What’s It Worth: Fiesta Ware

Colorful Fiesta ware is hot with collectors—see what old and new pieces are worth.

Assorted Fiesta pieces

Fabulous Fiesta ware

Colorful Fiesta ware pieces make almost everyone smile. Find the value of these pieces and more in this slide show.

Fiesta pieces in various colors

Fiesta ware-assorted

Shallow serving bowls like these blue and red ones were called nappies. They have a flat bottom, sloping sides and an easy-grasp rim. They’re worth about $85 apiece. The yellow salt-and-pepper shakers and the light green cup are each worth about $45; the medium green cup at right, $75. Medium green, added in 1959, continues to climb in value.

Fiesta ware cup bottom

Fiesta ware-original marking

With just a few exceptions, the distinctive indented Fiesta mark was applied before the final glaze. Some items are marked with a pair of numbers and/or letters. Impostors abound! When buying vintage pieces, always compare marks and design, but especially look for the distinctive colors.

Fiesta mixing bowls

Fiesta ware mixing bowls

Early Fiesta ware mixing bowls came in seven numbered sizes, ranging from 5 to 12 inches wide, and had inside bottom rings. Here you see the original red (two bowls), turquoise, light green, cobalt blue and yellow—only ivory is missing. In mint condition, they are worth from $195 to $275, and have been known to go higher.

Fiesta ware-turquoise pieces

Turquoise Fiesta ware

Vibrant turquoise was added a year after Fiesta ware was introduced. Note the distinctive concentric circles (the number can vary). This large disk water pitcher is worth about $175; the 9-inch dinner plate, $40, and the mixing bowl, $275. Small items like the salt-and-pepper set were never marked; this set is worth about $30.

Fiesta ware-red comport

Fiesta ware-comport

The 12-inch comport, sometimes called a footed salad or centerpiece, was made only in original Fiesta ware colors and often used with matching candlesticks.This red comport is worth about $245.

Modern Fiesta ware

Fiesta ware- Post 86

Post 86 Fiesta ware is the modern version of Fiesta. Red and white is extremely popular, especially at the holidays; these cup-and-saucer sets are worth about $15 each.

Modern Fiesta markings

Fiesta ware Post 86 markings

These are the markings on Post 86 Fiesta ware, which is still made today.

 

Inheriting my grandmother’s large Fiesta ware popcorn bowl sparked my interest in collecting. What can you tell me about this popular line of dinnerware?

—S.G., Waukesha, Wisconsin

 

A:  The glossy, colorful Fiesta line of china—popularly known as “Fiesta ware”—was born in the Great Depression, aiming to affordably brighten dinner tables and lives. Designed by Frederick Hurten Rhead for the Homer Laughlin China Company in Newell, West Virginia, it was introduced to the public in 1936 and quickly became a mainstay in kitchens across the country.

The original five Fiesta ware colors were red, yellow, cobalt blue, light green and ivory; turquoise was added a year later. The beauty of the concept was that pieces could be easily mixed and matched, and bought individually or in small batches instead of costly sets.

Fiesta’s streamlined design featured an art deco style with concentric circles that made it look as if it were handmade on a potter’s wheel. Of course, the sturdy china was mass-produced, selling at five-and-dimes like Woolworth’s and department stores such as Gimbels.

A 24-piece place setting sold for $11 in the 1930s. Today, prices can change as often as monthly, but a 6-inch plate in a common color costs $5 to $15, and a dinner plate $30 to $40; basic pieces are generally worth less than coffee pots, candleholders, casserole dishes, pitchers or vases. Rarities can cost hundreds of dollars.

Getting Festive

Early ads for Fiesta ware were aimed squarely at middle-class housewives. The bold, solid colors were welcomed as something radically new, and helped reflect a more informal lifestyle. An advertising brochure proclaimed, “Color! That’s the trend today…It’s FUN to set a table with Fiesta!”

As the Fiesta ware phenomenon grew, the company created new shades to suit changing tastes, including softer pastels in the early 1950s and returning to bright hues in the early ‘60s. Of all the colors, the original orange-red color is valued especially highly by collectors because of its scarcity. The red glaze formula included uranium, essential to the World War II effort and unavailable to potteries for several years.

Fiesta ware fever cooled steadily from peak sales in 1948, when 30 million pieces were shipped. Earth-toned Fiesta ware in the late 1960s proved unpopular, and the line was discontinued in 1973. Before long, however, sales on the secondary market began to flourish as baby boomers began collecting, nostalgic for their mothers’ and grandmothers’ dishware. Rummage sales, eBay and auctions offered a rainbow of vintage Fiesta ware.

New Fiesta Fans

In 1985, Bloomingdale’s approached Homer Laughlin about reproducing an updated version in honor of Fiesta’s 50th anniversary. It was reintroduced the next year with new clays, colors and glazes.

Modern Fiesta ware, called Post 86, is microwave— and dishwasher—safe, as well as oven-proof and lead-free, and both Macy’s and Kohl’s headquarters report it by far their best-selling everyday china. To keep the line vibrant, a new color is added annually while others are retired. Shades entering the Fiesta spectrum range from tangerine and plum to peacock and flamingo pink.

Not only has the iconic china spawned the Homer Laughlin China Collectors Association and an annual convention, it was honored with its own postage stamp in 2011. What’s more, a new generation is celebrating Fiesta ware. One collector told me, “My 8-year-old is the pickiest of eaters—but she’ll even eat leftovers if she can select the plate color her food goes on.”

—Barbara J. Eash (Country Woman Magazine’s Antiques Expert)

See Barbara’s appraisals of various Fiesta ware items in the slide show above.  

Prices for Fiesta ware vary according to a piece’s age, size, color, function and regional availability. Comparative values given in the captions are for pieces in absolute mint condition, with no breaks, cracks, crazing, discoloration or marring of any kind; be aware that prices can change monthly.

Want to start collecting Fiesta ware, or learn more about pieces you have? Barbara recommends two of her favorite resources, The Collector’s Encyclopedia of Fiesta, by Bob and Sharon Huxford, and the Happy Heidi’s website.

Gura Lashlee 1 July 28, 2014 at 1:47 pm

Hello,
I am trying to build a relish tray consisting of all 6 original colors.
I have….
green and yellow sections
green center
turquoise tray.
I am willing to trade/barter or buy any of the other colors.
Hope you can help.
Thanks,
Gura

Reply

Jan 2 October 7, 2014 at 3:04 pm

I have a large perwinkle fiesta platter with handles and a 4 inch circle in middle. And a dividing line on each side of the circle. What is the dish called and what is the value? I thuink it has some years on it. good condition/

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