Fire King glass is still king
by Peggy Whiteneck
I caught the Fire King bug from my parents, who had one of the largest Jadeite (light green) Fire King collections I’ve ever seen, including rare pieces such as egg cups. That set has come down to my sister and is still center stage in family gatherings. When I started collecting Fire King myself, I decided to concentrate on other options in its line. I now have small sets of Fire King in basic plates, mugs, and bowls in three colors: pink, ivory, and turquoise. I also found a complete set of four nested serving bowls in ivory, which I use often, while my sister has a full set in Jadeite.
Fire King sets
Here are two of the items from my own Fire King sets, at left in ivory and at right in turquoise blue. The shapes are pleasingly simple, and the handles on the cups are large enough to accommodate most hands and durable enough to withstand breakage. (Image courtesy of the author)
These lines were called Fire King because the glass is oven safe. Still, I try to avoid putting any of my Fire King pieces in the oven, though I find the mugs and plates especially convenient for microwave heating of cups of coffee and leftover foods.
Perhaps the best known of the Fire King lines is Jadeite, originally made in two different forms for homeware and for restaurant use. The Jadeite color is a deep pastel green color that went well with the kitchen décor of the 1940s and ‘50s. A restaurant version has thicker glass. In the 1990s, the original Fire King Jadeite was re-popularized when Martha Stewart came out with a similar jadeite line, today made by Mosser Glass in Ohio. Suddenly, prices on the original Anchor Hocking jadeite went through the roof: $25 for a mug or a cereal bowl when, just a year earlier, you could find plenty of it on the secondary market for $5 or less per item.
Prices also tend to be high on at least some other Fire King colors, and while prices have moderated somewhat, there is also much less of this glass around today. The least expensive Fire King on the secondary market tends to be the white and iridized peach items. Among my sets, the easiest to find, at least in isolated items, is ivory (sometimes called Clam Broth), with turquoise a bit harder to find, and pink hardest of all (Fire King was actually made in two versions of pink, one with the color flashed over white and the other with the pink actually in the glass itself, which I much prefer but which is very difficult to find). The items that appear most often on the secondary market are mugs and bowls; plates are much harder to find.
As durable as Fire King is, it is susceptible to scratching on the interiors if users aren’t reasonably careful with it. Coffee does tend to stain the rims after multiple washings, but I find this is easily removed with a bit of moistened baking soda.
All the original Anchor Hocking glass is emboss-marked on the bottom “Fire King Oven Ware,” which means it can be readily identified on the secondary market and distinguished from newer Martha Stewart glass. I find the glass in my mugs holds the heat better in my morning coffee than any pottery or ceramic mug I’ve ever used. The handles on the mugs are large enough to accommodate hands of various sizes, and the cereal bowls have a pleasing round shape that just seems ideal for holding everything from cereal to chowder to ice cream. The Fire King style fits easily not only into a vintage kitchen décor but also into the modernist look preferred by some younger collectors.
When shopping for this glass, watch for scratching on the inside surfaces, and hold out for pristine examples; Fire King is rugged, but it won’t stand up to abuse such as scouring with metal scrubbers or use as a substitute flowerpot.
Otherwise, if you’re looking for a kitchen and table collectible you can actually use, you could do a lot worse than Fire King glassware!
Peggy Whiteneck is a writer, collector, and dealer living in East Randolph, VT. If you would like to suggest a subject that she can address in her column, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.