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April 1, 2013

Collection Reflections: Supermarket dinnerware

Once free, promotional dishes are now valued by collectors

It all began in the late 1950s when the makers of DUZ laundry detergent realized their product sales were lagging behind that of their competition.

Not to be washed up, they devised a promotional campaign that gave customers a growing incentive to buy DUZ. Inside every box of laundry soap was a piece of Golden Wheat 22K-gold-trimmed dinnerware.

For the price of clean laundry and a little customer loyalty, an entire set of beautiful dishes could be assembled for free.

The marketing gimmick was a great success, and sales of Duz detergent skyrocketed. So did the dinnerware collections of grandmothers, mothers and aunts all across America. And when their cupboards were full, they banded together to complete sets of dishes for the hope chests of their granddaughters, daughters and nieces.

Today, vintage Golden Wheat dinnerware, which was produced continually from 1949 to 1966 by the Homer Laughlin Co. of East Liverpool, Ohio, is collectible.

Although it is trimmed in real gold, it isn’t monetary value that drives the collecting trend. Rather it is because of sentiment and nostalgia that these dishes have gained so much attention.

Since Golden Wheat china was produced for nearly two decades, kids across America grew up with it. Fond memories of family meals, comfort food and Sunday dinner at grandmother’s house are powerful motivational factors when it comes to collecting. It is no surprise, therefore, that most of today’s buyers are the kids and grandkids of Baby Boomers who grew up with this tableware.

By the late 1950s and early 1960s, mom and pop stores, gas stations and grocery chains were all giving away inexpensive, yet appealing dinnerware to bolster their sales. To help in completing a set, department and dime stores jumped on the band wagon by coordinated their inventory to match the premiums that local businesses were giving away.

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