I am a vintage junkie , author of Melmac Central and run the Living a Vintage Life podcast.
Fiesta: The Older Bowls Like Granny Had are Worth Their Weight in Gold
Vintage Fiesta Dinnerware by Homer Laughlin China Company
I just love Fiesta dinnerware. I remember going to my great grandmother's for Thanksgiving as a child in the 1970's and seeing my Nana's 1940's Fiesta mixing bowls in so many colors all over the place in the kitchen. One used to mix stuffing, the other used for sweet potatoes....so many colors...so much love. That is one of my best memories and probably why I love retro kitchenalia to this day!
Today, those same bowls Nana used are so very desired and pricey collectibles. Of course, the Homer Laughlin China company is still making dinnerware in the USA today, but the older vintage colors and some discontinued designs are sought afte
History of HLC and Fiesta Dinnerware
Believe it or not, the Homer Laughlin China company dates back to 1871, built by a man named Homer Laughlin and his brother Shakespeare but ironically in 1879 Mr. Laughlin sold his shares to William Edwin Wells and Louis Aaron..There were add-ons to the original plant due to expansion by Wells and Aaron, but over time and with demand they were forced to invest in the building of a new plant across the Ohio River in Newell, West Virginia. This new plant consisted of the factory and offices and is what we know of the Homer Laughlin China Company today!
Homer Laughlin is best known for it's Fiesta dinnerware line introduced in 1936 which was the creation of Frederick H. Rhead who joined in the company in 1927. Fiesta was sold in large quantities. Production ceased in 1973. One may wonder why this was, and some may surmise sales were down, or that the company wanted to gain notoriety in other lines and see what could prosper without the shadow of Fiesta looming over. Or so it may have been, for a little over a decade...
An ingenious idea in 1986 made the "reintroduction of Fiesta" a craze. New colors and new accompaniments had Fiesta selling in most major department stores such as Macy's or Bloomingdale's and even consumer catalogs such as Betty Crocker Catalogs (which do not exist anymore). Part of the marketing was new attractive colors, some completely different than what consumers may have seen in the 1940's but others only a hue off of the original color. New colors were introduced and some stopped rather quickly and without warning. This made a rise in demand for those who had began collecting the color and made the items soar in prices, value and demand. To this day, new colors are being introduced and new components as well. Over time there have also been a slew of Fiesta-go-withs from plastic carafes, to metal napkin holders. There have been plastic and glass tumblers and even flatware, most of the go-withs made by outside companies to accompany the lines. It is safe to say one can spend a small fortune Fiesta-tizing their entire kitchen.
What most people don't realize is the company now dates to over a century old and has been producing much more than Fiesta in those years. Other lines of dinnerware, vases, door knobs, tiles, special orders, restaurant ware, and other china.
They have even allowed special "go - with" licensing to be made. For instance, a company may pay them for the license and rights to produce drinking glasses or limited edition collectibles.
Fiesta Licensed Go-Withs
My Visit to Homer Laughlin China Company
I visited the Homer Laughlin China company back in 2000. They have a huge section of discounted items that may contain glaze or imperfections, or firing issues, which quality control has considered them not "first quality" therefore moving them to discounted as "seconds." It's nice to know they do such good quality control.
I was very lucky when I arrived just a month after they made the decision to discontinue Chartreuse, and so it was I came home with a truckload full of it. I really thought that was the best part of the trip, shopping in the outlet part of the store.
The other part of the store has newer items where you can buy newer items and see first hand brand new things coming out on the market.
You then can take a tour though the factory watching the china being made and workers bustling everywhere. It is truly amazing to see how it's all done. You must schedule a tour in advance, details on how to do this are here.
One memory I have is the fact that the parking lot I was parked in, was full of tiny, shards of Fiesta. Perhaps at one point the broken bits were used for crush and run. I highly recommend anyone who likes Fiesta to visit the Homer Laughlin China company. It's in a very industrial section of Newell, West Virginia.
Mix and Match
The best part about Fiesta is you can buy place settings and mix and match them, build your own custom colors! Look at this great set of Rose, White, and Black. Rose was made from 1986-2005 so it is still readily found. White and Black are still being produced as of the time of this article.
Collectible Colors and Items
Most people think that Vintage Fiesta is the only Fiesta worth any money, but this is not so. With the re-introduction of Fiesta in 1986, some colors or items were quickly introduced then retired and so they may be more sought after than others.
A few colors may be:
Lilac - produced only two years from 1993-1995 making it highly desirable.
Sapphire - Was only available at Bloomingdale's from 1996-1997.
Chartreuse - Was reintroduced for only two years 1997-1999.
A few items may be:
Additionally there may be items that were produced exclusively for other companies in the Fiesta patterns that may have quadrupled in value. Make sure to do your homework before giving your Fiesta away!
Fiesta Collectors Club on Facebook
- I Love Fiesta® Ware!
I Love Fiesta® Ware! has 12,009 members. For those who love Fiesta ware! Click SEE MORE for group rules. Share your dish stories, photos, and all things...
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Cindy Fahnestock-Schafer
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Bob Zau on June 17, 2012:
Well done! What's your next lens going to be about?
anonymous on December 27, 2011:
Thank you for mentioning the "parking lot" where shards can be picked up. I am a jeweler. I can make rings and magic things from shards! Please keep believing in Homer and Shakespere. Please keep noticing all the things they were promoting. They wanted us to have color and durability in our lives. They are part (most) of what makes America great!
Shelly Sellers from Midwest U.S.A. on December 27, 2011:
My SIL collects Fiestaware!