When you find a vintage ashtray, there are two versions. One has no Fiesta mark on the bottom, instead, there are seven circles.
Later in production, the inner rings were discarded for the well-known ‘Genuine Fiesta HLCO’ stamp.
You can often find marks on the bottom of ashtrays, and the ashtrays have the distinction of being the only product in the Fiesta line that have broken circles, in this case, broken by the wells to hold cigarettes.
Medium green is, of course, the rarest.
Approximate dimensions: W 6¼” x H 1¼”
Production time: 1936-1969
Depending on how you count, there are anywhere from 52-75 different types products during the 1936-1972 run, and they aren’t all available in every color. Most people typically agree that 42 pieces were debuted, although some people say it’s 34 pieces, and others say 36. However many pieces were debuted, the line took off, and approximately twenty new products were added before the end of the thirties (although several products were discontinued as well!)
Some products can only be found in the original six colors, and some can be found in all original eleven colors. Some can only be found in some of the later colors.
The following are considered the original pieces by most collectors in the original eleven glazes:
Most people consider turquoise to be one of the original colors, and call it, as well as red, yellow, ivory, blue, and green the Original Six colors. It was fired from 1937 to 1969, almost the entire original run. It was then reintroduced in 1988 due to it’s popularity, and has not been retired since.
Old Ivory was the last of the original five colors. It’s neutral tone was meant to pair with all of the colors but not clash. While most people know that the original red was made with uranium and was thus radioactive, not many people know that this ivory color was also made with radioactive materials. However, the amount of radiation this color gives off is minor, especially when compared with the radioactive red.
Old Ivory, which is what it was actually called in 1936, was fired from 1936 to 1951, when it was retired for the 1950’s colors. Today, it’s mostly called vintage ivory.
Original Yellow was the next obvious choice in the original five line-up, and as Frederick Rhead said in his journal, it had to talk. This bright, vibrant yellow did exactly that when paired with the other four colors.
Yellow is famous for being the only original color to last the entire 1936-1972 run.
Original Green, also now known as ‘light green’ had to be very carefully chosen. The shad had to be just right – not too bright, but not too dark. Not too blue, but not too yellow, either. As Frederick Rhead, the art designer of HLC, said:
With the (colors) red and blue apparently settled, we decided a green must be one of the five colors. We speedily discovered that the correct balance between the blue and the red was a green possessing a minimum of blue. We had to hit halfway between the red and the blue. We had some lovely subtle greens when they were not placed in juxtaposition with the other two colors, but they would not play in combination.
Light green is, as the name suggests, the lightest of the three vintage greens (excluding chartreuse). While you should be easily able to tell chartreuse from the other vintage greens, it can sometimes be confusing when you see a single piece.
L to R: Medium green, light green, forest green
Medium green is going to be very rare, and comparative to John Deere green. If it’s not that color, and it’s not a lime green-ish color, then it’s either light green or forest green, and it should be fairly easy to tell from there.
Light green was fired from 1936-1951, when it was retired for chartreuse.
Original Red is most commonly called radioactive red due to the fact that it was made with either natural uranium or depleted uranium, depending on the year it was made. From 1936-1943, it was made with natural uranium, until the government took control of all uranium due to WWII. After the World War and the loosening of governmental hold of uranium, HLC began firing radioactive red again, this time with depleted uranium.
Many studies have been done on the amount of radiation this red gives off, and while depleted uranium is (comparatively) safer than natural uranium, they’re both probably not safe to use, especially not with acidic foods. The EPA lists these plates as having “elevated levels” of radiation.
Also, before you eat off any vintage Fiesta plate, remember that lead was an ‘ingredient’, and any cracks in the plate or glaze will expose you to it!
This red is more orangey-red than a true red, so if someone is selling ‘original red’ and it looks like a true red, don’t pay vintage prices for it!
You like the colors. The pretty circle plates. Something about Fiesta calls to you, and I understand. My sister picked up a cobalt disk pitcher and has never looked back. (My mistake was finding the color peacock.)
There are many different ways to go about this.
Do you want to collect just one color? Sure! Do you want to collect all colors of one item? Sure! Do you want to collect whatever catches your fancy? Sure!
There are no rules when it comes to collecting Fiesta. Do whatever your heart desires.
I’m here to share a little bit of history about the pieces and the colors, and to give you checklists, because checklists make me happy, and they might make you happy too.
The original five colors (shown above) and turquoise make up the ‘Original Six’ lineup, as show below.
These colors were very carefully picked. Once red and cobalt blue were settled on, green was an obvious choice, but what shade of green? It was decided that a minimum of blue dye was the perfect balance, and thus, light green was born. Yellow was the next obvious choice, and it had to talk. With a minimum of green in it, this bright yellow was perfect. Ivory was chosen to off-set all these colors. The next year, turquoise was introduced, and is one of the brightest glazes in Fiesta history.
Say hello to these fabulous colors, and goodbye to blue, green, and ivory! That means, along with these four colors, HLC kept turquoise and yellow, radioactive red having been discontinued in 1943 due to WWII.
The 1960’s heralded a slump in Fiesta history, and in 1959, Fiesta retired almost all of their colors, except for yellow and turquoise. They reintroduced radioactive red, and introduced medium green. However, sales were limited, due to a turn in popularity to earthenware dinnerware.
Eventually, all four of these colors were discontinued due to lack of sales
From 1969-1972, Fiesta gave one last try in the form of three Ironstone colors, Mango Red (essentially radioactive red, also made with depleted uranium), antique gold, and turf green. The shapes changed slightly as well, but eventually, HLC gave up, and closed it’s doors in 1972.