In Defense of Plate Hoarding

by Katy on November 27, 2010 · 33 comments

In my family, Thanksgiving is always hosted at my house. Not only do I have the space for it, but I am a bit of a late-to-life control freak who needs to have things done my way. (Cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie prepared the day before, with rolls and veggies done at the last minute.)

And most importantly, I have enough dishes and serving ware to host a lot of dinner guests. This year saw only twelve people at the house, but we’ve had as many as twenty without having to resort to *gasp* mis-matched plates, or *gag* paper plates.

I was admiring my hyper-organized cupboards last night, when it occurred to me that I should count how many plates I own. I stopped at 102, although there may have been a few that I missed. Yes, I included platters and dessert plates, but I really didn’t inflate this number whatsoever. (I just realized that I actually skipped the built-in buffet in the dining room.)

Do I have too many plates? No way! I have room for them all, and since they all match, (Fiestaware) they serve as both form and function. The combination of color and shape are almost sculptural in quality, and frankly I never had a chance to not collect Fiestaware, as I my sisters, mother and father all suffer from the same affliction. (And yes, my great grandparents lived in the same tiny Ohio town where Fiestaware continues to be manufactured.)

I no longer use the vintage dishes due to lead concerns, and I certainly stay away from the “Red”, (actually orange) dishes that include enough Uranium to make a geiger counter dance the jitterbug. But I love it all anyway.

I may be looking to pare down my excessive belongings throughout the rest of my house, but I will hold onto these dishes as long as I have room for them. Which I guess, is why I’m getting rid of so much stuff everywhere else. 😉

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristia@Family Balance Sheet November 27, 2010 at 12:56 pm

I have a large collection of vintage fiestaware. Most of it was my father’s parents and they received it as a wedding gift when they got married in the late 30s. My grandmother died when my dad was 4 and this set is really all we have that was hers. I coveted those dishes since I was a little girl. My grandfather got remarried when my dad was about 6 and his new wife raised the kids as her own. She graciously gave me the entire set when I got married in 2000 as our wedding gift. My husband could have cared less, but I was very excited. I was also the only grandchild who ever had an interest in the set.

We don’t use it too much, but it does make for a colorful display in my dining room. I forgot all abou the lead issue, I should look into that.

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Abby November 27, 2010 at 1:29 pm

That could be my cabinet! Okay, we don’t have nearly as much Fiestaware, but I really do love it – you can break one piece and you don’t have to replace the whole set, and you can always add to it. Plus, it is so un-fussy and functional, but still absolutely gorgeous.

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Annie Jones November 27, 2010 at 2:24 pm

I’ve always loved the simple beauty of Fiestaware, although I’ve never owned any myself.

In the past I’ve had a variety of different dinnerware and china that appealed to me at the time, but for the last few years (and probably from now on) I use Corelle. It’s not that pretty, but I choose it because it’s so very lightweight. So, I’ll stick with Corelle and admire everyone else’s dishes from afar.

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Tracy Balazy November 27, 2010 at 7:11 pm

I like Corelle! My favorite little bowls, that I use for everything from ice cream to chips, are great old hand-me-down ‘7os Corelle with green and gold floral patterns. I like Corelle’s iris-pattern dishes, too, I think they’re very pretty.

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Practical Parsimony November 27, 2010 at 8:55 pm

I am on my second set of Corelle. Actually, I have two sets of four place settings. I just broke the first piece ever. But, it’s okay. I stumbled and was falling down the side door concrete stairs. As I fell, I plunged toward the iron railing, trying to fall down any further. The bowl I was carrying flew to the right, also, and broke in a gillion little pieces. If I had broken my Wedgewood, I would have been upset. Now, I have renewed my vow of this spring to only use plastic or aluminum to carry food to hens. I only have 60 plates if you count dessert plates and platters. But, for a few years I have not had as much company as before. Still, I use everything I have, just rarely. Love your Fiesta Ware.

