Porcelain dinnerware is highly valued for centuries, and it is a status symbol to own antique china dinnerware. And when you think of vintage porcelain dinnerware, you probably think of vintage china manufactured somewhere in Europe or Asia.
However, many people overlook the impeccable craftsmanship and superb styles of American pottery. Lenox china is a prime example of fine bone china produced in the USA, and it is highly sought by experienced antique collectors.
What is Lenox China?
Lenox china is an American fine porcelain brand established in the last 19th century. It is the most prestigious American maker of dinnerware and the first USA fine bone china that was used in the White House by six US presidents.
Short History of Lenox China
Walter Scott Lenox and Jonathan Coxon Sr started a Ceramic Art Company in Trenton, New Jersey, in 1889. At first, this company was more of an art studio than a factory, as it produced one-of-a-kind artistic ceramic pieces.
In 1894, Walter Lenox took full ownership of the company and renamed it Lenox Inc. In 1897, Lenox ceramics were displayed in the Smithsonian Institution.
It wasn’t until the early 20th century, when separate dining rooms and guest parties were in vogue, that Lenox Inc. started mass-producing porcelain dinnerware. Lenox began producing elaborate and custom-made dinnerware in the 1910s.
The most well-known artists of the day were commissioned to design the plates at this time, when Lenox tableware was all the rage. After plates became a success, Lenox began to make complete dinnerware sets.
The Evolution Throughout The 20th Century
Lenox unveiled the first of its many renowned patterns in 1917. The “Lowell,” “Ming,” and “Mandarin” patterns were produced for more than fifty years.
Lenox’s designs were honored with numerous prizes, including the American Institute of Architects’ Craftsmanship Medal in 1927 and the American Designers Institute’s Silver Medal in 1943. At the National Museum of Ceramics in Sèvres, France, Lenox porcelain items were the sole American porcelain items on show in 1928.
Lenox porcelain was available for purchase as individual dinnerware items, three-piece buffet/place settings, and complete place settings of five pieces in the 1950s. The Brown-Forman Corporation acquired Lenox Inc. in 1983.
Lenox Inc. was sold by Brown-Forman Corporation to the manufacturer of collectibles Department 56 in 2005. Lenox Sales, Inc. submitted a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition in 2008. In 2009, Clarion Capital Partners bought the Lenox Corporation’s assets and changed the business’ name to Lenox Corporation.
Lenox kept operating its Kinston, North Carolina, factory to produce its dinnerware. A rival manufacturer of flatware named Reed & Barton’s operating assets were acquired by Lenox in 2015.
Up until 2020, when Lenox stated it would permanently halt production at the Kinston factory, this made Lenox the sole producer of bone china in the United States. It is anticipated that Lenox dinnerware production would soon resume abroad.
How to Identify Antique Lenox China?
There was a green wreath stamp on Lenox china made between 1906 and 1930. The stamp’s “Made in the USA” phrase was added in 1931, and the wreath’s green color was replaced with gold in 1953.
Harvey Duke’s Official Price Guide to American Pottery and Porcelain is a useful resource for collectors to date and identify Lenox china.
Pattern Codes And Their Meaning
You need to recognize a few prominent Lenox designs as well. There is a pattern code on every piece of Lenox that may be used to identify it. You can use a system on the official Lenox website to link such pattern codes with pattern names and other details.
Letters and digits are used to create pattern codes. The piece was manufactured before 1926 if the pattern code has a number lower than 300. A piece was produced between 1926 and 1950 if the pattern code is between 300 and 500.
A, C, X, or W followed by a number between 300 and 500 in the pattern code indicates that the Lenox item was produced between 1951 and 1957.
Does Lenox China Hold Its Value?
Lenox china is fairly pricey both new and old, but the old pieces of Lenox china generally have the highest value, particularly if you find antique pieces in good condition. These items sell for upwards of $30,000 at their highest prices.
Today, however, there are lots of fantastic deals where several sets may be purchased for $500 to $1500. The condition, rarity, and market value of the Lenox piece will determine the price, as usual.
