Q&A ON COLLECTING
Hand-painted porcelain set
is a Victorian mystery
Q: This is a photo of a three-piece porcelain set that belonged to my mother. The container stands about 7 inches tall, and the saucer is close to 6 inches in diameter. It is decorated with pink flowers, green leaves and gold trim. Marked on the bottom of the container and the saucer are the words “Hand Painted — Nippon,” along with an “M” in the center of a wreath. The set is in mint condition. There is a small hole in the bottom of the container. I am mystified by the hole and wonder what its purpose is.
Anything you can tell me about the origin, vintage and value of my set will be appreciated.
A: Your container was used to hold a condensed milk can. In the late Victorian era, condensed milk was often used at breakfast. Because the cans were unsightly and offended the Victorian aesthetic sense, porcelain manufacturers included condensed milk containers in their table settings. The hole was designed so it was easy to remove the can by pushing a finger into it. Your set was made in Japan, and “Nippon” is the Japanese word for Japan. The letter “M” represents the Morimura Bros., who had offices in New York and imported porcelain to the United States from Japan. Your condensed can holder was made around 1900 and would probably fetch $100 to $175 in an antiques shop.