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It's been a long time coming, but it's here. Sorta.

The long-awaited Oneida reissue of Russel Wright's dinnerware has just arrived in some Bed Bath & Beyond stores, and early reviews from the field are mixed. Some of the pieces, like the newly produced American Modern pitcher, are very close to the old. In the new Manitoga Blue glaze, the $24.99 piece looks strikingly similar to the old version in Steubenville Blue, which can auction for nearly $8000.

It's Heeeeeeeere: Something even the most experienced Wright collector has probably never seen - store shelves full of Russel Wright for sale at popular prices. (Photo Credit: Jim Drobka)

Some pieces, like the plate and the cup, are larger than the originals. Some pieces like the sugar and creamer aren't quite as subtly shaped as they were when first made. Some pieces are from Wright's Casual line and some are American Modern; it's disconcerting at first to see both mixed in the same place setting. And the glazes take a little getting used to. There are new colors that collectors have never seen before, and the old glazes that have been copied have a different look than before, more smoothly applied, less character-laden. But this is all brand-new, state-of-the-art dinnerware with a warranty, so it's now possible to have an American Modern piece that can be used without fear of the crazing that AM is notorious for.

Old and New: The stacking sugar and creamer set in the middle is vintage; the rest are new. Note the sharply cut indentations on the new sugar bowl bottoms vs. the subtly shaped ones on the old.

The one sour note from collectors is that the stores carrying the line often are unaware that it's anything special, and aren't responding efficiently to telephone requests, because many salespeople have no idea what callers mean by "Russel Wright". Some BB & B stores don't yet know if they're getting the line, and some won't be getting it at all. J. C. Penney stores are supposedly to get it later on.

There is also a surprising lack of advertising "push" on Oneida's part, although one collector reports spotting an ad in Metropolitan Home. As of this writing, there is absolutely no mention of the line on the Oneida website. Wright collectors who have been to stores carrying the reissue report that there is no promotional literature and no real knowledge on the part of sales help. There is also one other very strange glitch in the rollout of this long-awaited product. Wright's highly collectible and valuable "Pinch" flatware is supposed to be getting reissued by Oneida, too, but this won't be happening for several more months. It will be great to see "Pinch" available again, but it would have been even nicer to see it alongside the new dinnerware on introduction day.

Vintage Values Protected: Even the newest newbie should be able to tell the difference in the old American Modern logo, left, and the new Oneida reissue logo on the right. Anyone buying Wright pieces at an online auction should ask to see a clear picture of the logo to avoid confusion.

Bottom Line: This is a very decent reissue, with great pricing for those who don't want to invest in vintage Wright. New pieces can't be confused with vintage ones, so vintage prices are probably not jeopardized. Distribution and advertising need to improve, if Oneida wants the reissue to be successful. Better training of sales help in stores carrying the line wouldn't hurt. Two tips for dealing with BB & B stores; if your BB & B doesn't have it, their computer system can tell you what nearby stores do. And any BB & B can order it for you. If your store's sales help doesn't seem to know that, a call to BB & B Corporate Customer Service at 1-800- GO BEYOND will start getting things on track.

The author and Joe Kunkel of www.jetsetmodern.com wish to express thanks to vintage RW dealers Carmen Brady and Pierre Allaud of www.all-wright.com, who contributed the product photographs seen in this review. 2002 www.all-wright.com. Thanks also to Jim Drobka for the in-store picture. 2002 Jim Drobka. All images used by permission.


Oneida is a trademark of Oneida, Inc.
Russel Wright and the Russel Wright Script Signature are trademarks owned by Anne Wright.
Bed Bath & Beyond is a trademark of Bed Bath & Beyond, Inc.

This article has not been authorized by any of the companies mentioned in it. All information and conclusions contained herein are the sole responsibility of the author.

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Wright On The Money? by Sandy McLendon

copyright 2002 Joe Kunkel and Sandy McLendon and Jetset - Designs for Modern Living. This article was published on March 9, 2002. All Rights Reserved.