Sunday, December 16, 2012

Kokeshi Orai こけし往来

The cover of the December 2012 Kokeshi Orai.
I have hinted in this blog that there are different levels of kokeshi enthusiasm among collectors. For instance, Naoko and I enjoy the adventure of travelling to find kokeshis and their makers just as much as we enjoy having a bunch of kokeshis in the house. In fact, awareness of the connection between a kokeshi and its artisan is probably the most pleasurable aspect of this delightful endeavor of ours.
Now, there are probably some people out there who are less serious about kokeshis than us, but I can say for certain that there are also many who are infinitely more serious. For these enthusiasts kokeshis aren't displayed because they are cute, or colorful, they are likely not used as Christmas tree decorations, and they are certainly not playthings for young girls (guilty!). No, for this particular group of collectors kokeshis are art objects with important histories and often high monetary value. Until recently I was vaguely aware of this level of interest among my fellow enthusiasts, but it really came to my attention a few months ago when Naoko bought a copy of the periodic booklet Kokeshi Orai こけし往来, a guide of antique and valuable kokeshis produced by a used bookstore and antique kokeshi shop located in the Kanda area of Tokyo (the location where Naoko and I were interviewed for the NHK program a few months ago). The booklet is in color and each issue has some articles and other information, making it part of the kokeshi literature. And I love that the picture on the front is an actual photograph that's been hand cut and glued on making Kokeshi Orai a semi-handcrafted work. It is also a de facto price guide since the point of the booklet is to sell high-value kokeshis at set prices. And believe me, while many kokeshis are available for $25 or $30, some of them are really expensive. Kokeshis priced at $200 or $300 are fairly common, and there are ones selling for about $1,200 (100,000 yen). I presume they're priced at that level because someone is willing to pay that much, so again, that would make Kokeshi Orai a kind of price guide. Japanese collectors probably already know all about this world of valuable kokeshis, but I would guess that overseas enthusiasts have no idea. Well, now you know! Oh yes, Naoko has successfully purchased a couple of nice, reasonably priced pieces from Kokeshi Orai, so it's definitely a good source of used kokeshis for collectors of all levels and interests.
A page from the December 2012 Kokeshi Orai. The colorful one in the center is priced at 100,000 yen, or about $1,200. The one on the left is 40,000 yen or about $500, and the one on the right is 20,000, or about $250.
Not all of the kokeshis are outrageously expensive. In fact many are priced very nicely as you can see on these pages.

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