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Japanese art encompasses centuries of history and production. Since around the end of World War II, demand in Japanese art has increased and items such as screens, vases hanging scrolls, prints, ceramics, woodcut prints, lacquer, and armour dating from the 5th to the 19th centuries are popular collecting categories. The market for Japanese art today remains quite robust with strong prices.

When valuing Japanese art, elements such as date, provenance, materials, and condition are important considerations.

Materials are particularly important in discussing Japanese art. Many objects were made using precious materials such as ivory, jade and certain hardwoods like mahogany potentially affect the value of a given artwork.

The condition is also an essential factor in establishing value. If porcelain pieces exhibit chips/cracks or a woodblock print is stained or faded, instances of damage can impact the value and often impact it negatively. Any evidence of extensive conservation can also affect value, and either deter or bolster its value or significance.

Dating and a provenance record are often difficult for Japanese artworks as many of them date back hundreds if not thousands of years. With items of this age, it is rare to have any record of provenance, making the presence of an artist’s signatures or markings important in terms of dating and origin. These types of insignia also add to an item’s value.

Mearto evaluates hundreds of similar items each month.

What do you need to know about Japanese art valuation?

We have compiled the most important information about how to value a piece of Japanase art.

Why Japanese art?

Japan has a long history of fine and decorative arts. In fact, this practice dates back to thousands of years ago. In fact, the earliest record of art in Japan is from 10th millennium BC.

Art institutions rarely exhibit Japanese art, even though european interest in Japanese art dates back to the 19th century

Many of the Japanese art and antiquities have survived several centuries. They are considered valuable antiques today due to their historical and artistic significance.

There is a niche but loyal market that is dedicated to the collection of antique Japanese art. This is part of the reason that is driving the value of Japanese art in the market upwards. The collection of Japanese artworks (even in today’s modern times) is still fairly widespread.
If you are a purveyor or avid collector of antique Japanese art, you might be interested to know what types of artworks are out there. And more importantly, you might be keen to know what their corresponding market value may be.

Antique Japanese Calligraphy

The brush painting tradition in Japan is deeply embedded in their culture. The resurgence of calligraphy has therefore created new interest in the ancient Japanese art of calligraphy. There are several aesthetic qualities that art enthusiasts and antique collectors are seeking for in antique Japanese calligraphy pieces. While known as an art form, calligraphy is a form of writing. It is therefore sought after not only for its aesthetic value, but also for its literary importance.

Antique Japanese Ink Painting

In addition to calligraphy, another form of art introduced by the Japanese that utilizes the use of a brush is ink painting. There are several well-known artworks that are made by famous Japanese artists. In particular, black ink wash paintings that depicted nature, animals, and landscapes are distinctively Japanese. These are therefore one of the most popular antique Japanese art forms that are collected these days.

Antique Japanese Vases

Antique Japanese vases are one of the best examples of the old-time pottery tradition in the country. There are many regional styles to choose from and those from various time periods that vary in value. Porcelain vases are a staple in Oriental art but there are also ones made from ceramic. The presence of mark and other personal signature from the maker can heavily influence the cost of antique vases. 

Antique Japanese Woodblock Prints

Antique Japanese woodblock prints is another type of highly collectible items for antique art enthusiasts. This type of artwork originated in Japan during the 1600s. You can also find many woodblock prints that were made during the Taisho period, which is much later around the 1800s.

Essentially, it is a type of art piece made with a woodblock that is carved with ink and the printed an image using traditional paper. There are many other types of woodblock prints for serious collectors and they are valued differently.

A good site to search for Japanese Woodblock Prints are the ukiyo-e.org database

Antique Japanese Dolls

Dolls are a huge part of the Japanese’s cultural heritage. Their fascination with dolls is deeply embedded into their cultural tradition such that they are included in celebrations, ceremonies, and other rituals. The geisha, however, is the most popular type of doll from Japan. It originated in the 9th century and typically made from porcelain materials. The symbolic importance and craftsmanship combine to add value to this Japanese art form.

Other Types of Japanese Art and Antiquities

In addition to the ones discussed above, there are more types of antique Japanese art in the market. Serious collectors even look for rare art pieces to add to their collection. You can get good value for any of these rare antique Japanese art pieces, depending on the type and condition:

Visual Art

The antique visual art pieces from Japan can be anything from drawings, lithographs, sculptures, and silk or canvas paintings.


