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Smart, sophisticated, and still going strong — fiesta |

Smart, sophisticated, and still going strong — fiesta

The Homer Laughlin China Company of Newell, West Virginia reigns as one of the most prolific of all the American dinnerware manufacturers of the 20th century. Turning out tableware, kitchen wares, and serving pieces since 1871, their name is synonymous with affordable quality.

Many of their patterns became collectible, but one has become the most popular American dinnerware ever produced. It is perhaps best described in their 1936 magazine ads which read, “The new idea in American dinnerware… smart, sophisticated, and rich in color. It is the California fashion that has swept the nation. It is Fiesta!”

Collectible Fiesta ware was produced from 1936 to 1973. It was originally issued with 36 different pieces including basic table service, divided plates, a coffee pot, carafe, candle holders, pitchers, two compotes, an ashtray, nappies, a set of seven mixing bowls, and two covered serving dishes. The 1936 line featured five colors: cobalt blue, light green, yellow, ivory, and a bright orange color that is known as “Fiesta Red.” Turquoise, though often considered one of the original colors, was introduced the following year.

Ever aware of public opinion, Homer Laughlin was quick to drop pieces that did not meet with approval. The first piece to go was a twelve compartment plate that appeared only in the 1936 line. Next was the covered onion soup dish, which ceased production in 1937. The tripod candle holder, the stick-handled demitasse coffeepot, and the 10” and 12” vases were all discontinued in 1942. These pieces are considered very rare and will demand top dollar. Although not discontinued from the line, several pieces including the sugar bowl, tea cups, utility trays, creamer, the nesting bowls and the ashtray were modified within the first few years of production.

Fiesta Kitchen Kraft was introduced in 1939. This instantly popular line included pie plates, refrigerator sets, mixing bowls, and covered jars in four popular Fiesta colors. Watch for these. They are very collectible.

In 1943, “Fiesta Red” was dropped from the line. Production of the red glaze required the use of uranium which was needed for the war effort. Sales boomed for Fiesta in the 1940s, as they offered incredible deals like their seven-piece juice set that retailed for only $1. The best year on record for Fiesta sales came in 1948 when they produced over 10 million pieces.

In 1951, a new line of colors was introduced. Cobalt, light green, and ivory were retired and replaced with gray, rose, dark forest green, and chartreuse. Pieces discontinued in the late ‘50s included the mustards and marmalades, the 8” vase, footed salad bowl, relish tray, 11 1/2” fruit bowl, candle holder, 10 oz. tumblers, ice pitcher, and the large teapot. Red returned in 1959 and the eleventh Fiesta color, medium green, was introduced.

Sales declined sharply during the ‘60s and by 1969, the entire line was restyled. The new line contained only 19 pieces and ran in production until 1973. The last two colors introduced were antique gold and turf green.

As many of you know, values for most tableware and china have plummeted in the past decade. Fiesta, both “vintage” from pre-1960 and “original” from the 1930s are the exception and are holding strong in the current market.

Until next time…Linda

Linda Kennett is a professional liquidation consultant specializing in down-sizing for seniors and the liquidation of estates and may be reached at 317-258-7835 or

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