Made In Japan
made in japan
The ceramics import companies (primarily from Japan) were an influential part of the American ceramic industry's history.
Their work was often of high of quality, and many companies copied the designs of the American firms; therefore these manufacturers played an a big role in whether a domestic ceramic company survived or closed its doors.
The companies reflected on this page are those that come from my personal collection; therefore the list is limited.
However, I will add each manufacturer as I acquire new pieces.
As always, any information you might have regarding these companies would be greatly appreciated!
National Potteries corporation (also known as Napco) was started in 1938 in Bedford, OH. Napco was initially a producer of decorative floral containers, but they soon began importing items like glassware, pottery, and ceramic items from Japan.
Much to the chagrin of the American based pottery companies that opened after WWII, Japanese ceramic imports peaked from 1956 to the early 1960’s and it is estimate that this is the time period that many of the figurines were produced. Napco has held the interest of collectors because the ceramic items are consistently well-designed.
Napco used multiple manufacturer marks for their head-vases and figurines with some being transfer marks and others being paper labels. The following could be found on their paper labels: "A Napco Collection," "Napco Originals by Giftware," "National Potteries Co., Cleveland, OH, Made in Japan," and "Napcoware, Import Japan." The “Napcoware” figurines, which are seen as being lesser in quality by some collectors, but this is not a universal consensus.
Lefton was founded by George Zoltan Leftonin 1941. George was a Hungarian immigrant who arrived in Chicago in 1939 and although his background was in marketing and designing specialty clothing, he had a passion for collecting fine porcelain.
In 1945 George traveled to Japan to seal an importing agreement, and the first Lefton China product marked "Made in Occupied Japan" reached the United States in 1946.
Lefton imported porcelain decorative objects including figurines, head vases, wall pockets, and kitchen-ware items such as cookie jars and salt-and-pepper shakers. In Canada they were known as Enterprise Exclusive.
Pieces made from 1945 through 1953 were stamped with the words “Made in Occupied Japan” on their base, and items made between 1946 to 1953 usually had a red sticker with either silver or gold trim that read “Lefton’s Exclusives Japan.”
Vintage Lefton products have a wide variety of marks. Pieces made after 1953 had the words “Reg. U.S. Pat. Off” added to the label and those made after 1960 had “Trade Mark.” Marks also include the words “Lefton,” “Lefton China,” “Geo. Z. Lefton,” “G.Z.L.,” and sometimes just the letter "L". Due to the overlapping of when these markings and the different stickers that were used it can be hard to identify the time period of a Lefton piece simply by looking at the label. Along with these labels, many pieces also have numbers stamped on their bases such as “H320” or “97558.” From my collecting experience I have discovered that these numbers can help identify figurines that are a part of a set - in my case it was 3 panda bears.
In the 1970’s Lefton started contracting with potteries companies from all around the world (primarily those based in China, Malaysia, England, and Italy) and this global diversification actually had little impact on the quality of Lefton pieces; however,
It is important to note that like many of the pottery companies that imported from Japan during this time, that there is no such thing as the quintessential Lefton design. Some figurines are very realistic, others were more “cartoony” (big eyes – meant to be cute), and many are just downright silly anthropomorphic characters. Some pieces are made to look like they might have been made two centuries ago, with gold trim a lots of flowers, while others are cute and whimsical and look like they were plucked right out of the 1950’s. Lefton was also known for copying designs from other firms, including Hagen Renaker in the 1960’s.
Lefton’s Christmas figurines in particular are a favorite among some collectors. They include figurines of Santa and Mrs. Claus, Christmas elves, angels (often marked with the name of a month or a day of the week), and children. As a homage to the silliness and anthropomorphism of some of their designs, one of their most popular Christmas lines were figurines that resembled candy canes with faces, arms, and legs. In addition, Little Miss Mistletoe is a special favorite among collectors.
At one point in time, over 10,000 retail shops carried Lefton products nationwide.
In 2005 the Lefton Company was purchased by OMT Enterprises and moved to California. Lefton still producing today and current product lines include the popular Lighthouse series and the wonderful Christopher girl birthday figurines.
I was not able to find very much information on this company; either online or in my books. The only thing I was able to find was a excerpt from a site referencing the china that they made. It states that Meito china was a popular brand of china that was made in Japan. Norleans is a line of this china and it is noted for it's cutting edge and modern style. I was also unable to find anything that referenced their figurines, even though I have come across many different ones over the past years.
I was unable to find anything online or in my books about the the ARCO company but I have come across many figurines made by them; there are also many on eBay. Many of these figurines are people, are detailed in designed, and look almost water colored. It is clear by the sticker that their headquarters were based in Dallas, TX.
CDGC - Japan
I was unable to locate any information about this company online or in my books but from what I can tell from my beloved figurine is that they made wonderfully solid, beautiful, and one of a kind figurines.
chase hand painted - japan
I cannot find anything on this company online or in my books; there are many items on eBay but no information on the company is given. This is the only Chase figurine I have come across in my collecting thus far.
I found out today that the 2 painted sleeping cats in my unidentified imports section are “Kutani.” I was unable to find out much information about the company except that the name means "Nine Valleys," and that Kutani is a general term for the style of porcelain produced by different kilns in the province of Kaga in Japan. Wikipedia also state that there are now several hundred companies which produce Kutani ware.
I would love more information about this company so please message me if you know anything or know of a good resource!
Nippon Yoko Boeki Co.
This is the mark of the of the "Nippon Yoko Boeki Co" and the factory is still in operation.
I was not able to find very much information online or in my books about Relpo except that they were know primarily for their head vases.
