One of the most popular grocery-store patterns of all times is Blue Willow, a design that was developed by the English potter Thomas Minton during the 18th century. The imagery on each dish tells the story of a forbidden love between the daughter of a Chinese emperor and his humble servant.
The Blue Willow pattern will always have love birds flying in the sky over a lake with an island and a boat, a footbridge with three people on it, and a pagoda overshadowed by a willow tree. It was made in both England and Japan, with the English china being of better quality and therefore more valuable and collectible.
Of all grocery-store dinnerware ever produced, Royal China Company’s Currier and Ives is, by far, the most prolific. The dishes were produced from late 1949 until 1986 when the company closed. They were produced in the most popular color — blue and white — as well as rose, green, black and brown. There are a multitude of patterns and all are based on famous Currier and Ives prints from a bygone era.
More than 20 different scenes grace Currier and Ives dinnerware. To name a few, The Old Grist Mill, Washington’s Birthplace, The Rocky Mountains, Winter in the Country, Sleigh Ride, The Old Inn, The Old Farm Gate, On the Mississippi, Maple Sugaring and many, many more.
What were once inexpensive grocery-store give-aways are now commanding premium prices. A common bread and butter plate may run you a dollar or two, but a tab-handled cereal bowl could cost as much as $40. Juice glasses and water tumblers sell for between $8 and $18 each. Rarer items like a covered casserole dish with lid and decorative scrolls on the tab handles can sell for as much $175.
That’s a pretty penny for something that was once given away for free.
Julie Robinson Robards is an antiques journalist and dealer living in Upper Jay. She is the author of two published books on celluloid, an advisor to several antique price guides and a writer for AntiqueWeek Newspaper since 1995. She may be reached through her website www.celluloidforever.co.