In 1945, during the final year of WWII, Allied soldiers occupied Japan. However, their purpose was not to battle, it was to dismantle the Japanese military, democratize the country, and spread their will, to say so. War affected the country’s economy so badly that poverty spread fast like sunlight.
People were sad, hungry, and depressed, cities were gloomy, factories were down and it seemed like an apocalypse. At the same time, allied powers thrived and controlled everything from the economy to the government. Many manufacturers started exporting goods to the United States. This is how we get our valuable marks – “Occupied Japan” or “Made in Occupied Japan“.
In most cases, Japanese people crafted porcelain kitchenware, dinnerware, decorative figurines, and other household items. These items were brought home by US soldiers as souvenirs. The world was rising up from a war that killed millions, yet small colorful items like porcelain figurines could just for a minute make a place look more joyful.
Many of the figurines were manufactured cheaply, however, they were crafted so skillfully that today these items are very valuable. During the seven-year-long occupation, many porcelain figurines were labeled with “Made in Occupied Japan” and sold.
In this article, we want to reminisce about all the hard work people invested in raising their economy from the ashes. Let’s check how they stand in today’s market. Here is the list of the most valuable Occupied Japan figurines!
If You Are In A Hurry Check This Out
The market is always changing, some prices go up and some go down. Also, with time more items appear, some of them we didn’t have the chance to see before and some are old classics that we love.
So if you don’t have the time to scroll down to our guide and read a complete review, here you can find a short list of the most sought-after occupied Japan figurines worth investing in.
- Pair of “Made in Occupied Japan” Pixies/Elves – $32
- Vintage Occupied Japan Victorian Couple Figurine – $50
- Vintage Set of 3 Frog Figurines Occupied Japan – $151
What Makes Occupied Japanese Figurines So Valuable And Special To Collectors?
Everything that is linked to WWI and WWII has significant value and a large group of people that collects them. When it comes to the items that originated from the era of occupation of Japan the value is more linked to historical and sentimental factors, rather than the actual value of the item.
These figurines are made from porcelain, and no other valuable or premium material was used so they don’t have any “melt” value. However, collectors are crazy about them since they are all so unique and authentic. They all are similar yet so different at the same time since each maker has its own style.
Types Of Different Occupied Japanese Collectibles
The most commonly found and collectible occupied Japanese items are decorative figurines, plates, cups, and saucers. Additionally, you can also find miniature ashtrays, vases, lamps, souvenirs, and tea sets.
These items in fact mimicked European and American specimens and were inspired by work of reproductions of Hummel, Meissen, Royal Doulton, and Victorian-era figurines. However, these Japanese figurines are made of high-quality materials. Their popularity exploded in the late 1960s.
Many other collectible items from the occupied Japan era are popular like dolls, toys, lighters, and other metal household items.
Price Guide For Most Valuable Occupied Japan Figurines
Collecting war-time items is a major hobby among history enthusiasts and collectors. People are still fascinated by WWI and WWII no matter how bad these events were. They had a major historical impact globally so collecting anything that represents these periods is a smart investment.
We are still not too far, in terms of years, from these events. It had been only 109 years from the beginning of WWI, and 84 years from WWII. Items that are dated from these times are currently extremely valuable, now imagine how their price will grow in the following years.
Here is the list of the most valuable occupied Japan figurines we recommend you invest in now.
1. Four Hakone Bisque Occupied Japan Figurines
- Years: 1950
- Price: $850
Here we have four bisque hand-painted Japanese Hakone figurines also known as “Hakata Dolls” or Suyaki Ningyu. Hakone is a town close to Mt. Fuji from where these figurines originate. These dolls first appeared in Japan in the 17th century and their purpose was to serve as offerings to Buddhist temples.
Since they are very rare and unique their popularity remained popular through World War II. Even nowadays, they are sought-after among collectors. This particular set is made from unglazed porcelain and hand-painted with muted colors. You’ll notice exceptional attention to detail which makes this set very valuable.
