Q: I was given the ceramic canister set seen in this photo almost 30 years ago. All 12 pieces are decorated with a geometric, blue design against a white background. Each container is marked "Made in Germany." Despite the age of the set, it is in mint condition.
What can you tell me about its age and value?
A: Your canister set was made in the early 1900s in Germany. Most similar sets were made from the 1920s to 1930s. Many of these sets were decorated with blue, geometric patterns, windmills or ships. They were made in Germany or Czechoslovakia and often without a maker's mark.
Your set would probably be worth $50 to $100.
Q: This mark is on the back of a porcelain plate that has two smaller, matching plates and was given to me by my cousin. The large plate is about 9 inches in diameter, and the two smaller ones are 7 inches in diameter; all are in very good condition. She told me they were a gift to our grandmother from a friend who purchased them when she traveled to Japan in the early 1900s. Each plate is decorated with a pheasant, cherry blossoms and branches against a dark blue background. The birds have green plumage and long tails.
We would like to know if they predate Mao Zedong and his communist revolution. Are they of any value, or are they just sentimental mementos?
A: "Nippon" is the Japanese word for Japan. This mark was used from 1891 to 1921. The McKinley Tariff Act of 1890 required objects to be marked with the country of origin. Green pheasants are the Japanese national bird. They can be recognized by their green plumage, blue-purple hood, red wattle and long, gray tail. Japanese cherry blossoms represent the beginning of spring and remind people to enjoy the present moment. Chairman Mao Zedong launched his cultural revolution in 1966 in China. He established his Red Guards — organized groups of urban youth whose goal was to search for those who didn't agree with Zedong. It was a time of anarchy and treachery. Intellectuals, traditionalists and educators were sought out, punished and often killed. The death of Zedong in 1976 brought the beginning of the downfall of his regime. The effect of the Chinese Cultural Revolution had a limited impact on the Japanese.
Your plates were made sometime between 1891 and 1921 — a long time before the terror of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Your set of porcelain plates would probably be worth $75 to $125.
Address your questions to Anne McCollam, P. O. Box 247, Notre Dame, IN 46556. Items of a general interest will be answered in this column. Due to the volume of inquiries, she cannot answer individual letters. To find out more about Anne McCollam and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.