Captivating & Valuable Vintage Noritake China

Learn how to identify Noritake china, plus where to shop for the best deals (and how to sell yours).

Updated June 7, 2024
Noritake coffee service - circa 1920

Noritake is a china collector's dream, with thousands of colorful, hand-painted patterns and ceramic designs appearing on everything from pin trays to dinner plates and vases to teapots. We're in love with vintage Noritake china for its variation and beauty, but some Noritake pieces are valuable, too.

This fine china brand could be the perfect choice for anyone seeking an elegant collectible (or just a fun or funky set of china or a lovely figurine). Noritake has a fascinating history, too, and there's a reason it's an icon of the 20th century and beyond.

Quick History of Noritake China

Vintage Noritake Chocolate Pot sitting on bench outside

In 1876, Japanese businessman Ichizaemon Morimura and his brother Toyo opened the Morimura Brothers shop in New York City to sell Asian antiques and decorative arts in the U.S. and bring American money into Japan through export trade. The shop was successful, but the brothers continued to look for new products for American customers. They knew that china and porcelain were used in every home for dining, washing up, or displaying the family's good taste with decorative pieces, but European factories had production locked up.

Need to Know

Wondering about the difference between Noritake china and porcelain? There really isn't one in this case. The words "china" and "porcelain" are often used interchangeably and refer to a white, translucent ceramic. Which one you choose depends on where you live, with "china" being common in the United States and "porcelain" being used more often in the United Kingdom.

In 1889, Ichizaemon visited the Paris World Exposition and, seeing fine French porcelain, was inspired to create porcelain for the U.S. market by opening a factory in Japan, his home country. The Morimura brothers hired experts to learn porcelain manufacture, and by 1904, they had built a ceramics factory in Noritake, Takaba-village, Aichi, Japan. This allowed the company to control the quality of its goods and designs and ensured that the patterns appealed to U.S. buyers.

The ceramics were hand-painted and gilded by individual artists, and Noritake instituted production line painting and decoration to satisfy future demand. It took nearly 10 years for the company to develop its fine china, but the result continues to enchant collectors today, and the company still thrives.

How to Identify Vintage Noritake China

Noritake china is often referred to as antique, vintage, or collectible, but this terminology can confuse a new collector. So can the backstamps. Don't stress if you're unsure how to spot a vintage piece or don't know how to read the backstamps.

Vintage Noritake China Mark or Stamp Approximate Year of Production
"Hand Painted Nippon" and maple leaf 1891
"Royal Sometuke Nippon" and stylized bat 1906
Maruki symbol of a tree or spears in a circle 1908
M in a wreath 1911
"Noritake" and "Nippon" 1921 and before
"Japan" and "Made in Japan" 1921 until World War II
"Occupied Japan" or "Made in Occupied Japan" 1948 to 1953
M with an N inside a wreath 1953 to present

Check the Backstamp

Noritake used many backstamps or marks over the last century and identifying them helps determine the age of a piece. When it comes to Noritake china, Japan's history plays a major role in how the pieces were marked. These are some of the most recognizable stamps.

  • The earliest pieces issued by the Morimura company date to around 1891 and used a backstamp with "Hand Painted Nippon" and a maple leaf. (Before they built their own factory for producing porcelain, the Morimuras purchased ceramic blanks from other manufacturers and had those decorated by artists. So, the porcelain was painted for, but not made by, the Noritake firm.)
  • A slightly later (1906), an unusual example was in the stylized shape of a bat (which meant good luck) and had "Royal Sometuke Nippon" stamped on the china.
  • A 1908 mark is called the "Maruki" symbol, which represents overcoming difficulty. The symbol includes a tree, which was later changed to spears (for breaking through obstacles), and a circle for peaceful settlement of problems.
  • By 1911, the "M in wreath" mark appeared, representing the family name Morimura. According to the book Early Noritake by Aimee Neff Alden, the stamp may be found in green, blue, gold, and magenta colors. This is one of the most commonly found marks on antique Noritake.
  • Other marks include the word Noritake, a picture of a factory, and the M in wreath. The words "Hand Painted" and "Nippon" also appear. "Nippon" is an older word for Japan, but in 1921, import regulations required that only "Japan" be used, so a rule of thumb is that china marked "Nippon" was made before 1921.
  • From 1921 until World War II, Noritake pieces were stamped with "Japan" or "Made in Japan."
  • China manufactured between 1948 and 1953 was stamped with "Occupied Japan" or "Made in Occupied Japan" underneath the backstamp. The Noritake company was concerned that the quality of their work was not up to the highest standards because good materials were scarce, so they sometimes used a "Rose China" mark instead.
  • After 1953, the company brought back the original trademark but replaced the "M" with "N" inside the wreath.