2. Figural Lamp with Seated Couple Occupied Japan Porcelain
- Years: 1945-1951
- Price: $475
A lot of occupied Japanese collectibles are figurines that can be put into use like candlesticks, vases, lamps, or boxes. This figural lamp features a Victorian seated couple in elegant costumes. The lady is sitting on the couch while a man stands beside her.
The lamp is massive in both weight and size. It is 13 inches tall and 9 inches wide. The great thing is that it still works since it was cleaned and rewired so if you want to enhance your living space with a unique vintage handmade lamp this is your cue.
3. Lady Head Occupied Japan Figurine
- Year: 1940s
- Price: $388
This figurine is one of the many similar figurines from the Glamour Girls collection of Occupied Japan figurines. These were very popular and mass-produced. It is believed that this collection was made to spread joy among both poor and rich people who were ravaged by war and atomic bomb detonation.
A figurine portrays a lady, and each different type has a different hairstyle and a different style of kimono dress. Several manufacturers made these figurines, yet the most sought-after are the ones that originate from Satsuma.
All of them are handcrafted with utmost care and handpainted. If you take a better look you’ll notice that the amount of detail on the figurine is amazing, which explains the high price tag.
4. Vintage Porcelain Fancy Lady and GE Occupied Japan Figurines
- Year: 1945-1952
- Price: $300
This is a figurine presenting two people, a lady, and a man. They are standing on a heavy porcelain base that prevents them from tipping over. Considering that the Occupied Japanese figurines were made from heavy and dense porcelain, molding a base was a common practice by figurine makers.
It seems that the origin of the pair is from Europe since they are dressed as Europeans, to be more precise English. We don’t know the story behind it, but we can guess that a man is courtesying a woman who is facing away from him and smiling. Both figurines are 9 inches tall.
5. Colonial Couple Occupied Japan Figurine
- Year: 1945-1952
- Price: $265
You can tell what era a figurine or any kind of artwork represents by looking at the clothes that people on them are wearing. This colonial couple was made in occupied Japan sometime between 1945 and 1952, you can see the occupied Japan marking on the bottom of the figurine.
In most cases, these Japanese figurines don’t come with a backstory. However, their wardrobe looks like it’s European. What makes this figurine special and valuable is its excellent craftsmanship. You can see how all the details are carefully handpainted.
There are a few different variations of the colonial couple figure, on this particular one we can see a man who is whispering to a woman’s ear or caressing her hair. This figurine is 6.5 inches tall.
6. Hand Painted Kitty Occupied Japan Figurine
- Year: 1946
- PRICE: $199
A Kitty Cat is in fact a porcelain vase made in occupied Japan. As you can see it is crafted so carefully and in detail that it really looks lifelike. Standing in a perpetual strut, it stares at you with the mouth position like it will meow any moment. On her back, a bouquet of bubbles and flowers is placed making this act look weirdly cuddly.
Her face is white while her body is a powdery black body. All the flowers that are included are made from Swarovski crystals and filigree settings. The cat is 5 inches high and 6.5 inches long from tip to tail.
7. Charlotte Lustred Full Girl Occupied Japan Figurine
- Year: 1940s
- Price: $181
Besides animal figurines, especially cats, the most popular post-war ceramics were toys and trinkets. However, most of them had a functional purpose. Some of the most valuable Occupied Japan figurines are vases, lamps, or candlestick holders.
This particular figurine named Charlotte is a 7 inches tall full-body vase in the shape of a girl in a pretty white dress decorated with pink flowers. She also wears a white hat with pink flowers. In her hand, she holds a bouquet of 50 artificial flowers all made from beads, rhinestones, and crystals. Everything you see is crafted and painted by hand.
8. Vintage Dancing Woman Occupied Japan Figurine
- Years: 1930s
- Price: $160
Did you know that in occupied Japan many figurines were made at home? Considering the war situation, a cottage industry was born and advanced quickly. This means that the quality of the product mainly depended on how skillful the artist was. Also, the quality of resources he had in his house affected the quality. That is the main reason why some figurines from the same year look great while others look kind of scary and bad.
