Collecting Mania: Fiesta Dinnerware Part 2
There were eleven Fiesta colors introduced between the years 1936 and 1959, beginning with red, cobalt blue, medium green, ivory and yellow; followed shortly by turquoise in 1938, light green and gray in 1943, and chartreuse, rose and forest green in 1951. (The production of red Fiesta was suspended between 1943 and 1959 because of a ban imposed by the American Atomic Energy Commission on the use of uranium oxide for anything other than the Manhattan Project.)
Although colors were introduced, retired, and replaced, and new pieces were added, the basic styling of Fiesta remained constant and popular for nearly three decades. In 1973, after a brief introduction of "Fiesta Ironstone," a less labor-intensive line with a slightly updated look, Homer Laughlin China decided to retire the Fiesta brand.
Purists among Fiesta collectors often search out only the five original colors, while others look for all 11. Price is determined by color, condition, and rarity of the specific piece. The following is a breakdown of prices according to color:
This color is difficult to find, extremely sought after, and the most expensive. On the low end, saucers start around $7, the 6" plate about $15, the 9" plate $35. Most items - Tom and Jerry mugs, 13" chop plates, platters, and sauceboats - range from $70 to $100. Items on collectors' wish lists include the medium teapot ($375 to $450), 4 3/4" fruit bowl ($275 to $300), casserole ($375 to $425), and cream soup bowl ($2,500 to $3,000).
Red, Ivory, and Cobalt Blue
The cheapest items, which go for $4 to $15, are saucers and 6" and 7" plates. Average prices range from $25 to $60 and include the 5 1/2" fruit bowl, 6" dessert bowl, cream soup bowl, sauceboat, 15" chop plate and teacup. High-end pieces are the syrup ($225 to $250), vase ($400 to $650), and cake plate ($600 to $650).
Light Green, Yellow and Turquoise
Bargains are in the $2 to $10 category, with items like saucers and 6", 7", and 9" plates. Many things - compartment plates, sugar bowls and lids, utility trays, stick-handled creamers, and cream soup bowls - go from $20 to $50. Higher-priced pieces in this group cost $100 to $175 and include #7 mixing bowls, 11 3/4" fruit bowls, marmalades, large teapots, and carafes. The most expensive items are the footed salad bowl ($175 to $200), tripod candle holders ($300 to $350), cake plate ($550 to $600), and vase ($350 to $625).
Forest Green and Chartreuse
The most affordable items are saucers and 6", 7", and 9" plates; expect to pay between $4 and $20 for them. The next price level is between $25 and $90 for things like sauceboats, teacups, chop plates, sugar bowls and lids, dessert bowls, creamers, and cream soup bowls. On the high end are egg cups ($90 to $110), coffeepots and demitasse cups ($180 to $210), and medium teapots ($175 to $200).
Rose and Gray
Saucers and 6", 7", and 9" plates in these two colors range in price from $4 to $22. Platters, sugar bowls with lids, teacups, cream soup bowls, and a two-pint jug are considerably higher at $35 to $100. The priciest in this group are the medium teapots ($200 to $225), disk water pitchers ($200 to $235), demitasse cups ($225 to $250), and casseroles ($235 to $260).
Three different trademarks were used on the original Fiestaware and are either molded or stamped in black onto the bottom of each piece.
Logos read: "Fiesta/HLC.USA," "Fiesta/Made in USA/HL Co." and "HLC/Fiesta/MADE IN USA". Fiesta's immediate success, though, led other manufacturers to try to imitate the Homer Laughlin line. As a result, by 1940 all newly produced Fiesta was marked Genuine.
There are, however, some genuine Fiesta pieces that display no marking: most salt-and-pepper shakers, juice glasses, and cups carry no identifying signature.
A sure way to determine whether you've got the real thing or a phony is by observing the concentric circles; on true Fiesta, the spacing between the circles gets narrower and narrower, while that on copies is always uniform.
Homer Laughlin China relaunched Fiesta in 1986, in honor of its 50th anniversary. To distinguish between old and new, and to accommodate contemporary color trends, the company test-marketed the product in seven new colors - yellow, gray, blue, white, rose, apricot, and black. All but yellow and gray were selected for production.
In addition to the new colors, Homer Laughlin used a vitrified instead of a semi-vitrified clay. While vitrified china offers greater density and less moisture absorption, it does shrink more when fired. To preserve the original size of the Fiesta dinner plate and maintain specific shapes, the company was forced to devise new molds.
Since its reintroduction, Fiesta has continued to grow in popularity and has added new colors, including purple (now discontinued and highly sought after among new Fiesta pieces), pale yellow, turquoise, and seafoam. Fiesta is produced today, in eight colors, and the brand is licensed to a full range of coordinated accessories, from refrigerator magnets to picture frames.
While Homer Laughlin continues to promote the new Fiesta to the general public for everyday use, the company has also designed special collectors' edition pieces, among them a 10-piece set of 50th Anniversary Collector's Mugs (only 600 sets were made), a white 12" chop plate with the company's logo in red.