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Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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FIESTAWARE WAS A HUMBLE PRODUCT THAT TURNED INTO A MAJOR COLLECTIBLE

FIESTAWARE WAS A HUMBLE PRODUCT THAT TURNED INTO A MAJOR COLLECTIBLE
Cream soup, medium green; sold for $4,950. Photo courtesy of Strawser Auctions
Homemade root beer and a picnic supper served on colorful Fiestaware dishes was a highlight of my summer evenings as a child. The kids usually squabbled over who would get the red, green or yellow dinner plate.

Potato salad never tasted so good. It was a simple world where simple pleasures ruled.

Fiestaware was a humble product that turned into a major collectible. I appreciated the colors. They were a wonderful departure from the obedient, unsurprising dishes I had always known.

Growing up in Pittsburgh, it seemed like Fiestaware adorned most supper tables in the 1950s. Now, I realize it was probably so because the maker of Fiestaware, The Homer Laughlin China Company, was located nearby in Newell, W.Va.

Sometimes you have to grow up to get the connection. In fact, Homer Laughlin introduced Fiestaware in January 1936 at the Pottery and Glass Show in Pittsburgh. By the 1940s, 2,500 workers were cranking out 30 million pieces a year.

The streamlined, modernistic dinnerware originally came in five colors: red, dark blue, yellow, light green and ivory. Colors came and went. Turquoise was added in 1937.

Red was discontinued in 1943 and then resurfaced in 1959. By 1951, light green, cobalt and ivory were replaced by the Fiesta ‘50s colors of forest green, gray, rose and chartreuse. The eleventh and final color, medium-green appeared in 1959.

Red was the only original color to remain in production and the entire Fiestaware line was eventually restyled in 1969. The bright colors are a distinguishing feature of Fiesta as well as the ringed design; a band of six concentric rings close to the rim of each piece. Most pieces larger than saltshakers and cups are marked and because it was so common, the vintage pieces are not so difficult to find.

Fiesta is still being made today but collectors look for the original production pieces identified by marks. Three were used: “Fiesta/HLC USA”, “HLC/Fiesta/Made in USA”, and “Fiesta/Made in USA/HL Co.”. Fiesta has been widely copied and since about 1940 the company also used the mark “Genuine”.

Value depends on the color and type of item. The medium-green production line was short-lived and is highly prized because it’s not easy to find. Red, dark blue and ivory are also sought after.

Color also helps determine age. If you know when a particular color was made, the age becomes obvious.

Popular pieces include 10-to-12 inch flower vases, teapots, footed dishes and syrup pitchers. Fiestaware handles and lids chipped easily so finding pieces in excellent condition can take some hunting. A teacup with its handle intact is a prized object. A carafe can be tough to find because not many were made.

On April 13, Strawser Auctions in Wolcottville, Ind., featured its vintage Fiesta auction. Here are some current values.

Fiesta

Utility tray; yellow; $27.

Ash tray; light green; $38.

Plate; gray, 9-inch diameter; $39.

Sauce boat; chartreuse; $55.

Sugar and creamer; gray; $110.

Syrup pitcher; base only no top; red; $110.

Mixing bowl; red; $143.

Candleholder; tripod; ivory; $198.

Teapot, medium green; $1,320.

Cream soup, medium green; $4,950.

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