Are You A Satsuma Pottery Expert? Or How To Spot A Fake

By | April 3, 2010

An example of a real Satsuma marking. Note the Shimazu crest at the top (circle with a cross)

The team and I get plenty of emails from readers of this site asking us to look at their Satsuma Pottery and tell them the value, the history and anything about it we can. The only problem is, that 80% of these messages are met with the same reply:

"I'm sorry to say that this piece is not a real Satsuma antique, it is a mass produced copy, probably not even made in Japan"

Being able to determine which item is real and which is a copy or fake is not an easy task. You will need to be able to find the marking on the item and confirm that it is the real deal and not a copy. A great rule of thumb is to remember that all original pieces made in the Satsuma region of Japan do not have any english words on them. The artists and makers always signed the pieces with their names and often the word Satsuma, but never in english. They also commonly show the image associated with the emperor of the time, a circle with a cross through it.

An example of a copied Vase or jar in the Satsuma style

So remember, if you are looking at purchasing a Satsuma Vase or something similar, turn it over and look at the marking on the bottom. If it says "Royal Satsuma" or something similar, you know it is not an antique. The pieces that were copies are very beautiful and look very nice and there is nothing wrong with owning one. It will cost you substantially less than other originals too.

You will also need to remember to look for the crackled glaze and the off white or creamy coloring of the pottery underneath. The images are also important too and you should look for traditional Japanese people such as Geisha girls, immortals or plants and animals. Anything contemporary will show that the piece is a copy.

Do you have any tips for our readers on spotting fakes or copies of Satsuma Pottery?

You might also be interested in our list of books to help you find out about the Satsuma markings.

49 thoughts on “Are You A Satsuma Pottery Expert? Or How To Spot A Fake

  1. Blondmyk

    I’m rather flustered. I have what I believe is a repro Satsuma trinket box, with “Han dpainted Royal Satsuma” stamp on it followed with some oriental characters. No where does it say “Made in China” which is what people are saying to look out for. The glaze on the bottom is creamy/ivory and is crackled…like crazing. The figures on the top are a samurai and several “geisha” type women apparently being wooed by the man. I see “not top” workmanship, but the piece is nice and I do enjoy it. I’ve been hearing about “New Satsuma” that is sort of a read deal though…like newer pieces. Is that even a possibility? The thing is, I bought it because I liked it. It was only $20, so nothing ventured, right?

  2. Tao Schencks

    Hi there – yes it sounds to me like you have some sort of more modern piece of “Satsuma style” pottery. Pretty much anything with English words on will be a reproduction or a piece that was mass produced.

    However, if you like it then that is best – they can’t all be valuable antiques 🙂

  3. Ronald Garrett

    I have a vase that I acquired about 35 years ago. There is no English,and the only markings on the bottom is a column of oriental markings with the cross inside a circle. The images depicted are of Asian men mostly and a few Asian females, just the heads. They are very detailed with various expressions. Could this be genuine?

  4. Amy

    I have a vase which I have been told is a Satsuma pre-ww2. It is about 20 inces tall and has images of geisha’s on it and other detail. The painted gold on it feels ‘bumpy’. Could this be genuine and of any value?

  5. Tao Schencks

    Hi Amy.
    Yes, it might be genuine – however, we would need to see images of the vase and specifically any markings on the bottom. You can post them here or over at our Facebook Page.

  6. Tao Schencks

    Hi Amy – thanks for posting those images.
    I would say that it is not a genuine antique, based on the fact that it has no recognisable marking from one of the “old masters” (so to speak).

    However, it is more likely to be a more modern reproduction piece, which were made in a mass-market fashion in the 1940’s.

  7. brenda

    Hi I Java I.have a satsuma it says on the bottom hand painted satsuma 4 it looks hand written but would not think a foreigner wrote it I have had this since the late 70tees

  8. mrbimble

    I have 2 vases that I am unsure about. I shall add some pictures. Are they genuine or mass produced please?

  9. Snowfox

    Hi I inherited a pair of what I believe are satsuma vase, they are mirror images of each other and have a cracked glaze over them and clay is a yellowish colour. They where my grandads who obtained them when he was in the merchant navy possibly around the 1920s as he died when my father was 4. They have hand painted marks on the bottom as they not the same size so not printed on, they have a landscape on one side and a man and woman on the other, black in colour with raised told outlines. Could you tell me if they are genuine and roughly what year these are from and if possible any information that you can , thanks LIZ

  10. John OColmain

    Can anyone shed some light on the markings in the picture? I will upload a copy of the bowl in my next post.

  11. John OColmain

    Here is an image of the bowl in question – it was purchased in an antique store in East Africa in 1951.

  12. Barb Wagner

    I have a piece I would call a ewer or a jug. Very pretty scenes & intricate decoration. Crackled. Gold on inside of handle is worn. My problem is that there is no mark whatsoever on the bottom. No modern printing. No hand written characters. I have not found any references to ‘no marks at all’ & feel stuck. My grandmother owned this piece. She lived from 1887-1960. I acquired it in 1992 from my parents’ estate. Help?

  13. obscuro

    I have a small plate (7″) with eight figures that looks extremely similar to your bowl, John. It is hand-thrown and decorated, perhaps by the same hands as yours. I wish I knew more about it including its value. Thoughts?

