Viewing 1 reply thread
  • Author
    • #12221

      I have come across a pair of porcelain nodding figures. They appear to be Japanese figures. They are well balanced and nod for a long period of time. I did not find any markings on the bells. Would anyone know if they are Japanese and when they were made?
      Thanks, George

    • #17380

      Hi George!
      Actually to be honest, I don’t believe these are bells in the truest sense. While Nodding bells do exist, they are quite rare.
      As Elsinore Springer puts it “… that collectors are at variance as to whether all nodders qualify as bells” Pg 170 The Collector’s Book of Bells

      I find myself in agreement with that statement, although there are bell collectors who obviously don’t, and I believe that these better fit in the category of “Bell Like” objects (rather like the paperweight bell, wedding cup bell and the stirrup cup bell). These objects only have the form of a bell but they were never really meant to ring so can’t really be bells.

      If you read Page 229 of the same book she has a whole page on the ceramic nodders and suggests that many of the oriental forms are of European make, and that there is no evidence that they were ever made in America. Other forms were mostly made in Mexico and a few other spots. (Note the words “many” and “mostly”, and NOT the word “exclusively”!)

      The possible exception, or confusion if you will, is that a few METAL bells are considered nodder bells by a number of bell collectors. This is because the form made has a narrower upper body type that acts like a handle, the clapper can be swung hard enough to ring without damage, and the nodding head appears to be less integral to the clapper (almost like the clapper is simply utilized for two purposes – to ring and to provide momentum for the head). Go figure!

      Donna S Baker in the Collectible Bells Treasures of Sound book shows a few of those.

      As far as age, if we go by Elsinore’s assertion of origin, then they have to be pretty early items. In 1890 all imported goods were required by law to have a backstamp stating the country of origin. For example, if from China, it would be stamped “china” if from France, it would be stamped France. During the 1930’s and 1940’s the rules were changed so that the backstamp had to specify where the majority of the Manufacturing took place, so that imported manufactured goods could be clearly seen (both for taxes and the ‘let’s buy American to keep the jobs in America’ thrust of the depression era. (Identifies the items being manufactured out of country with only final assembly done locally.) While items before 1890 did have stamps, they were rare and usually reserved for prestigious manufactures names on fine goods. A type of advertising if you will. So this would suggest that your Nodders could be from before 1890!

      But before you get too excited, remember also that Mexico was/are also a strong producer of ceramic items including Nodders, although not as much in the oriental style. However, while I am not an expert on these, the faces of the items do look a lot more rounded – if you will – than typical oriental figures I have seen. I pulled up some pictures of Mexican figurines and Chinese and Japanese figurines and just looking at the Form (not the details) they look closer Mexican to me. And the euphemistically termed “trade” with Mexico, especially in the early/mid 1900’s, was not as strongly regulated in many items. I don’t believe they felt particularly bound to providing backstamps on their goods, whether brought back by tourists or by importers or by more ,um, creative fashions shall we say?

      So if you wish an opinion and if I were to be forced to describe these items as if I owned them, I personally (again opinion of a non expert in ceramics!) would suggest that these are likely Mexican Nodder Figurines of a bell form, likely produced in the early to mid 1900’s.

      Not sure if this helps but for what it’s worth, there you go!

      PS. One exception to the Back Stamp ‘rules’ above, I should mention for completeness, is if the object was never manufactured for export. Then back stamp requirements revert to the country of origin and most do not require markings for purely domestic products! So if you could find provenance that these came from a specific country then the lack of back stamp would make sense then too. Further there is a recent switch to using paper labels instead of back stamp marks for cost savings. If it is a new object (20 years or less I would say) then perhaps the label was removed or fell off – which only makes identifying them that much harder!

Viewing 1 reply thread
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.