Q: I would like to know the order of marks on items made in Japan. Which is oldest, “Nippon,” “Made in Occupied Japan,” “Made in Japan” or just “Japan”? Does it make a difference if the mark is red, green, black or another color?
A: Most pieces marked with the name of a country were made after 1891, when the McKinley Tariff Act was passed. Pieces from Japan were marked “Nippon,” the transliteration of the Japanese word for Japan. After 1915 the words “Made in…” were usually added. Beginning in 1921, U.S. Customs required country names to be in English, and the word “Japan” was used instead of “Nippon.” Items marked “Made in Occupied Japan” were made between February 1947 and April 1952. After that, just the word “Japan” was used again. According to experts on 19th- and 20th-century Japanese ceramics, the color does not help date a mark. Red, green and black were used most years. There is no explanation for when other colors were used.