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Russel Wright Melmac Value Guide

Value is subjective when it comes to Russel Wright melmac and varies based on market conditions.  I want to interject here that condition should but does not always play a role.  Most collectors believe signatures must exist for the piece to be worth money, but I disagree.  Take myself, I would pay substantially more for odd or rare pieces (even if scratched) that do not contain signatures, versus those that do contain signatures and were plentiful. I am going to touch on a few things you should know.


Cyanamid Plastics Meladur: Original pieces marked Cyanamid are rare and worth a lot to a private collector or plastics expert. Pure white (not ivory) Meladur pieces would fetch five to ten times that of colors--possibly even with staining. If you could the original stacking cups that Wright designed for a test line, that to me would be priceless. 

General American Meladur: True Russel Wright collectors hold out for signatures, however, if you read my Meladur section you'll see why during contract disputes it is more often than not you'll find some pieces with and others without signatures.  Grill plates with signatures should go for $20-$25 each in great condition.  Most other GATX pieces aren't as sought after due to blah color scheme and bulkiness, so it's best to try to assemble a complete set to obtain the best cost.  This is hard however to pull off however, due to the fact this melmac is so old and was used in institutions, that most ended up scratched, scorched, or heavily used  (enter the Lapcor version of later years, which was marketed way better and is more plentiful). One would think with the rarity of finding good pieces they would indeed bring high value - perhaps only to true collectors they do.  Pale green Jadite service for four in good condition should go for as much as $100, more with completer pieces.  Plates, cups and saucers generally are only worth a few bucks each, of course salad plates and medium sized optional plates will be slightly higher than bread & butter or dinner plates due to the rarity.  Vegetable bowls and cereal bowls are plentiful, however an early flatter soup bowl not as deep as the standard cereal is very rare and I would think collectors could pay as much as $15 each to complete their sets.  There were actually four to six GATX issued sized bread/salad/lunch/dinner plates, so this can be rather confusing.  Creamer and Sugar sets can fetch as much as $20, though less desirable colors will only sell as $14 for sets.  Platters are worth $15 and up however heaviness leads to high shipping costs so you should group with other pieces of the same set to maximize savings. 

Lapcor Meladur: Lapcor seems to be most plentiful and in my opinion would fetch less and I would pay less.  On the flip side enter the market, supply and demand. A  a set for 4 of pastel colors circa 1958-60 has sold for upwards of $80 in mediocre condition. Perhaps it is the "fun colors" of the fifties and nothing to do with the original Russel Wright association in this case.   Lapcor was quite successful and therefore is more plentiful so instead of rarity driving pricing it's the fact that collectors can still assemble a set.  Plates, cups and saucers generally are only worth a few bucks each, of course salad plates and medium sized optional plates will be slightly higher than bread & butter or dinner plates due to the rarity.Creamers and sugars can fetch more when grouped together as a set for $20, rather than individual between $6-$8. Platters are worth $15 and up each however shipping costs tend to be heavy so it is suggested to group your Lapcor for maximum potential.

Before you think your scratched up examples are worthless, think again.
This messed up set was sold to a collector to complete her trailer set,
due to color, pieces, and rarity, she paid over $30 for this mess!
Canadian Meladur (Rainboware):  A  a set for 4 in dark colors circa 1958-60 has sold for upwards of $80 in mediocre condition. Perhaps it is the fact that melmac was not as plentiful in Canada which makes finding examples hard.  Plates, cups and saucers generally are only worth a few bucks each, of course salad plates and medium sized optional plates will be slightly higher than bread & butter or dinner plates due to the rarity. Creamers and sugars can fetch more when grouped together as a set for $20, rather than individual between $6-$8--however since they are in the same shapes as the American Meladur by GATX and Lapcor, collectors have options. Platters are worth $15 and up each however shipping costs tend to be heavy so it is suggested to group your dinnerware together for maximum potential.

This lot sold at auction house Christie's for $2125.00 in September 2007. 

ABOVE:  A Set of 'Residential' Melamine Dinnerware, designed 1953 manufactured by Northern Industrial Chemical, comprising five cups, six cups with loop handles, eleven saucers, four creamers, one sugar bowl, five beakers, four tumblers, ten shallow bowls with handles, one vegetable bowl, nine dinner plates, three side plates, fourteen bread plates, one serving platter, seven small bowls sold at Christies with Buyer's Premium for $2125.00! 
Sold for $50, divided bowl in Black Velvet.  One in Lemon Ice or Turquoise could only bring $12 to $15.
The three rarest colors are : Granite White,  Copper Penny, and Black Velvet.  ( Most collectors do not realize that Two Tone Experimental, as well as Solid Pink and  Solid Turquoise are also rare and do exist in the Residential Line. Although these ultra rare items are considered priceless by myself, most collectors would not collect them as there aren't enough examples to assemble sets.) The first three colors are becoming harder to find and prices are still holding steady. 

Hard to find pieces in all lines are tall tumblers, coupe sugar bowls with lids, onion soup lids and pony tail handled cups .  Salad plates and small vegetable bowls are also becoming harder to find, as these were optional and not included in the starter sets.  

