Currier & Ives dinnerware mystery solved, sort of

While growing up, we had a set of dishes that were given to my mother by my great aunt.  I have those dishes now.

Currier & Ives Dinner Plate, “The Old Grist Mill”

The pattern on them is a blue and white Currier & Ives pattern from the 1950’s, which would be about right.  Mom said that my great-aunt gave them to her when she replaced her dishes, so they were likely purchased in the 1950’s.  The set was given to Mom in the 1960’s.

What’s the mystery?

In the set, only the bowls are marked with the Currier & Ives mark.  The other pieces, although they match general theme of the bowls, do not have a mark.  The marked dishes say they were made by Royal, in the USA.

I’ve been searching for pieces to replace those we’ve broken over the years to build a full set.  I found the missing pieces on Ebay, some with the stamp and some without – all purporting to be Currier and Ives.  Replacement pieces, both with and without the mark, are being sold for about the some amount of money.  So, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.  Is the set of dishes I have really a full set or did my great-aunt buy pieces from different companies to make a set?

That brings me to the mystery.  Why were some pieces in this set marked and some were not?  Before I spend the money to replace pieces, I’d like to get a firm answer.  Is it worth replacing them with pieces that don’t have the mark?

I did a little research and found that the Royal China Company in Sebring, Ohio, made the dishes.  A printer developed the under glazed stamping machine in 1948, which is the process the mark on my bowls indicated was used.  Royal China is the company that manufactured dishes with the well-known “Blue Willow” pattern.  Unfortunately Royal China went out of business in 1986, so contacting them isn’t possible.

Currier & Ives marking on the bowls

On the Royal China Club website, they had this to say about the markings: “Not all Royal China items have backstamps.  As a matter of fact, on most items it is more common to have no backstamp than to have one.  Some pieces never carried any backstamps, some always carried backstamps, but most are known to exist with and without backstamps.  Not having a backstamp does not mean the item is a “reproduction” or in any way not “original”.  Value of items without backstamps is therefore not any less.  Royal China produced their dinnerware over a span of 35 years.  Often the dinnerware was sold to a reseller (Sears, Marshall Burns, Montgomery Ward, etc.) and because it was being resold the items did not carry backstamps.”

That makes sense to me, but I’ve reached out to a Currier & Ives collectors organization in hopes they can confirm what the Royal China Club is saying.

During this search, I also found that each piece in the set has a themed scene on them.

  • Dinner Plates, “The Old Grist Mill”
  • Salad Plates, “Birthplace of Washington”
  • Bowls, “Early Winter”
  • Teacups, “Star of the Road”
  • Saucers, “Low Water in the Mississippi”

All of the other pieces have different scenes on them.

Conclusion?  This is what my “sleuthing” is telling me.  My great-aunt purchased a set of Currier & Ives dinnerware from a re-seller, such as Sears, in the 1950’s.  The set didn’t include soup bowls and she ordered those directly from a Royal China outlet. That sounds like something Aunt Marvel would have done.  It also explains why the color of the bowls is a little brighter than the rest of the set.

Bottom line?  All of the pieces are genuine Currier & Ives.  I’ll probably pick up a few of the missing pieces to complete the set.

This little investigation has been pretty interesting, if you’re into this kind of thing.

I have another set of china dinnerware boxed up in the garage.  I think they’re from the late 1800’s to early 1900’s.  I should probably dig those out and see what secrets I find there!




Published by Tim

Tim is a storm chaser and photographer from Tulsa, Oklahoma.


  • Kayle Johns

    January 15, 2016 at 12:22 pm Reply

    Do you use these for daily dishes? Have you tested them for lead?

    • Tim

      January 15, 2016 at 3:31 pm Reply

      No, I’m not using them daily yet. Is there an issue with glazed dishes from that period or with Royal? I’m not sure how to test for lead in a dish either.

  • Jenifer Burbank

    December 7, 2016 at 11:07 pm Reply

    Hello, I have a set that has been in my family since early 60’s. Everyone grew up pretty darn healthy. And I used them with my 3 children with no health issues. Good in dishwasher and microwave, no problems.
    Jenifer B,

    • Tim

      December 9, 2016 at 6:21 pm Reply


      Thank you! Same here. We used them daily growing up with no issues.

  • Delisa Renea Williams

    September 22, 2017 at 9:06 am Reply

    I too have inherited a huge collection of Currier & Ives Early Winter collection that was handed down to my mother from her great aunt. I have not counted the exact number of pieces however they do include a casserole dish, glasses, cups, bowls, plates, saucers as well as little bowls I assume is for condiments or desserts. This weekend there is an event called Replacements ltd yardsale in North Carolina. I am going and eager to see if they have any Currier & Ives blue and white pieces. I want to use them this Thanksgiving but scared to death that some will get broken.

    • Tim

      September 22, 2017 at 9:08 am Reply

      I hope you find more pieces for your set. Let us know what you find!

  • LAJ

    October 22, 2017 at 9:13 am Reply

    So you have used them in the microwave and no problem?

    • Tim

      October 22, 2017 at 9:15 am Reply

      No problem.

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