  14. brenda

    I have a vase with a lid it says handmade satsuma 4 wrote in red

  15. Marlaina Bean

    did Satsuma Pottery every have images on the inside of the work? like i have a bowl/vase not sure what to call it but it has fish on the inside….

  16. Marlaina Bean

    Can’t find any markings other than that 3 though

  17. angela

    hi i bought a vase with marking i cannot find anywhere on the net please could somebody help me thank you

  18. dale

    Hi I have come across the egg pictured, it’s only markings are on the bottom and it reads Sasuma it is 9″ high and certain parts of the finish are like brail and it looks to be gold but I know nothing the bottom is white with a hole centered and maybe someone knows if I found a long lost piece of history

  19. Asfand Yar

    Hi there, I am planning this pair of vases and these are pictures of one vase . Can any body shed light if this is a genuine piece and what it would be worth ? thanks.

  20. Tao Schencks

    Hi – yes, this does look like genuine Satsuma to me although I can’t read what the marking says. Have you looked at this list of markings – – or join the forum at Gotheborg and ask there – they are good guys who will help.

  21. Asfand Yar

    Thanks, I have looked but could not fix an exact fix. Any idea of their worth ? thanks again.

  22. Roulla Georgiou

    I have two vases don’t know if they are authentic

  23. Penny de Klerk

    Hi. Please please assist. I have a beautiful vase clearly and stunningly handpainted. However , I cannot see any markings. Where can I still look? We need to sell desperately and need to know if this will have some kind of value.

  24. karen

    Hi would like to learn more about Satsuma markings and some items I have thankyou

  25. admin Post author

    Hi Karen. If you can post some images of the items and markings, we can try to help – although we recommend using the online valuation service if you are looking to get a value – we can’t help with that.

  26. Jaci

    I found a vase about 8 inches tall, bulb shape with branches and flower dots out lined in yellow and green dot leaves. It has a kinkozan tsukuru red mark in a red square above the word NIPPON also in red. You can feel the mark but it is flat not shiny. The item itself is all crackle glaze. It also has dots on the top rim and all the decorations are raised. Is the mark supposed to be under the glaze or shiny to be authentic? Thanks Jaci

  27. admin Post author

    Hi Jaci – The marking should be under the glaze (although not all the time) and as the are usually hand painted marks, they are not usually raised.

    However, if the vase has the word NIPPON (in English) then I suspect it will be a more modern replica of a Satsuma piece. Does it look like NIPPON is printed on?

  28. Jenifer

    Hi, I have a egg not sure on what kind it is. It has gasha girls and a man on a river, with what looks like their house and mountains in the background. Divided by a band of gold dots and very blue background with flowers and gold rivers . . But there are no markings what so ever on it . Does not ring when tapped. Similar image searches have led me to belive it be Satsuma ?

  29. Ann

    I have two small figures that are around 3 cm high and decorated with minute patterend coats. One is holding a theatre mask and the other a book and brush. The glaze is finely crackled. The underside is in yellowish-pink earthenware. On the underside one of the figures has a sign with two small intersecting circles carved in it and the other two short lines with a third line crossing the two lines. There are also several small black hand-writings, which I assume are Japanese, beside these carved signs although I have absolutely no idea of what is written. Unfortunately both have broken necks and the brim of the hat of the ‘scholar’ is severely damaged. I think they might be real Satsuma figures but I’m really not an expert in the field at all. What do you think?

  30. Tesla

    Hello, we found a Satsuma style tea cup and saucer at a thrift store one time. We were in love with the style and the fact that they are hand painted. We are unsure if these are genuine though. The dishes seem very old, with an odd creamy color and crackles all over. Whether or not they are genuine they are still beautiful, but we would love to know if they are genuine. I have a picture of them. We are very curious if they are true satsuma pieces.

  31. Marsha Eaton

    Get ready to laugh: I bought a small vase at a garage sale that said “Made In China”–But that wasn’t what was laughable. I’ve seen “Made In China” Satsuma vases sell for pretty good money! This vase that I bought, in addition to “Made In China” actually said “Satsoma!” Lol!!!!

  32. rory donohoe


    What is the usual value of a early 20th century replica satsumi vase?

  33. admin Post author

    Hi Jenifer.
    The odd thing about Satsuma Eggs is that you don’t see them when you see the older items made by the original makers – so I suspect they are replicas.
    This would be even more true seeing as there are no markings.

  34. admin Post author

    Hi Tesla.
    Do they have any markings on the bottom?

  35. admin Post author

    🙂 good story Marsha.
    I guess with some of these items, the beauty (and value) is in the eye of the beholder.
    Some people like to buy replica vases just because they are lovely (and also cheaper than an original!)

  36. admin Post author

    Hi Alita.
    Any vase that has English writing on is not an antique.

  37. Anne Deguchi

    So I was in an antique store today and saw what I thought was a Satsuma Tea Pot it had all the markings, like the geishas, and the fu dogs for the handle, spot, and top. On the bottom it was stamped in english Satsuma. While I know this is an old reproduction at least 50 years old, my question are those worth a fair bit of money? The one I saw was priced at $300.

  38. admin Post author

    With any older item, the amount you pay can vary depending on the size, quality, condition or who it was even owned by. I have also seen Satsuma pieces sell for a lot of money, despite them being reproduction types.

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