Divided Vegetable bowls are easy to find, and will often retail for $15 to $20 depending on color, though you should expect to pay $40 to $60 for the rare colors mentioned above.   Tall tumblers can sell for upwards of $20.  Salad plates and small veggie bowls expect to pay $12 and up per piece.  Condition of course is a leading factor.  Creamer and Sugar Sets in regular colors may go for as much as $35 to $40, double that for the three rarest colors.  Serving platters are also common and sell from $12 to $25, although $50 to $75 or more for the three rarest colors. Cups and saucer sets are plentiful, but pony tail cups in all colors can sell as much as $15 to $25 each as these are becoming rarer.

$55 in a bidding market several years ago.

Fruit bowls, tall tumblers, lids to onion soups, salad plates and covered casserole parts seem to be hardest to find and all of these should sell minimum $20 each in mint condition--however the Home Decorators line overall seems to be less desirable than the more common Residential lines.  Other mint pieces : (much less if less favorable condition) Fruit bowls may sell for $12 to $15, cups and saucers $3 average per item, short tumblers $12-$15, creamers $6-$10,  covered sugar bowl around $20 but a covered sugar and creamer set could fetch more. Dinner plates $6-$8. The divided bowls are very common and I do not forsee these selling for more than $15 anymore. A complete covered casserole in Home Decorators Flowertime Pink sold for $55 in a bidding market several years ago. It just depends on who needs what and when.  The pink is most desirable to date, although it's easier to put together a set of Gaytime since you can mix and match the blues and yellow accompanying pieces.   Hardest to find is Ranchland in solid yellow, and solid white go-with pieces. 

Prices of pieces over the past five years have fluctuated due to demands and economical issues, but it is not uncommon for a whole set to fetch upwards of $100, or in the original box even if the box is imperfect, twice that. I have personally seen almost 15 variations in the original boxes. Some are ship-to-store boxes , and others are in store boxes.

That is a huge increase in value from it's original selling price of about three bucks!  Single pieces can still be found readily, the problem is assembling a complete set. The children's casserole is hard to find as is the underplate. I've seen the casserole alone sell for $22-$35 as it mimics the American Modern pottery line and may appeal to Russel Wright china collectors and toy collectors alike. Teapots range $8-$15. Cups, saucers, and plates are fairly common and may only bring you $1-a few dollars. In my opinion, these toy pieces will retain their values. This is due to the fact this style is collected by toy dish collectors, melmac collectors, doll and bear collectors, and American Modern collectors, it's eventually going to dry up.

Finding this is getting harder and harder. The values here are what a top of the line Russel Wright collector will pay, but not necessarily what the market will bring you.  If you get 75% of these prices you are doing well! Not only was the Idealware line short -lived, but over time the plastic has cracked due to the formula used becoming brittle and cello-packing or boxes normally ripped or torn.  Tumblers aren't often marked with signatures making it hard to come by. Color variations exist and are unexplained.  Remember: Not all Idealware is designed by Russel Wright as mixing bowls, stacking square containers and trays have been found and not signed or attributed to him.  Most Valuable would be the Russel Wright signed covered refrigerator containers. If you have them, contact me, I'd love to buy one.  Pitchers go average $100, twice that in a box.  Butter dishes $60 and up.  Salad bowls and tongs can bring $50 or more a piece or $125 and up for a nice set of salad servers and large bowl. Small individual salad bowls I never see for sale, I'd say you could get $35-$50 because they are rare.  Remember, any boxed item will go higher and don't discard a worn out box. Most often than not collectors will seek boxes to give them clues.  Cello packed 4oz tumblers (sets of 6) sell in the $90-$125 range.  Hard to believe this stuff was 99 cents on clearance in 1960.

Green variation of Ming Lace, courtesy RetroChalet.

Flair by Northern: Ming Lace continues to bring the highest value out there, even though it was the most widely produced and still somewhat easy to find. I have seen a complete set go for hundreds of dollars, and platters upwards of $80-$125 in excellent condition. the green seems to be a bit harder to find.  A cup and saucer set in Ming Lace should be $15 and up, Dinner Plates in Ming should bring you $15-$20 depending on the market though lately it's been down.   Covered sugars are hard to find and you should be able to sell for $125 to the right collector.
This oval bowl in ming lace is hard to find, this one with green leaves was chipped and burnt under rim but still sold for $45
The oval serving bowls are hard to find. The bowl above, if in mint condition could have easily sold for $85-$100.

Arabesque, Nasturtium and Cosmos were less produced but have a more desire among collectors. Perhaps this is due to the  contrasting look to them, collectors may pay upwards of $150 for a nice place setting for four solely based on the mod looks of Nasturtium  and Arabesque and pretty pinks and blue matching hues in Cosmos. Rare platters or covered sugar bowls may go for as much as $150 to the right collector.

Other lines such as the more muted Spring Gardens, Golden Bouquet, or Woodland Rose aren't as desirable due to their more muted tones and they are harder to assemble. You would think this rarity would up their value, but finding someone who wants them is another chore. (Contact me if you want to sell your Woodland Rose)

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