How to tell old Fiestaware from new
Jul 30, 2014 | by Becky Oeltjenbruns
The bright hues of Fiestaware have always inspired cheer in us. There’s just something satisfying about eating your meal on a beautiful colored plate, crafted with care and style. And while we’re thrilled so many other people agree and Fiesta re-launched the collection in 1986, it does make it challenging for the vintage collector. Join us as we answer the question: how to tell old Fiestaware from new.
Brief history of Fiestaware
As we showed you earlier, the old Fiesta line was designed by Frederick Rhead and then modeled by Kraft, Berrisford and Watkins. The line was produced by Homer Laughlin from 1936-1973, being reissued a mere 13 years later by Jonathan Perry and modeler Joseph Geisse. As the line grew in popularity, many complimentary lines were launched: Fiesta Kitchen Kraft, Fiesta Ironstone, Sheffield Amberstone, Coventry Casualstone, and Fiesta Mates.
How to tell old Fiestaware from new by color
The vintage Fiesta collection included around 70 items and collectors usually divide the color schemes into three, distinct groups. The original colors included red, cobalt, yellow, light green, old ivory, and turquoise. As consumers’ tastes changed, the line evolved to follow suit in the 1950s and those colors included: gray, rose, chartreuse, and forest green. The final group contains just one color, the rarest find, medium green.
When it comes to colors, it’s critical to know what years certain colors were in production. Despite turquoise being included in the umbrella of “original colors”, it did not debut until a year after the others in 1937. Red was the first discontinued color, being removed from the factory in 1943. Due to its chemical composition, Homer Laughlin could not obtain the necessary Uranium Oxide during the war. Red was only offered again in 1959. In 1951 ivory, light green, and cobalt were supplanted by the 1950 hues listed above. These tones were produced until 1959 (the same year turquoise and yellow were discontinued). The remaining colors stayed around until 1969 when Fiesta Ironstone was developed and distributed.
Discerning the green tones can be tricky, but keep in mind that retro chartreuse is going to be darker than the new chartreuse hue. It’s easiest to find light green as that was one of the most popular colors in the line.
Fiesta Kitchen Kraft colors
During the 1930s and the 40s, Kraft products were found in red, cobalt, light green, and yellow. These are heavy, durable products and included a variety of kitchenware necessities: mixing bowls, casserole dishes, pie plates, jars, cake plates and platters, spoons, and cake lifters.
Fiesta Ironstone colors
Debuting in 1969, this line came in three core colors: turf green, antique gold, and mango red (which was just a new name for the original Fiesta red). Some items will include a 60th anniversary logo. This collection was removed from shelves in 1973.
Fiesta Amberstone colors
This collection was independently created and also is known under the name Sheffield Amberstone. All offerings in this line have a brown glaze, with some having black decoration and a 60th anniversary logo.
Fiesta Casualstone colors
Casualstone is the sister line to the above Amberstone, made with an antique gold glaze (and occasional floral pattern). Like Amberstone, it went under another name: “Coventry Casualstone.”
How to tell old Fiestaware from new by markings
Thankfully, the manufacturers used distinctive stamps for the old and new collections. The old inkstamp says “GENUINE fiesta (fiesta will be in a stylized text and all lower-cased words) HLCo USA. This marking will be in a straight line. In contrast, the new collection will have Fiesta with a capital “F” and the marks will be in a circular/curved format.
In addition to this inkstamp on the bottom, you will find a mold marking on practically every original piece created. You may or may not find rings around the wording. The variations in text include: Fiesta HLC USA, Fiesta MADE IN USA HLC, HLC fiesta MADE IN USA, fiesta MADE IN USA (with a trident-like logo above it).
If you see small letter markings on the bottom – here is a helpful guide to understanding what they mean!
In the other lines, the markings do vary. The Kitchen Kraft collection are home to a variety of decals, but all will have a backstamp of “HLC.” You will also find the wording “in-the-mold” (either as a permanent marking or a sticker).
How to tell old Fiestaware from new by inspection
The last ways to decipher old from new are more involved. These techniques require closer inspection and a bit of training. But first we’ll start by taking your find and flipping it over. Looking at the underside will tell you plenty about your recent addition. Old plates will have what’s known as a wet foot. The term sounds foreign, but the translation is simple: a wet foot means the underside is completely glazed; you will not be able to see any un-colored clay. In addition to the piece being completely covered, you’ll see three pin marks – these small indentations are a result of the glazing process. New Fiestaware will have a dry foot ring.
Sizing is another good way to tell vintage from modern apart. New plates are solid dimensions, like 15” or 6”. If you measure the diameter and get a number that is slightly off (or fractional), you’ve got an original piece. Naturally, design comes into play as well. With teacups specifically, look for ring (perfectly circular) handles to identify it as an old Fiesta product. Lastly, and this is the most tricky, new Fiesta will be heavier than the old as it’s made with a different kind of clay.
For our readers: Do you collect Fiestaware and if so, what’s your favorite vintage color?