I have seen many of these head vases on eBay, and they are very beautiful, and I have seen some of the planter girls (mine is pictured).
The planters are very heavy, are just beautiful, and are usually numbered and have "Samson Imported" printed on their bases. It is clear that the company was headquartered in Chicago, Illinois per thier sticker.
I was unable to find out anything about this company online or my books; however, per eBay and Etsy, I learned that they made a huge variety of figurines and many of them are very large in size. The duck I own is almost a foot tall and weighs 3 pounds. Each item has the "Atlantic Mold" stamp on its base.
wales - made in japan
I was unable to find any good information about Wales online or in my books but the pieces I have are both cats, and the gray one is so intricate and well painted, that she is one of my favorite figurines.
otagiri - "OMC" Japan
Otagiri Mercantile Company INC, “OMC” was a wholesale manufacturing company. For over 46 years OMC was headquartered in San Francisco and was an importer and a distributor of porcelain, stoneware, and giftware.
All of OMC’s products were made in Japan and each one was handcrafted and hand painted. Each completed product was imported to the US and then sold to department stores and gift shops. They are actually best known for their tiki-themed based line for bars and restaurants from the 1960’s, but they made many types of high end ceramics; however, the tiki-themed items have remained highly prized among collectors.
During its operation, Otagiri also acted as a third-party manufacturer, creating products for greeting card companies and the San Francisco Music Box Company.
Otagiri products can be identified by a gold and yellow sticker and the stamp "Otagiri Japan."
In 1994 Otagiri Mercantile Co. was purchased by Enesco's Worldwide Giftware Group who paid $3.5 millon for the business’ assets and inventories, as well as its trademarks. Afterward, the brand was discontinued.
International Art Ware Corporation (INARCO) was founded by Irwin Garber inCleveland Ohio in 1960.
“INARCO” filed for registration in September 1965 and in its beginnings, the company imported ceramic and glass floral containers and giftware. Garber was alreadya skilled designer of figurines , and in the beginning the company made a wide range of products including general ceramics, earthenware, planters, vases, cups and saucers, and flower holders. They are also very well known for their intricate head vases and it is said that Garber’s wife Roselle was the model for a manyof the company’s head vases.
INARCO moved to Jacksonville, Florida in 1986after it was purchased by Napco.
In regard to the identifying marks and stickers, “Inarco, Cleve, Ohio” is the stamp found on many early piecesas was a black and gold paper foil label that depicted aglobe with the words “Inarco” and “Japan.”
Bone china is a type of soft-paste porcelain that is composed of bone ash, feldspathic material, and kaolin. It is known for its high levels of whiteness, translucency, and chip resistance. Its high strength allows it to be produced in thinner cross-sections than other types of porcelain.
In regard to a figurine, this whiteness is why bone china figurines and miniatures must be painted as to add dimension, and this is a great clue when one is looking for miniatures that are made of porcelain like a Hagen Renaker for instance.
There were many companies that made bone china items after WWII. Bone china figurines, and especially the miniatures, were extremely popular as they were very cute, oftentimes well made, and a much cheaper alternative to the American made porcelain miniatures.
Most of the bone china miniatures will have a foil label that reads “bone china” and often the miniatures were sold as little families of animals.
I was not able to find anything online or my books on Kasugaware; however per eBay and Etsy I can see that they are know for their tableware, fine dishes, tea cups, and saucers. Most of the plate sets had intricate floral designs. The dish set I have is obviously hand painted and has gold accents within its design.
Tilso Japanese Import Company was founded in 1913, and its products were popular after WWII. L. Batlin and Son originally ran an antique store but after the depression they founded Tilso (a name that was derived from the names of the owners wife and daughter, Tillie and Sonia).
Tilso made a variety of products including ceramic figurines, various containers, and cookie jars, and like most of the Japanese import companies of the time many of their designs were very similar to ones that were made by US companies. They closed down during the 1970’s.
Some of their pieces are harder to find because the foil labels were removed, and as a general rule Tilso jars don't have a huge value; however, they are still very collectible, especially among mid-century collectors.
ERICH STAUFFER - ARNART
Finding any sort of information on "Erich Stauffer" was not easy but here is a summary of what I was able to find:
Erich Stauffer was a porcelain figurine artist who worked primarily for Arnart and Arnart was founded in 1953 in Japan to produce porcelain art.
Erich Stauffer designed fake versions of Hummels and Kalk figurines for Arnart from 1953 to 1970. An Erich Stauffer Original Arnart Creation is known by its crown and crossed arrow symbols on the bottom - please note that my dog does not have either of these symbols or an Arnart sticker.
However, some people place Erich Stauffer figurines back to 1940 because of the United States ban on imports from Germany during World War II, which started in September 1939. Given that real Hummel porcelain figurines were manufactured by Goebel in Germany, Arnart could very well have capitalized on the import ban. In other words, “Erich Stauffer,” a traditional German name, may even have been INVENTED to make it seem as though the Arnart imports were from Germany. This could explain why it is so hard to find out information about Erich Stauffer, the designer.
However Artnart was not founded until 1953, eight years after the end of World War II on August 15, 1945; therefore, it is a mystery.
Further, Arnart had multiple stamps and stickers and I just discovered, while writing this very sentence, that another one of my figurines is from this company. The crown symbol on its base is the elaborate 'ROYAL CROWN' mark from 1984.
If anyone has any additional information please feel free to contact me.
Omnibus was a division of Fitz and Floyd.
Their products were not as detailed and lower priced than their Fitz and Floyd's counterparts.
Pieces were typically marked with a OCI Omnibus sticker.