There is also a specific category of antique Japanese art relating to sculpture including Buddhist figures and funerary statues.


The Japanese also dwell in ceramic art making and some of their creations range from porcelain wares, enamel or bronze serving dishes and bowls, and ceramic vessels.


The Japanese are also known for producing furniture since antiquity. The following pieces are among the most coveted pieces of antique Japanese art: softwood specimens, altar tables, painted screens, lacquered tables, and hardwood pieces.

Other types

Other types of antiques from the Japanese include samurai swords, samurai armor, kimonos, hibachis, netsuke or miniature sculptures, tessens or traditional fans, and tsuba or hand guards (for Samurai swords).

How to find a Japanese Art appraiser near me?

If you don't mind the drive to your local appraiser then it might be a good idea to stop by your local appraiser. If you don't know their expertise within Japanese art, it might be a good idea to give them a call before you drop by. A good way to find your local Japanese art appraiser is to use an appraiser directory. A quick search for Los Angeles shows that there are many in the area ready to look at your item.

How to Care for Antique Japanese Art

Caring for antique Japanese art is the same with any antique. However, you need to take note of special caring instructions depending on the type of artwork that you have.
For photographs and paintings, it is important that you choose the right storage conditions for them. A clean, dry, and dark place is ideal for this. Make sure that you store the items in an upright position. If you can add pads or blocks around it, this will help to provide adequate circulation on the items. Make sure you remove any protruding hooks (if any) so as not to cause damage to neighboring items in storage.
For antique art made of paper or print, they can be a little more sensitive and as such require more special care and attention. You need to protect them from any source of bright light and excess humidity (or temperature). The ideal temperature level is at 20 to 22 degree Celsius.

How to Sell Antique Japanese Art

Selling antique Japanese art is not difficult as these types of items are highly collected. Therefore, it is all about showcasing the product in order for you to get the value that you want from the items.
Take good quality photographs of the antique Japanese art. If possible, take close-up pictures to highlight any special features, markings, or signature. It is also a good way to determine the overall condition and quality of the art piece. When listing your antique item, you need to provide detailed description to go with the photographs. Your goal is for the prospect buyer to fully understand the value of the item.

A good source to buy and sell Japanese art is 1stdibs

How Are Antique Japanese Art Valued?

Determining the value of antique Japanese art requires a combination of factors. If you want to make money by selling your antiques, you need to know these factors so you can optimize the value of your art pieces. You can learn more about the valuation of antique Japanese art below:

If you are an avid collector of Japanese art (especially antique), you must be aware of the import laws and regulations governing the materials used for making them. Ivory is one such example. While it is the preferred material for many antiquities and antique items, it is surrounded by controversy due to criticism on elephant poaching. It is important that you buy or sell only Japanese art containing or made with ivory that it complies with legal regulations. The age and type of ivory is also an important factor to consider. There are also tight regulations imposed on other materials such as jade and hardwood such as mahogany.

Condition and Quality:

The quality and condition of antique Japanese art go hand in hand. You cannot have a quality antique piece when it is not in good condition, and vice versa. The better the condition and quality is, the higher its value. The type of material used can also be a factor in preserving the condition of an object. Some types of materials develop flaws over the years due to the constitution of the material itself. Hence, you can also expect that some types of Japanese art pieces that are made of a certain material might be more valuable than others (regardless of age).


This is another factor that might be irrelevant to the untrained eye. But for appraisal experts, it can cause the value of an antique item to double (or more!). It is a written record of the object’s history that indicates who previously owned it, and anything of significance to history or art. Essentially, this is proof of the item’s unique value that would make it more appealing to the eyes of avid antique collectors.


There is huge challenge involved when it comes to dating antique items, including Japanese art pieces like drawings, scrolls, and paintings. There is also no record of provenance for objects that are hundreds or thousands of years in age. Therefore, any mark or signature from the artist is the most important indicator of age and authenticity for the item in question. The insignia can add more value to the eyes of potential collectors.

Where to Appraise Antique Japanese Art

Do you need to get any antique Japanese art piece valued? We at Mearto have a full range of expert appraisers specializing in all kinds of antiques, including antique artworks. Get in touch with us to learn more about the value of the item in your possession.

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