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Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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Japanese, Tosa School, 19th century, scattered fans, six-fold screen sold for $12,650. Photo courtesy of Weschler's
The story goes that in 1854 an American printer discovered Japanese wood-block prints for the first time. The man had been given some used as packing in a shipment of Japanese porcelain.

Degas, Manet and Whistler were early collectors of wood-block prints and their works mirror this subtle Oriental charm.

In the 1300’s, Marco Polo praised the translucent, pure-white porcelain he had seen in Cathay, China, saying it was like nothing ever created in Europe. Europe would later uncover the secrets of making fine porcelain, but many collectors still prefer Chinese patterns like Canton and Rose Medallion.

Blue was used as an underglaze for porcelain in China for centuries before Western potters figured out how to copy it in the 1700s. Sotheby’s, New York reports a strong interest in blue and white antique porcelain.

Threads of Oriental influence runs through the fabric of American and European art forms and the attraction for collectors is intense.

For centuries the Chinese used ivory in art works because of its oily nature. It made the ivory ideal for intricate carvings and gave the carvings a soft sheen. Today groupings of Roman battle scenes, ancient gods, and dragons carved from ivory command high prices at auction.

London was the world capital of Oriental art for many years. With the skill of a detective and the eye of a surgeon, collectors perused the West End’s art district sorting through Japanese porcelain and Chinese cloisonné vases.

The recession of the 1990s cut a hole in the market and shops closed. Yet, dealers like the Oriental Art Gallery in London have opened to keep the tradition going.

The auctions dedicated to Oriental works of art in this country as well as around the world illustrate the popularity of Orientalia. Nearly 300 lots of Chinese and Japanese art were offered at Weschler’s auction gallery in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 4, 1994.

A Japanese cloisonné enamel and gilt bronze “Tortoise” clock from the Meiji period expecting to sell for $1,000-$1,500, sold for $2,800. The bronze head of Buddha dating from the 17th or18th century, standing 32inches high, and mounted on wood brought $2,300. A Japanese black painted wrought iron mounted and polychrome wood Tansu (dresser) hammered down at $650.

Orientalia Journal, a bimonthly newsletter about all types of Chinese and Japanese art including pottery, porcelain, wood, paintings, and prints is a good resource in this arena. Their address is Box 94, Little Neck, N.Y. 11363.

Q. I have a blue Volkswagen toy car from the early-‘50’s. It runs on 2D batteries and has a man sitting in the driver’s seat behind the wheel. It measures about 11inches long, comes from Japan, and is in good condition. Any sign of value? Thomas Zolkiewicz, Pittsburgh.

A. Toy cars and other transportation vehicles are one of the hottest areas in the toy collectibles market. Ever since the first Model T was introduced on the road at the turn-of-the-century, Americans have been off and running with toy replicas.

The craftsmanship seen in many early-20th century tinplate and clockwork type autos by makers like Lehmann and Carette speaks of a real commitment to quality. The scale, attention to detail, lithography and solidness of these early toy autos is something to behold-a real art form.

One of the biggest attractions to collectors is diversity. You name the car and you can find it somewhere as a toy. The whole history of automobile development is open to collectors. Owning them all would be a monumental project to start and hope to complete.

If you grew up during the ‘50’s and ‘60’s those tin scale model autos you had stashed under the porch and in the backyard are what collectors are on the hunt for right now.
Made in Japan, US, Germany and England, these replicas are still fairly easy to find and not always out of your price range.

Condition is important. The more worn they are, the less valuable they’ll be. Your Volkswagen is worth about $60-$100, based on condition.

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