A collection of 1930s Gold and Ivory Ground Topographical Plates, for instance, sold in 2022 for the astronomical sum of $28,260,00. The majority of other sets may be purchased for cheaper, therefore let’s examine them and their appraisal values:
This 82-piece set has an ivory color and beautiful flowers. It is in excellent condition, and it can serve 10 people. The exact age is unknown, but it was made after 1953 because of its gold wreath stamp. The price of this set is $3,999.99.
Each piece of this 64-pcs set is trimmed with 24k gold. The set is in a cream base color, decorated with mistletoe paintings. The exact age of this set isn’t provided by the seller, but it is certainly a vintage set and in a good condition. The price is $1,100.00.
The dishes of this set come in a good condition, with only a few signs of wear and tear. The base color of the set is white, with beautifully painted flowers. The price of the set is $975.00.
Another Christmas-themed Lenox china piece, this soup bowl was manufactured somewhere between 1980 and 1989, and it has gold trim. The price of this piece is $559.99.
If you want a beautiful, fancy set for drinking coffee or tea, this Lenox Westchester set is perfect for you. Their color is ivory/gold, and there are no chips, crackings, or crazings. The price for this set is $550.00.
This magnificent saucer set was commissioned by Tiffany & Co. sometime during the 1940s. It was the time when many luxury companies would commission dinnerware sets to be made by Lenox. Such was the dinner plate set in question. This set is white and cobalt blue with golden trims. Its price is $199.95.
Perfect for collectors that only look for single items, this serving bowl was manufactured in the 1950s as a part of the presidential collection, in a Liberty style. The price of this piece is $99.99.
This set is the most affordable on our list, but it is just as beautiful as the more expensive sets. It is a part of The Accent collection, with a Monument Green pattern. The set is in excellent condition, although it shows 2-3 marks of wear and tear. The price of this set is $55.00.
Valuable Antique Lenox China Patterns
In more than 130 years of production, Lenox had hundreds of patterns. Many of these patterns are discontinued or specific to one time period, which makes them even more valuable. And we list some notable patterns below.
- Autumn: Autumn was released in 1918, this pattern has an ivory background with multicolored flower details. It is still produced.
- Florida: Florida pattern features a purple band and two tropical birds decorate the rim of this pattern, which was created in 1922 and later discontinued.
- Cretan: obviously influenced by Art Deco in 1938, this simple Lenox pattern has gold details on the ivory background.
- Lenox Rose: Lenox Rose was a classic pattern first produced in 1934 and discontinued in 1979. It has an ivory background, gold trim, and multi-colored roses.
- Kingsley: Kingsley had a teal rim with platinum accents and a spray of flowers in the center. It debuted in 1956 and was manufactured until the 1970s.
- Princess: Princess was another simple pattern with neutral platinum and gray floral motifs. It debuted in 1953 and was discontinued in 1981.
Tips on Collecting Antique Lenox China
If you want to start collecting vintage Lenox china, but don’t know where to start, here are a few useful tips:
- Look for discontinued sets or individual pieces, as they are more valuable than those that are still produced and sold. Look for sets or pieces designed by famous artists or designers, such as Frank Holmes.
- Collect patterns with common themes. Choose a specific piece to collect, such as a dinner plate, a teacup, a soup bowl, etc.
- Collect the White House patterns because they can also boost other political collections. Collect holiday patterns from as many years as possible, and keep collecting with each new year as the new patterns are added.
Lenox china has a history of more than 130 years long. It was the first, the biggest, and the last US china manufacturer. What started as a simple art workshop grew into a large company that influenced so many other companies.
Today, Lenox china sets and individual pieces are worthy antiques, collected by many. Their high-quality and unmatched beauty is still widely appreciated among antique collectors, and the good thing is, that these sets are widely available to almost anyone.
Do you own any antique Lenox china? Do you still use it in everyday life or do you prefer to proudly display it? Share in the comments!