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Elaine December 2, 2010 at 6:04 am

I use Corelle, too. I had Pfaltzgraf until I develope arthritis in my hands. If I drop a Corelle dish, it usually doesn’t break, so I guess it saves money for me. Plus, there are some really pretty patterns.

Although, the fiesta ware is so colorful!

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Donna Besst November 27, 2010 at 2:53 pm

I collect “Autumn Leaf” by Jewel “T” …and I have many pieces that belonged to my great grandma. I was busily collecting the serving pieces to add to my collection when a nice woman at my district office asked me if I would like to have her 12 piece place setting and all the serving pieces as well. Her son and his new wife thought the dishes were “dated”..Of course I was stunned but not too much to say yes! I used them on Thursday and every fall as they make my table look beautiful and remind me of grandma. If you go to my page, I posted pictures if you would like to see. Happy belated Thanksgiving.

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AnnWilson November 27, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Well I guess if you have to pare down to only 100 items, you are already there!

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Carol November 27, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Oh, I love Fiestaware, too!
I went through a major life change about 6 years ago. As a symbol of my new life, I gave away my boring set of dishes, and started collecting every color of Fiesta that I could find at garage & estate sales. Now, I just open my cupboard door and sigh happily looking at all the beautiful colors! Symbolic, of course, of all the new colors in my life!

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Molly On Money November 27, 2010 at 4:01 pm

I horde china dishes. After having my wedding china (from my first marriage) in storage for over 10 years I recently pulled it out and we now eat on them every day. I’m not into matching things but ecclectic kinda has a theme things and so every place setting is different pattern. Having coffee in the morning is great. I not only get to pick out the pattern I’m in the mood for but I get to drink out of a china cup!

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Jupe B November 27, 2010 at 5:15 pm

My mom has tried to give me one (or two or three) of the sets of china she has in her cupboard. I’m a more handmade stoneware from local artists (friends) type of girl. They go better with my mismatched set of cloth napkins.

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Tracy Balazy November 27, 2010 at 7:13 pm

I put cloth napkins on the table in front of my inlaws for our Thanksgiving dinner, and I think they were alarmed. Hahaha.

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Allison November 27, 2010 at 9:03 pm

My mom had the very first ‘china like’ dishes that Corning put out which were called Centura. They were touted as being like china but unbreakable. Most of them were white or white on white patterns and some had gold or silver edging on them. I bought my own set in the late 60s while in high school. I still have them and I have my mom’s and I’ve added to them over the years. Even with the different shapes they all go together and I could probably feed the army in a pinch. People always says that white is boring, but in my book it goes with everything (and we use lots of color with it) and it can be everyday plain or formally elegant….it depends if we set out the Tupperware tumblers or the crystal wine glasses with it!
In spite of being advertised as unbreakable, I have broken a few pieces over the years and it is not advisable in the microwave, but since I don’t cook like that, that is not a factor for me. Can you put Fiesta in the microwave??

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Allison November 27, 2010 at 9:20 pm

One more note of history on the Corningware….the Century factory burned and Corning never rebuilt it. It is at that time that they really began to make all the Corelle patterns. To me, the Corelle feels plastic and for that I have all my original Melmac melamine dishes in all kinds of colors. These are what we use in our camping trailer because of the weight issue.

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BagelGirl November 29, 2010 at 8:49 am

Speaking of Melmac brings back a long ago memory. In the ’50s my mother gave away her blue willow china to a poor family down the street and got a set of Melmac. They were all square shaped and in four different pastel colors. They looked futurific.

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Miss Roman Apartment November 28, 2010 at 12:05 am

We just had dinner tonight for 40 in our 1000 square foot house. We had everyone bring their own plate and silverware (we’ve got the glassware and cloth napkin collections to rival your plate collection) and then hired a butler for $32 an hour to keep the house clean, the coffee hot, the drinks flowing and the dishes washed during the party. Our party ended one hour ago. We just threw all the linens into the wash and we’re done cleaning because the butler handled everything else! Our guests all went home with clean dishes and neatly wrapped leftovers. No china storage problems here!

