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Viva!  Fiestaware

2/1/2010


Fiestaware is the most collected dinnerware in the world, especially the original vintage pieces that was introduced in 1936 by the Homer Laughlin Pottery Company.   It is casual and colorful with an Art Deco aesthetic look that continues to herald it as a show stopper. There is something utilitarian, industrial, and bold about Fiesta that has something to do with the American spirit.  It is almost "classless" as it can be found on the most elegant table to the most casual.  It is a collectible.


The original colors introduced in 1936 were limited to just five colors: red which resembles orange, blue known as cobalt today, green which was a lighter than the darker green that came out later, yellow which is the only color that has been continuously produced, and ivory which is easily scratched. In 1937 turquoise hit the shelves.  These six colors are the ones collectors desire the most.  There are a total of thirty-five colors that have been on the market since 1980.


At the height of production in Newell, West Virginia, 360,000 pieces of dinnerware was produced daily in a factory that was over a million square feet.  By 1948, Fiesta had produced 10,129,449 pieces of glazed pottery tableware.   In 1972 the 500 millionth piece of Fiesta was produced.  It was a commissioned bowl in a deep raspberry color with a six-pointed star on the bottom of the bowl. It is back stamped with "Fiesta 500 M" as only 500 were produced.  It can be worth over $35,000 to the avid collector.   


Some of the rarest Fiesta is the Fiesta with stripes. About three years ago a covered onion striped soup bowl sold at auction for $4500.  That same bowl today could bring double that to the affluent, obsessive collector.  However, most people have the vintage Fiesta (1936 to 1948) that is rather ordinary but still commands the collector's attention if it is in pristine shape.


As appraisers, we recently opened a kitchen cabinet of a ninety year-old client who had the "mother-lode" of Fiesta haphazardly stack on three top shelves.  The dinnerware had not been touched since she had moved into her home in 1971.  She had some of the thirty-four pieces from the original lineup that Fiesta produced:  a red coffeepot, demitasse pot with six stick handled cups, covered onion soups, footed salad bowl, stacked mixing bowls, and a marmalade and mustard container to name just a few.  Her pristine collection of the original five colors was valued at over $6500.00.  The stacked mixing bowls in perfect condition can command up to a couple of thousand dollars if sold to the avid collector in the right market.


Yes, there are problems with Fiesta:  if it is chipped, has a worn glaze, or is a commonplace unmarked piece, the value is minimal to nothing.  Some people fear the radioactive uranium in the red glaze that was produced from 1936 to 1943; and others avoid the vintage glazes due to the heavy lead that was used. To stifle the "glaze-curse", Fiesta introduced in the 1950's forest green, chartreuse, rose and grey glazes that have their own collector following.


Books have been written, clubs have been formed, websites abound, blogging and twittering continues on a daily basis about the world's most collectible tableware: Viva! Fiesta.  The market is hot for your vintage, collectible, and pristine soup bowl to the hidden unused mustard jar.  So, check out your own "mother-lode".



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