of origin. In 1963 the company started to use its English name Noritake Company Ltd. to which the Japanese company also officially changed its name in 1981.

After World War II and during the Korean War, many Japanese companies mass-produced a wide variety of china patterns specifically to sell to U.S. servicemen at military PX stores. Because they were produced so quickly, many patterns didn't have names.

There is enough information about Noritake, the changes and the production to write a book; there are several good ones on the market.

I was able to verify through several sources that your pattern is referred to as 4786. It was made with different colored bands on the rims. The resale value of your set including the serving pieces is $300-$375. Selling complete sets, or near complete sets, is difficult as most people are looking to replace or fill in dinnerware that they already have. The best time to try to sell a set is around the holidays.

See y'all next year.

Note: All prices given are for sale in a private sale, antique shop or other resale outlet. Price is also dependent upon the geographic area in which you are selling. Auction value, selling to a dealer or pawnshop prices are about half or less of resale value.

Michelle Staley is a Lenexa, KS-based dealer and researcher with 35 years of experience in the antique trade. Send questions with photos to Michelle to Please keep queries to one question; questions without photos of the item may not be answered. Michelle is also available for consulting and extensive research work beyond this column. If you would like an appraisal on an antique or collectible please go to for a one-on-one appraisal.