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Queen Lucia November 28, 2010 at 8:26 am

Love the butler idea! Never thought of it but that could be a great solution if we ever host our family’s annual Christmas party, of between 30 and 50, in our equally small house. Sounds like it would keep the hoards out of precious kitchen real estate.

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CC November 28, 2010 at 2:13 am

A few years ago for my birthday I bought fiestaware, couldn’t decide on one color so bought all different.LOL Its great, I pick up one of the new colors every year. We have plenty of place settings now so the past couple of years I’ve picked up a ramekin or two. I only have one muffin pan and use these for making muffins and cakes now.

The big thing I like about the fiestaware beside being pretty is its tough. I don’t have a dishwasher so knock dishes together when washing, only cracked one plate. We even use them outside for backyard picnics.

I had a set of the corelle 70’s green flowers, was my wedding dishes. I only have about 5 dinner plates and one salad plate left. Since they are thin they take up very little space. I either gave away or broke the rest. These are strong dishes also but when they break they are dangerous with all the flying small pieces. I said I was tough on dishes.LOL

Corelle and fiestaware are the only dishes I have ever had that hasn’t chipped or broke easily with use at my house.

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Rachel November 28, 2010 at 4:54 am

As a Fiesta/Harlequin/Riviera junkie – I understand – you can never have enough of those dishes. But the ‘good stuff’ gets saved for special occasions (my mother-in-law loves to tell me about when Fiesta was the everyday dishware) and I use Corelle for everyday. It’s nice to hear from others whose cupboards probably look like mine.

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Dmarie November 28, 2010 at 5:53 am

Still have a complete set of 70s Fiestaware. Even with my new interest in minimalism, they made the cut! And have loads of extra plates in my current pattern, including some lucked upon at a yard sale. Keep surplus glasses on hand too. Yup, extra dishes save money & the earth…no buying disposables for entertaining a crowd. But love Miss Roman’s idea too!

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Jenny November 28, 2010 at 10:11 am

Wow, I have vintage Fiestaware in the dark blue and cream colors, but I had my mom sell the rest of her collection. Not an orange or yellow girl! I love it when maufacturers make coordinating dishes that aren’t all exactly the same. My SIL has a Dansk pattern that is dark blue and white–they changed the designs and the sizes/shapes but kept the colors throughout many years. Now she sets a beautiful table that coordinates but is more interesting than having everything the same. And no panic when someone breaks a plate or bowl!

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Jessica November 28, 2010 at 10:39 am

I live near this same small town in Ohio – we love heading over to the seconds shop to pick up our dishes and my sister collects the sets in different colors, gets a new set each birthday/Christmas 🙂

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Katy November 28, 2010 at 10:41 am

I’ve been to the Homer Laughlin factory and even snuck into their dump and rescued a few plates.

-Katy

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Mary H November 28, 2010 at 11:24 am

I love Fiestaware, too. I bought it for myself about 25 years ago and people have given me various additional pieces over the years, some new, some vintage. It’s my only set of dishes, every day and special occasion. It’s beautiful, durable and festive. I keep it out on open shelves so I can appreciate it all the time and the colorfulness of it makes me smile.

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Lisa P. November 28, 2010 at 6:57 pm

Just a quick note to say that your collection is really impressive but you are braver than I am ~ I count some of my collections but dishes wouldn’t be a good idea LOL. I picked up my last full “set” of bone china which serves 18 (plus extra pieces – I think it was originally a set for 24 – we’re talking dinner plates to salad dishes to other mid-sized plates I’ve never seen before) at a local country auction for $20 and had to promise my DH I wouldn’t buy any more…. I’m assuming the service I haven’t brought from mom’s house doesn’t count… since I’m not “buying” them. 🙂

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Maarten November 29, 2010 at 5:55 am

