Anchor Hocking Glass Corporation began as the Hocking Glass Company of Lancaster, Ohio. The company was founded in 1905 near the Hocking River for which it’s named; the pressed-glass company prospered on its own until 1937 when it merged with the Anchor Cap and Closure Corporation of Long Island City, New York. The company is best known for its Fire-King glass which was manufactured from about 1940 until 1976. Fire-King was a brand rather than a pattern, and although it is usually associated with ovenware and refrigerator containers, it was also used on a wide variety of patterns and colors of dinnerware, mixing bowls, and coffee mugs.
The best known Fire King patterns include Jane Ray, Hobnail, Early American Prescut, and Rainbow; Rainbow appears to have been the company’s response to Fiestaware. Philbe is one of the rarest pattern since it was only produced in 1937 and 1938; the transparent blue is the most prized of the four colors in the line.
Anchor Hocking also made Fire-King for restaurants and institutions, such as schools and the U.S. military, from 1948 until 1967. This is when “Jadeite” and an opaque white called “Anchorwhite” become increasingly popular. The company also produced a line of range sets, which consisted of salt and pepper shakers and a grease jar.
Collecting Fire King
Fire-King is affordable both because there is a plentiful supply and because it’s durable. It was produced around the clock for decades, so it can easily be found at estate and yard sales, as well as at auctions and online. The Restaurant Ware is also quite popular and available in both the Jadeite and white versions; white being more valuable since less of it was produced. A wide variety of advertising pieces, especially mugs, are readily available in the Fire-King brand. McDonald’s “Good Morning” stacking mugs which were originally given away with a breakfast purchase in 1976 can be found for less than $5 apiece. The D-handled “Burger Queen” mug, on the other hand, can cost as much as $40 or $50. Many advertising mugs for various local businesses are plentiful and can be found for between $5 and $10 online.
Due to the millions of pieces of Fire-King in circulation condition is key when collecting. It is important to check the condition of each piece of opaque glass very carefully since cracks and flaws are not as easy to spot as on clear glassware. If you are shopping in person a good tip is to run your thumbnail around all edges to feel for chips and flea bites. If you are buying over the Internet make sure to ask the seller as many questions about the condition as possible. A chipped mug, for example, virtually destroys the value entirely; the only value in one chipped is if it is both rare and needed to start or complete a set.
Manufacturing flaws, such as minor roughness around mold lines, mold marks, dark specks found under the glaze and ripples, are common and shouldn't affect the value since Fire-King glassware at its best was always an imperfect glassware.
Tips for Beginning Collectors
Buy the things you like and buy excellent condition.
Beginners should focus on collecting common items so they can get a feel for the distinct characteristics.
Gain experience in spotting cracks and flaws in authentic vintage Fire-King, as well as distinguishing what flaws came from the factory.
Watch Out for Fakes
Unfortunately, the growing collector interest in Fire-King has created an equally growing market of fakes, reproductions and fantasy pieces. Contemporary productions from Asia and Brazil are abundant in the marketplace; pieces marked “Fire-King Made in Japan” are new. Before buying make sure you are educated on shapes, sizes, patterns and details. Take accurate measurements and compare them to trustworthy references in order to make sure the item you are interested in is genuine. If the measurements don’t match, the piece may be a reproduction.
Authentic mugs have painted designs that are then fired on. Newer fakes and reproductions have a different, “softer” finish. Some of the fakes are even made by placing a super-sticky appliqué on a blank Fire-King mug. One example collectors should be aware of is the Disney Jiminy Cricket mug that is being reproduced with old Fire-King stock. Other Disney mugs that have come onto the market are made with vinyl stick-on logos; this is not authentic to the Fire King manufacturing process.