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I have another salt that I know nothing about. I'm not even…

Hi Robert,I have another salt...
Hi Robert,I have another salt that I know nothing about. I'm not even sure I have taken a picture of the mark correctly (I hope it's not upside down). The bowl has an inscription "Maj. D. E . Shenk Jr. Monopoly Bureau". It is rather unprofessional looking to me. I have found references on the Monopoly Bureau but have found nothing else. So, I hope you can help.
As always, I am in no hurry for the answer.Jody
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Answered in 2 hours by:
3/24/2018
Robert S.
Robert S., Antiques and Collectibles Researcher
Category: Antiques
Satisfied Customers: 6,499
Experience: Expert in decorative arts especially ceramics, silver, paintings, and furniture.
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Hi Jody,

Just letting you know I got the Q and photos of the salt cellar.

I can read the first half of the mark on the bottom, okay, but not the second. Could you try another photo of it. If you can, use a single light source, the brightest you can find, and shine it at an angle. From a couple of directions.

Many thanks,
Robert.

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Customer reply replied 4 months ago
Hi Robert,I'll take additional photos and send them to you as soon as possible. Thanks for responding so quickly.Jody
Customer reply replied 4 months ago
Hi Robert,
Here are the additional photos. Not sure they are much better than the others. I may have to try tomorrow in the sunlight.
Jody
a.jpga.jpgb.jpgb.jpgc.jpgc.jpgd.jpgd.jpge.jpge.jpg

Thanks, ***** ***** be able to work with those!

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Okay, I can see what it is now! This is Japanese sterling silver and dates to the early 20th century, circa 1900-1912. It's actually a little sake cup and saucer, though I'm sure it makes a very serviceable salt cellar.

The rectangular mark on the bottom are the two characters:

純 銀

"jungin" which translates as sterling silver.

This is what a better struck image looks like and the orientation in which it should be read (right to left):

This jungin assay mark was used only during the Meiji period 1868 - 1912 so is a good proof of age.

The five lobed foliate dish is in the form of a stylized cherry blossom -hugely auspicious in the Japanese world as being a metaphor for the beauty, yet fragile transience, of life. The engraved floral design is also typical of the time with its distinctly Art Nouveau flavor, a worldwide style that even the artists in far away Japan could not escape the influence of.

The inscription really poses more questions than answers. The "Monopoly Bureau" most likely refers to the government agency set up in Taiwan (then Formosa) in 1901 to control the sale of tobacco and alcohol etc, when the country was under Japanese rule. Between 1895 and 1945 the island of Taiwan was a dependency of the Empire of Japan. This would certainly explain the Japanese origin of the silver. My guess is the inscription came about as an exchange of gifts to mark a diplomatic event where the said Major Shenk was a military attaché but tracing any of that down would be almost impossible at this stage unless there was a family correspondence about the event.

It's a very interesting little piece with a lot of history and geography to it, I just wish it would tell us all of it. On the other hand, what we do know about it, and the fact that it's Meiji period sterling, would generate an auction or eBay value range of $120 - $180, or $360 as a full retail/replacement/insurance value.

Hope this is helpful!

Best wishes,

Robert.

Robert S.
Robert S., Antiques and Collectibles Researcher
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Satisfied Customers: 6,499
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Customer reply replied 3 months ago
Thanks so much Robert. I have so much to learn about my collection. English and American silver usually give me no problems, but I know very little about Asian silver, but with your help I hope that will change.I have researched the name on the salt, but have come up empty handed. I haven't given up, but I doubt I will be successful.Hope you're having a good week and I look forward to sending you more questions. Thanks again for a most thorough and helpful answer.Jody

Well done for persevering with the origins of Major Shenk, it would be fascinating to find out.

Japanese and Chinese and even Indian silver is a fascinating world of its own and there's so much to learn, and the artistic and technical abilities of these Eastern master silversmiths can be truly astonishing. Try googling "Kutch silver" and prepare to be amazed.

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