World War II Japanese Propaganda Posters
Appraised Value: $2,400
IMAGE: 1 of 5
After this appraisal aired a viewer wrote to ROADSHOW with a criticism of appraiser Nicholas Lowry's explanation for why English was used on the World War II-era Japanese propaganda poster. Lowry, admittedly not an expert on Filipino history, had speculated that the poster's use of English language was due to the influence of the American military in the country.
Further research indicates that English became a dominant language in the Philippines because from 1902 to 1946, the colonial power, the United States, made it the official language and implemented and encouraged its use in the public school system. The viewer asserted, "(T)he importance of education was planted as a major element of Philippine society. We seldom hail the successes of our international policies, but this was one of our greatest. It was the establishment of schools which established English in less than fifty years, and left Spanish to be taught as a foreign language after their having been there for 300 years."
Today, the national language of the Philippines is Filipino, a Tagalog-based language.
Appraisal Video: (4:24)
Prints & Posters
Swann Auction Galleries
GUEST: My father was in post-occupation Japan, and he was asked to build a rec room because he was an artist and designer. And the captain said he should look in some of the factory buildings that were deserted, to get his tools and materials to build this rec room. So, he was looking through the buildings and came upon these posters. There were about 40 of them, and many of them are posters of films that we believe the Japanese created to indoctrinate the Philippines when they occupied the Philippines, but we're really not sure.
APPRAISER: Now, what were the dates that your father was in Japan?
GUEST: Well, he was in Japan from 1945 to 1946, about a year.
APPRAISER: The war had ended, and the troops stationed themselves in this particular factory that was partially bombed, and it was a ball bearing factory that was deserted. And so... these are movie posters, but their value is not as movie posters. Their value is as political propaganda.
APPRAISER: And one of the things that I loved about seeing this collection is that I'm always learning on the job.
APPRAISER: And I know... I'm a, I'm not a historian, I'm a poster nut. Okay, and I know very little
APPRAISER: about the Japanese invasion of the Philippines and how the Americans came in during the Battle of the Pacific, but I've had to study a little bit today to figure out more about this collection, and it's a very fascinating, very short period of history
APPRAISER: between 1941 and 1945. Did you know that the Japanese invaded the Philippines nine hours after they invaded Pearl Harbor, after they attacked Pearl Harbor?
APPRAISER: So, there's, it's very closely related to some very important aspects
APPRAISER: of American history. Many of the posters are dated 1943. Uh, we can see a date here on this one, 1943. So, we know the time period that they came from, and I agree with you that they were propaganda aimed at convincing the Filipinos that the Japanese rule was the right rule.
APPRAISER: And we can see that in the text that they use. Over next to you,
APPRAISER: "Freedom This Year is Freedom Forever." It's a very sort of gung-ho propagandistic type of phrase.
APPRAISER: And over here, "Strengthen Our Sincerity To Achieve Our Liberty." Again, they're trying to impress upon the Filipinos that the Japanese way is the way that it should be. A great question is why these posters are in the English language, when they were printed by the Japanese for the Filipino market, for the Filipino people.
APPRAISER: Well, English was one of the predominant languages on the Philippines, especially after so long of having an American military presence there. Now, they're actually very well preserved the way you have them in these nice sheets.
APPRAISER: They will keep from tearing any further.
APPRAISER: And the condition seems strong enough that you should have no problem selling them,
APPRAISER: if you find an interested party.
APPRAISER: Now, let's keep in mind, this is not everyday sort of household decoration.
GUEST: No. Right.
APPRAISER: I'm going to bring to mind this piece here. This is not a movie poster, actually. This is bare-faced, blatant, anti-American propaganda, advertising through a photomontage how some stray Allied bombs fell on Rome during the war. I think the idea is to the Filipinos, be careful, the Americans claim to be your friends, but they're going to bomb your historical cities. My guess as to the value of these pieces, individually-- whether they're movie posters, whether they're propaganda posters... The ones we have down here are also not movie posters. These are propaganda posters.
APPRAISER: Overall, I would say each one of them is worth about $400.
APPRAISER: That's the average value.
GUEST: You're kidding.
APPRAISER: Some are going to be worth a little bit more. Some are going to be worth a little bit less. But on the average, $400.
GUEST: Each? Each one?
APPRAISER: Each one.
GUEST: Oh, my gosh.
APPRAISER: Each one. How many do you have as a whole?
GUEST: Oh, about, well, we have about 40 items all together, not just posters. There are about 40 pieces of paper and 35 are posters.
APPRAISER: I have never seen these posters before. I've been in the business long enough that if I haven't seen something, I have to imagine that it's rare.
APPRAISER: So, it seems to me if someone is trying to put together a collection of 40, you know, 40 are 40 times as rare as a single piece. So, I think the value of the whole is worth more than the value of the individual parts.
GUEST: Of the individual. Oh.
APPRAISER: So all told, just these six posters, we're looking at $2,400.
GUEST: Oh, wow.
APPRAISER: And then if you do the math for the rest of the collection,
GUEST: Oh, my...
APPRAISER: it really is a fabulous thing that your father brought back.
GUEST: Oh, that's exciting. I am just shocked. I am just shocked.
APPRAISER: I am happy to shock you.
GUEST: Thank you so much.
APPRAISER: My pleasure.