The Noritake Collectors Guild has one of the most extensive listings of backstamps online, including many modern marks. Spend some time there and become familiar with how the stamps changed through the decades, which will help you when you purchase Noritake pieces.

Decide if the Piece Is Vintage

Whether a piece of Noritake is vintage or antique comes down to just how old it actually is. Based on the U.S. Customs definition, antiques must be at least 100 years old, so the earliest Noritake pieces are antiques. "Collectible" can be used to mean pieces under 100 years old, and much of Noritake falls under that definition.

Finally, since Noritake still produces dinnerware and other items, the products can also be considered new, contemporary, or vintage and retro (roughly 25 years for vintage and under up to 50 years for retro): just remember that these are informal terms with no official definition. Different dealers may use the terms interchangeably.

Where to Find Noritake Pieces

1911 - 1920's Signed Nippon Kewpie Babies Plate at Rubylane Fine Finds

Since its founding, the Noritake company has produced millions of pieces of china and porcelain, so collectors can find items for a few dollars or a few thousand dollars. Local antique shops generally have pieces in stock, but if you want to go beyond your neighborhood, try these resources.

China Replacement Services

If you've bought a replacement piece for a china set, you might have used one of these services, including Hoffman's or Replacements. They stock thousands of Noritake pieces, from antique to modern. Replacements has a free alert service and pattern identification service.

Outdoor Markets

If you love looking at antiques and being outside, this is a great bet. Markets take time and effort to explore and spot the treasures, but those may include Noritake china.

One of the largest and best-known markets is in Brimfield, MA. It's a huge antique and collectible show held several times a year in the fields along Rt. 20 outside of Brimfield, Massachusetts, and it can attract up to 5,000 dealers. You can also find extensive markets for day, weekend, or weeklong visits across the US, from New York City to Long Beach, CA. An excellent guide to big markets can be found at Flea Market Insiders, with detailed information about dates, times, and places.

Antique Malls and Shops

Malls and shops frequently stock Noritake, so get ready to browse. One of the largest in the U.S. is the Heart of Ohio Antique Center, with 500 dealers. Another in Verona, VA, claims to be the largest antique mall in square footage, so you'll be certain to find Noritake pieces there.

Online Antique Malls

Online malls are constantly changing their stock and represent sellers around the world. Try Tias (a recent search turned up more than 2,000 listings for Noritake) or Ruby Lane.

Where to Sell Your Vintage Noritake

Collectors often learn this the hard way: it can be more difficult to sell than to buy. It all depends on demand. If a Noritake piece is unusual, rare, in excellent condition, and a sought-after pattern, then a sale may be simple to arrange. If you have six Tree in the Meadow pattern plates (somewhat common), you may need more time to sell, especially if you require a certain price for them.

Quick Tip

Is your Noritake china worth anything? It depends on the condition, rarity, and whether it's one of the most valuable Noritake patterns. Some can sell for more than $500 per place setting.

If you're planning to sell your Noritake, consider the following resources.

  • Noritake collector groups sponsor conventions and other gatherings that attract dedicated china buyers and sellers. Check out the Nippon Collectors Club.
  • Online auctions (like eBay) require effort to make a sale, including photography, packing, and shipping. You can set a "buy now" price so that the viewer has the option of purchasing outright or participating in the auction. Searches can reveal hundreds of offerings from a dollar and up. Check the Sold listings to see what items comparable to yours sold for.
  • The buying service from Replacements is easy to use, but you might not get top dollar for your pieces.
  • Local classified lists, like Craigslist, are free and allow you to target a selling area.

