18th-Century Japanese Netsuke

Value (2012) | $3,000 Auction$3,500 Auction

I was helping some people move, and she said, "Here, take this." She didn't give me any history and I didn't ask, so I'm just totally clueless.

Well, what you have here is a very rare Japanese netsuke. They were used as toggles on the belt, so they attached to the belt. There'd be a cord that would go through holes, and they'd use it as a toggle. This is 18th century, and there's several reasons it's very rare, the first one of which is not only is it early, but it's very long, it's very large. Most netsukes are about this size, they'd be about that size. There are three different materials on this. This is horn, all horn here, this is ivory, and she has little pinpoints of silver highlighting the eyes, and she's wearing a little silver bracelet. Now obviously, ivory is a problem area now because there's bans on elephant ivory and all the poaching. This is well over 100 years. It's something that would not be made today, couldn't be made today, because of the regulations protecting the herds, and unfortunately there's still poaching going on, but there's great efforts to try to put an end to that. So as I say, this is very old ivory, and it's provably old ivory. It's also interesting to see how it would have been worn, the direction, because obviously it had to be a toggle, it had to hold the belt. And if we move it like this, we can see that not only she has a little silver patch on her hip, but here are the entry areas at the back where the cord would go through, and then the cord would come out here. So in effect, it would have been made to be worn this way and the legs would have come around the sides. So here, this would be the front of the costume, the cords would go through, and she'd be attached like this. Now, it's also very, very unusual in that the subject matter is South Sea Islands. It's a South Sea Islands lady, it's not Japanese. I don't see a signature. It's interesting because later on, they were normally signed-- in the Meiji period, there'd be a signature-- but it's obviously a master craftsman. The combination of its size, its material, and the subject, and also its age, makes it a very important piece. Because of its rarity, pieces like this are seldom seen. It's in wonderful condition, and the auction market for this piece, if it were to come up, would be in the range of $3,000 to $3,500.

Thank you very much.

Appraisal Details

Castle Fine Arts, Inc.
Del Mar, CA
Appraised value (2012)
$3,000 Auction$3,500 Auction
Seattle, WA (August 18, 2012)
Asian Arts
Ivory , Silver

Executive producer Marsha Bemko shares her tips for getting the most out of ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.

Value can change: The value of an item is dependent upon many things, including the condition of the object itself, trends in the market for that kind of object, and the location where the item will be sold. These are just some of the reasons why the answer to the question "What's it worth?" is so often "It depends."

Note the date: Take note of the date the appraisal was recorded. This information appears in the upper left corner of the page, with the label "Appraised On." Values change over time according to market forces, so the current value of the item could be higher, lower, or the same as when our expert first appraised it.

Context is key: Listen carefully. Most of our experts will give appraisal values in context. For example, you'll often hear them say what an item is worth "at auction," or "retail," or "for insurance purposes" (replacement value). Retail prices are different from wholesale prices. Often an auctioneer will talk about what she knows best: the auction market. A shop owner will usually talk about what he knows best: the retail price he'd place on the object in his shop. And though there are no hard and fast rules, an object's auction price can often be half its retail value; yet for other objects, an auction price could be higher than retail. As a rule, however, retail and insurance/replacement values are about the same.

Verbal approximations: The values given by the experts on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW are considered "verbal approximations of value." Technically, an "appraisal" is a legal document, generally for insurance purposes, written by a qualified expert and paid for by the owner of the item. An appraisal usually involves an extensive amount of research to establish authenticity, provenance, composition, method of construction, and other important attributes of a particular object.

Opinion of value: As with all appraisals, the verbal approximations of value given at ROADSHOW events are our experts' opinions formed from their knowledge of antiques and collectibles, market trends, and other factors. Although our valuations are based on research and experience, opinions can, and sometimes do, vary among experts.

Appraiser affiliations: Finally, the affiliation of the appraiser may have changed since the appraisal was recorded. To see current contact information for an appraiser in the ROADSHOW Archive, click on the link below the appraiser's picture. Our Appraiser Index also contains a complete list of active ROADSHOW appraisers and their contact details and biographies.