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Identify, Evaluate and Conserve Your Collection

As a Kokeshi collector you are the master of your collection. There is a plethora of choices both in traditional (dentō) and creative (sōsaku) styles. There are strains, sub-strains, independent designs and so many wonderful choices from creative makers it’s no wonder once a collector meets their first Kokeshi the rest is history! If you’re reading this you most likely have been bitten by the Kokeshi-bug and you want to curate your own collection but not sure in what direction to grow it. These few introductory tips should help guide you into what to consider when deciding whether to collect and grow your Kokeshi collection.

01 Identify Your Kokeshi

The first step a collector should take is to IDENTIFY the Kokeshi in their collection. Once you have identified them it may also be a good idea to keep a tracker (or log) so you know exactly what's in your collection and can easily reference it for future acquisitions. Some of the identifying information to keep track of is (a) name of creator (b) type of Kokeshi (c) date purchased (d) materials used (e) whether it is signed, not signed, has a hanko (red stamp) or seal (sticker) and finally (f) note any damage or repairs.

02 Evaluate Your Kokeshi

Most collectors will tell you that they collect for the pure joy of having the items they collect. Maybe even for the thrill of the hunt, finding rare and unique Kokeshi to add to their collections. But there is also a value to collecting these precious Kokeshi some can fetch prices in the thousands while others may be a few dollars. Knowing what your collection is worth can come in handy for insurance purposes and also for resell purposes should you decide to destash some of your collection in the future.

So, the next step is to EVALUATE your Kokeshi collection. Evaluating your collection may become a bit of a challenge because there are no books available on the subject. However, thanks to online auction sales researching sold prices for similar Kokeshi may prove fruitful. You could track the sold prices/year sold and platform on your Kokeshi tracker (log).

Some things to consider when evaluating your Kokeshi and comparing it to sold prices. 

    • Size: Why size matters, more materials are needed to create larger works. There are higher cost of shipping items that are of a larger size. Very small works can also fetch high prices because they require a lot of detailed work and time to add many of the design elements; sometimes consuming more time than it takes to make a larger version of the work.
    • Condition: This may or may not matter to some collectors based on the availability of the Kokeshi from a specific master. Of course, collector desires change from year to year so keeping this in mind things to consider are (a) fading paint (b) darkened wood (c) holes, cracks and or dents (e) running paint and/or smudges.
    • Signature: While majority of Kokeshi are signed, there are a large portion of unsigned Kokeshi. This doesn't necessarily mean that they are not valuable but rather keeping in mind that Kokeshi were created as folk toys and souvenirs a signature wasn't something that was given much thought. I have found many Kokeshi by Masters that created souvenir Kokeshi when they started their Kokeshi making journey before they became masters. Having a signature is definitely a plus, even a hanko or a seal which helps to identify the Kokeshi as being made by that maker. 
    • Restorations: Some restorations are better than others. Many collectors don't mind a replaced kanzashi, or umbrella, or hair piece but it is a different story when repaints or rewax is done to a Kokeshi. If it changes the originality of the Kokeshi some collectors will not take a 2nd look. So, keep this in mind when thinking about making any repairs to your Kokeshi.
    • Original or Reissue: Some Kokeshi are authorized to be reintroduced into the collector's market. For instance, Hideo Ishihara creative Kokeshi was recently released by Beams Co. Ltd and Sato Yasuhiro a traditional Kokeshi maker. These of course are wonderful Kokeshi and fetch good prices from collectors but do not hold the same value as the original works by the artist. There are many such agreements, do your research to determine if the Kokeshi you have is a reissue or original.

03 Conserve Your Kokeshi

Because of the materials used to create Kokeshi, namely wood, acrylic paint, sumi-e inks and beeswax special care of their environment is recommended. Mostly keep them away from direct light and water! For more details on how to care for your Kokeshi check out our guide Kokeshi Care. Conserving your Kokeshi will go a long way in adding to your enjoyment of these beautiful creations and helping to preserve them so that future generations can enjoy them. In another guide we will cover planning for the After Life of Kokeshi once you are no longer able to be their stewards.