Dear Katy, thank you for your “Fiesta”-blog this week. It really got me in the mood for Christmas. Last Sunday was the 1th Advent, only still three weeks to go. Although it makes a good allegory (a Geiger-counter at the table and Glow-in-the-dark dinner plates) I think you mistook one fact for another. Until the 1960’s uranium was used to make “lead” glass or glass-plating (emaille). After 1960 factories stopped using uranium for safety-reasons (risks involved in processing the salts). But, unlike uranium 235 or 238, that is used in the Nuclear industry or military, this uranium is NOT radio-active in any sort or way. Uranium, Cobalt, Lead, Boron, etc. are all salts that are used to give glassware a colour (the metal-ion does the trick). One could use other metals (salts), like iron or titanium, that supposedly have a name to be “safe”, but these do not have the “right” colour. Even if some factory in the 1940’s or 1950’s used weapons-grade Plutonium by mistake for the production of dinner-plates or glassware, there only is a really small health risk involved. Drinking two glasses of Beaujolais-wine does more damage to ones health than the tiny shard of glass that could be ingested; the metal is encapsulated in glass. So, at my Christmas-table I will serve dessert and fruit in my 1950’s Leerdam-“spooky green”-glassware.
So please do not worry about your orange Fiesta’s anymore…
did I mention that Orange is a Dutch-colour? 😉

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Katy November 29, 2010 at 6:45 am

Maarten,

My local children’s science museum actually has a geiger counter and a broken piece of the orange Fiestaware. The machine chirps and beeps when the two are together.

I use the new Fiestaware daily, but rarely use my vintage dishes due to lead concerns. My younger son had a high lead level when he was in preschool and I remember that the information I received from the county included specific instructions to not use older/ questionable dishes. New Fiestaware specifically says “Lead Free” on the bottom of most every dish.

I’m not sure how real the health concern is, but I’ve had cancer twice now, (malignant melanomas) and err on the side of cautious.

Thank you for your comment.

-Katy

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Maarten November 30, 2010 at 2:46 am

Dear Katy,
Thank you for your reply. I am sorry to hear about your and your son’s health problems! I wish you both all the best. It seems that I am the one that has to do the homework again. To be honest, I regret sending my comment.

I think the museum needed a source of Alpha-particles (a radio-active specimen) for educational purposes. Being a children’s museum, it must be safe for children to handle. Probably they used Fiesta-ware because the metal does not migrate out of the glass medium. Uranium can be made radio-active (induced) easily. For example by putting it in a sterilization station at the Hospital or in a pest control box at the local grain elevator (both use Gamma rays). But you are certainly right to better stay on the safe side and not use vintage Fiesta anymore!

The high levels of lead in your son’s blood may have been caused by the paint on his toys (e.g. miniature cars or colored rubber figures). Another possible source of lead is cast-iron cooking ware, especially when cooking acidic foods. Or, (like I used to do) holding tin-lead wire in the mouth when soldering electronic circuits. Sorting through old stuff last night, I found a 1950’s car spark plug. The company advertised its uniqueness: it contains Polonium!

Greetings and wishing you well,
Maarten (Leiden, the Netherlands)

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Katy November 30, 2010 at 9:28 am

Maarten,

I appreciated your comment, thank you for writing it. The orange Fiestaware shard at the children’s museum is behind Plexiglass, so it doesn’t actually get handled.

🙂

-Katy

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Willow December 20, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Cast iron cookware is not a source of lead! It is a source of iron which can be dangerous for people in large amounts like too much in a vitamin. But the amount of iron released from a cast iron pan is actually good for most people especially menstruating women.

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ecoenergygirl November 30, 2010 at 2:29 pm

I wonder what would happen if you took your other colors Fiestaware into the museum? Would it beep?
Soil from all over Colorado will, just because the minerals are there.
102 plates is a lot. I would hate to have to store them, but I’d love to have the space to do so. If it keeps you from using plastic and/or disposables, more power to you! (and a round of applause)

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Mary C December 11, 2010 at 7:25 pm

I love Fiestaware too, I have a cupboard full of dishes and no matter what else I get rid of the Fiestaware is staying! The colors always make me smile every time I open my cupboard doors.

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