At first glance at this white dancing girl figurine, you can conclude that this manufacturer was highly skillful. Most collectors describe this piece as Art Nouveau or Art Deco. What makes it special is the fact that most figurines from this time were colorful. However, the sculptor in this case paid a lot more attention to making the drape of the dress and the curve of her body look flawless. It really does look like she dances.
9. Vintage 11 Victorian Dancing Occupied Japan Figurines
- Year: 1945-1952
- Price: $150
What’s better than one figurine? Well, an army of occupied Japan figurines. There are numerous figurines that are made in sets but you can buy them on the market as a single piece. However, that is not a crime right, you can dislike the rest and still get the one you want.
But, if you are looking at it from an investment perspective, you can combine them into a set by buying pieces that have similar features. This set is exactly that – 11 different figurines combined in a valuable set.
These pieces are all the same size, same in color and texture, and portray Victorina people dancing. The craftsmanship isn’t the highest quality, but they are still looking good. Some of the figurines pose as couples on the same base, while one figurine poses with a dog.
10. Vintage Victorian Couple Bisque Porcelain Occupied Japan Figurines
- Year: 1945
- Price: $125
Everything looks better in pairs, even the legendary porcelain occupied Japanese figurines. Also, don’t forget that figurines in pairs or larger sets sell better. This set is made of Victorian men and women. Both are 10 inches tall and wearing highly detailed outfits.
What makes these Bisque figurines different from others is their laidback poses and we can’t even figure out what exactly are they doing. However, they look pretty relaxed and happy.
These statues are fairly heavy. Each has a pedestal beneath to increase the balance and prevent tipping over. The figurines are not in mint condition, in fact, you can see some minor flaws on the surface, mostly on the lady figure. Both figures are handmade and hand-painted with an accent on the colorful clothes and the texture.
How To Determine The Real Value Of Your Collectible Item
There are plenty of other figurines available for purchase besides these. If you are eager to search the market and find some more we salute your decision. But before you do that, make sure you learn as much as you can about valuing them properly.
The fact is that there are figurines that share a great resemblance with occupied Japanese figurines. If you are inexperienced you can easily mistake them for real ones. However, there are a few tips that can help you deal with this problem.
- Look for the “Occupied Japan” stamp – This mark is usually under the figurines, engraved in the base pedestal that helps them keep the balance. All you need to do is to turn it upside down and look for it. Usually, the stamp is written in red or black paint. Sometimes, you may come across a figurine without the stamp, and if that figurine is part of a collection then it is highly an original. The main reason why it lacks the stamp is because the manufacturer placed the stamp on one or two pieces only.
- Metal objects are embossed with the stamp – Some figurines are made with metal. Since we know that paint pills from metal, the originals do not have painted marks instead they are embossed with the stamp “occupied Japan”. A fake figurine made with metal will have the stamp instead of embossed.
- Original marks never wash or rub out – If your figurine is real-occupied Japan it will never have a smeared stamp on it. This is what makes them valuable, the quality of production and material. If the paint washes off your figurine is not valuable at all.
- Certificate of Authenticity – These figurines are very rare and valuable. Therefore, many of them come with a COA document. Remember, if the price is very high, the figurine must have this certificate which will explain the price tag. Owning a COA gives the figurine added value, and also enhances the sentiment and worth. Also, remember that certificates can be easily be forged. If in doubt have an independent appraiser look at the authenticity of the certificate and the figurine.
- Special characters – This factor influences the value significantly since some special characters are way more valuable, Especially, if they are antique like those that reassemble Japanese mythology. For instance, a very rare piece is Yamabushi Tengu Kutani Ware. As you can see it all sums up to the sentimental inherent in the figurine that can trigger the buyer.
- Classical characters – A figurine that features characters from classical Japanese cultures is worth a lot. Make sure you understand the origin of the symbol and character before trying to value it accordingly.
- Multiple characters – Sets that feature multiple characters are more attractive and have way bigger returns than singles. However, random collections don’t usually have any inherent value or sentiments. Multiple character collections like the Victorian Dancers or Hakone figures achieve those high prices because these sets are fully complete and original.
- Full-length characters – Figurines that are large, in full-body size worth more than a small one. This is logical since every collector wants to acquire a piece that will immediately attract attention with their details and size. Figurines that are less than 8 inches usually aren’t priced above $15.
