Every now and then in the life of a collector there comes a special purchase – one that gives a particular buzz.
I am not a serious china and dinnerware collector, but I do have a few pieces in excess of strictly practical requirements. I have some stuff reserved for ‘occasions’ or which barely get used at all, but are a cherished part of my belongings.
Being a devoted tea-drinker, I have a particular fondness for vintage tea-ware.
Noritake ware — especially that produced in the post WWII period — is a favourite of mine. I love the high gloss glaze, the delicate handles, and the patterns and colours that bespeak a culture blending its old world aesthetic with the new world of American-influenced modernity. It’s what Japanese manufacture became famous for – high quality materials and finishes that incorporate new and old technologies and art.
I was on my lunch break from a study day in the local library when I decided, on a whim, to stop by the Opportunity Shop. I had had my head down for hours, reading about the roles and professional standards for teacher librarians, in the slow process of inching towards a Masters drmegree. It was time for a walk in the sunshine and a brain-break.
The Opp-Shop had the usual display case at the front near the cashier where they put some of the nicer pieces – platters, vintage tea-cups and the like. I gave them a glance, but something pulled me on past this to the back of the store. In amongst the heavy mugs, the tired toys and the dog-eared paperbacks was a setting for four – tea-cups and saucers, two sugar bowls, side plates, plates, bowls. I felt myself growing still as I studied it, “I think that’s a Noritake. Surely not …” I paused for a moment, wanting to put off the moment of disappointment. I lifted one of the tea-cups gingerly and turned it over. There it was, the unmistakable seal of the Noritake Company.
The setting is Balboa (production c. 1961 – 1970). The stamp on this set indicates it was produced circa 1963. It is in very good condition – some pieces have seen some use and some, I think, have not seen any service at all. The lady at the front counter was rather taken aback when I bought the lot. But, as is always the case in these surprise, “I -don’t- think-they-realise-what-they’ve-got” purchases, I was keen to hustle the stuff out of there before someone came out of the back room saying , “Wait, we’ve mis-priced those things! It’s actually $200!”
I lowered my Noritake haul into the car and went back to my afternoon’s swatting with the warm glow of the satisfied collector.