Where to See Noritake Collectibles

Noritake Tree In The Meadow Salt and Pepper Shakers

The best way to learn about Noritake is to see it. If you're planning a trip, consider a detour and stop where you can experience Noritake in all its glory, up close. If you can't get away anytime soon, there are also some outstanding online "museums" that let you examine rare and unusual Noritake items.

  • Start in the country where it all began: the Noritake Garden and Museum is located in Nagoya, Japan. Visitors there can learn about China's history and see rare pieces of dinnerware from 1904 to the present.
  • Collector and historian Yoshie Itani's website contains extensive information and examples about the history and artistry of Noritake China. (You can translate the site through Google.)
  • Galerie Sonorite displays rare and unusual Noritake for sale (but only if you're willing to pick it up in Japan). The photos are worth the time and effort to navigate the site, and they can be translated through Google.

Related: Value of Wedgewood China & How to Identify & Preserve It

Famous Noritake China Designs

Noritake is still affordable for a new collector. Pieces can include ashtrays, biscuit jars, dinnerware, novelties, bells, jam jars, spoon holders, and a whole bunch of other things. No one is completely certain how many patterns were made by the company, but there are a few significant patterns that attract collectors and are instantly identifiable as Noritake.

  • Lusterware is an ancient technique of decoration. It's achieved by adding a metallic oxide over a base color: when fired, the glaze looks iridescent. Lusterware can be found in blue, gold, white, and other colors. Noritake lusterware is often orange (sometimes called peach) and blue, with hand-painted additions. Prices range from a few dollars to over a hundred, depending on the item's rarity.
  • Tree in Meadow (sometimes called House by the Lake) was originally named "Scenic" (according to the collecting guide Noritake: Jewel of the Orient). It was produced in the 1920s and hand-painted. You can find it in plates, bowls, waffle sets (pitcher and sugar shaker), jam jars, and many other items. Expect to pay under $20 for small pieces, but rare items like a candy jar can list at $250 or more.
  • Azalea was advertised as Noritake's most popular pattern, and it remains so. The white, pink, and gold flowers appeared on everything from teapots to children's china table sets to cream soup sets. Azalea was sold through the Larkin Company catalog beginning in 1915, and this partnership between Noritake and Larkin resulted in Noritake's name and products reaching millions of homes. Pieces range in value from $6 for a saucer to $1,500+ for a child's tea set, as listed in WorthPoint.
  • Pattern 175, or Gold and White, was produced for nearly 90 years, from circa 1906 to 1991 or 92. The raised gold tracery was a rich-looking but affordable design for the middle-class home. The design is sometimes referred to as "Christmas Ball," although other Noritake designs have been called that as well. Expect to pay $8 for a saucer and up to several hundred dollars for very rare pieces.

Related: 10 Valuable Antique China Patterns and How to Spot Them

Research the Company

Noritake has had a complex history, with many backstamps, thousands of designs, and unidentified or forgotten patterns rediscovered every year. Keeping up with this information can feel overwhelming, but there are a ton of excellent online and in-print resources for learning about Noritake china. These are some of our faves.

  • is a superb source of information about Japanese ceramics. Their website has a section about Noritake's history, backstamps, and products.
  • The National Heritage Museum of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library has an excellent web page about Noritake, along with rare examples from the museum's collection.
  • The translation is a bit difficult to follow, but has fascinating information about the Noritake company's early years.
  • For a detailed timeline of Noritake and its products, Chinafinders is an excellent source. They also locate pieces for collectors.
  • The Noritake Collectors Guild has history and resources listed on their website (including a way to generate a catalog of your collection).

Treasured Ceramic Art and Dinnerware

Noritake porcelain remains one of the most enjoyable things to collect, whether you're a new or advanced collector. There's always something gorgeous to dazzle or intrigue, so take some time to learn about this company and its contributions to the decorative and utilitarian ceramic arts people still enjoy and treasure. Then, get down to your local flea market or antique store and start browsing. We promise you'll fall in love.

Captivating & Valuable Vintage Noritake China