- Condition – All we ever talk about is condition. But this is a factor that is crucial no matter what type of item you collect. If something is flawless it will be more expensive, if there are some flaws and damages the value will stumble down, easy math. If your occupied Japan figurine is chipped, faded, or cracked, the value is automatically reduced no matter how rare it is.
- Does it have any historical background – Any collectible item that has some historical background will have increased value. That can mean it belonged to someone important, it portrays a historically important event or era, or it was simply manufactured by a reputable artist.
Learn how to recognize a fake item from a real deal
Unfortunately, when it comes to vintage and antique art collectibles, replicas are widely available. This can pose a big problem if you are not an expert in differentiating a real figurine from a replica figurine.
Also, forgers evolve their techniques so quickly that sometimes even the appraiser can’t tell if the item is real without looking at it thoroughly. So to avoid ending up spending a lot of money on something that’s not real, learn how to distinguish a fake item from a real one. Here are some helpful tips:
- Inspect the item carefully – Take a long look, let’s be honest if the figurine looks too good the chances are high it is fake. These items are over 70 years old, and no matter how well the owner preserved them they can’t look perfect. As we already mentioned even the ones that do not look too good can be fake.
- Identification by mark – Flip the figurine and look for the Made in Occupied Japan mark. They all must have the trademark “T” in a circle! Figurines that are made in Occupied Japan pre-1921 have Nippon labeled on them, while post-war products have only Japan.
- Look at the price range – If you have a feeling that the price is off, in most cases you are right. If an item you are looking for is too cheap or too expensive the fact is that someone wants to scam you. Rare are the cases when people sell valuable items under price. The best way to avoid these situations is to research the market to find the average or median price and look further using that as a valid reference.
- Choose the seller carefully – If you don’t want to overpay your collectible item, then you need to cooperate with reputable and reliable dealers. Internet is a great place full of options but at the same time, it’s a place where a lot of scammers try to pass their products. Choose smart with whom you’ll work.
How to keep them in the best possible condition
It is crucial to know how to take care of fragile collectible items like art. If you have them, it is only natural that you want to pass them on to future generations, but you can’t do that if they are in bad condition from day one.
Always make sure they are clean. The dust contains so many harmful particles and chemicals that can with time harm the enamel on the porcelain. Use a soft, damp cloth and avoid using any harsh chemicals or cleaners that can damage the paint job. After cleaning, dry them thoroughly since any residue of water can damage them.
Keep them in a safe, dry, and cool place, not exposed to direct sunlight which can make color faint. If you don’t have a choice since all your spots are sunny use a UV-resistant glass case.
Finally, always hand;e them carefully. If they end up on the floor they will break instantly, that’s how fragile they are.
Where Can You Trade These Valuable Collectibles?
There are several places online and offline where you can trade your valuable occupied Japanese figurines.
If you prefer the in-person variant you should visit specialized shows and shops, antique dealers, thrift shops, and flea markets as well. However, if the virtual approach suits you better your options are plentiful.
There are many forums and social media groups on platforms like Facebook where you can meet people who sell or buy these collectible items. If you are looking but don’t know what exactly, then search the offer on web pages like eBay, Etsy, LiveAuctioneers, and Craigslist You’ll be amazed at how many things you can find here
Are items labeled with “Made in Occupied Japan” worth anything?
Items from the period of occupation in Japan were highly desirable collectibles from the 1960s until the 1980s. This is when replicas began to appear on the market and people lost interest in buying them.
However, they are slowly regaining their popularity. Nowadays, you can find plenty of these items on the market for affordable prices. Small items will sell for $10 to $50, while larger ones go above $100.
Do you have any of these figurines in your possession? Or maybe even the extended collection? If you aren’t sure we suggest you check it, it might come to you as a family heirloom or a gift to your grandparents from the 1950s or 1960s.
Anyhow, make sure you investigate, since if you have them you might be holding onto a treasure worth a nice amount of money without knowing it. If you’re curious to learn more, please leave a comment below, and we’ll reply to you as soon as possible.