TRUE WEST vs. WALLACE CHINA – A COMPARISON GUIDELINE
Written by RWCN member Janet Hix (aka luvwesternchina)
Wallace China's wildly popular, action-packed, Rodeo Pattern, introduced in the 1940s has been recreated by True West for a new generation of those that love western china. Till Goodan's western art thrills today as it did then. According to their website, True West introduced its Rodeo pattern in 1990 — 60 years of popularity is an amazing feat for any designer.
The vintage and new pieces depict rodeo scenes, scenes from a cowboy's life, and authentic working ranch brands. From bull riding, trick rope spinning, bareback riding, bronc riding, steer wrestling, cattle herding, this pattern is chock full of America's hero: the cowboy. Till Goodan also put a great deal of research into selecting North American brands to surround the artwork. Brands such as the Running W from the famous King Ranch in Texas; the Circle A-Official State brand of Arizona; and the O Bar O-a famous old New Mexico ranch (once the hide-out of Billy the Kid) encircle each piece. Over 250 brands are used throughout the original pattern.
Wallace China western patterns include:
Boots & Saddle*
Pioneer Trails* (two colors)
Little Buckaroo* (child's set/coordinates with Rodeo or Boots & Saddle patterns)
Longhorn (two colors)
*These patterns are a part of the Westward Ho series, a collection of the first five patterns and linens, glassware, paper products, etc.
True West reproduction patterns include:
Boots & Saddle
Christmas (created by True West's Mark Clay from vintage Till Goodan Christmas cards)
CHECK THE BACKSTAMP. Any piece marked Wallace China is vintage. A True West marked piece is new. Full backstamps make the identification process clear; however, not all pieces in either the vintage line or the new line have such a backstamp.
Wallace and Shenango Backstamps
Wallace China used different backstamps over the years, but if a piece has a Wallace China backstamp, it is vintage. Wallace China backstamps won't be found after 1964, when its parent company, Shenango liquidated the company. Wallace China was actually purchased by Shenango China in 1959, and Wallace backstamps were phased out thereafter. So, a pattern that was originally introduced by Wallace may actually have a Shenango backstamp. A Shenango backstamp on one of these western patterns indicates a vintage piece as well.
True West Backstamps
Since its inception, True West has used three backstamps. The fun part of the full True West backstamp is the addition of a cowboy on his rearing horse. If you see them, your detective work is done. True West first used a backstamp from Comanche, Texas, then, Goldthwaite, Texas, and lastly, its most current backstamp which reads, "Made in U.S.A."
When True West added the cowboy/horse duo to the vintage Westward Ho backstamp design, they had a small problem: it made the backstamp longer, and therefore harder to place on small pieces, like the salt/pepper shakers and the cup from the cup/saucer. If you have one of these two pieces, you might see only a partial True West backstamp with no horse/rider. This looks like a backstamp you might find on a trimmed-to-fit-the-space Wallace China piece so additional detective work is necessary. If this is the case, there are other differences to look for.
True West (left) / Wallace China (right)
Keep in mind that there are vintage pieces that have no backstamps at all. There might not have been enough room for one, as on the butter pat or salt/pepper shakers; or it might have been too hard to apply the backstamp, as on the napkin ring; or there simply could have been a production oversight.
LOOK AT THE BASE OF THE PIECE. (Note: This method should not be used for the Longhorn pattern because it is on a white body). The base ring is the part of a ceramic piece on which the china sits. Is it TAN or WHITE? The base ring of a vintage Wallace piece will be TAN. The base ring of a True West piece will be WHITE.
CHECK FOR A TILL GOODAN SIGNATURE. This is where the ID process gets involved. When True West was making only one pattern — Rodeo — this was a really helpful method for identification purposes. Pieces with Till Goodan's signature were vintage. At inception, True West pieces did not have a signature on any piece. True West went so far as to remove Till Goodan's brand, "TILL", from the rim of the chop plate (known in the True West line as the Round Serving Platter).
Since then, True West has added three patterns to its line. It now offers Boots & Saddle, Longhorn and Christmas patterns, all of which have Till Goodan's signature or G/ mark (Longhorn pattern). These three newest patterns do have Till Goodan's signature. Also, in 2007, True West added a nesting bowl set to their Rodeo pattern.
For the Rodeo pattern ONLY, if you see Till Goodan's signature on a piece, it is vintage (except as noted below). But, there are vintage pieces that do NOT have his signature on it and never did. Some such pieces have branding iron marks only. For example, the saucers, the chili bowl, the nesting bowls, the two smallest cups, smaller salt/pepper, sugar bowl lid, bean cup, butter pat, grill plate and more. Even vintage pieces depicting artwork (with or without branding iron marks), like the napkin ring and ashtray do not have a Till Goodan signature, simply because there was no room for the backstamp.
Rodeo Pattern Exception: True West did place Till Goodan's brand (TILL) on the rim of the three bowls in their nesting bowl set, along with his signature on the small and medium nesting bowl. These Rodeo pattern nesting bowls are clearly backstamped True West.
CHECK THE TRUE WEST WEBSITE FOR PATTERN PIECE-SHAPE IDENTIFICATION. True West does not make a 9" round serving bowl. If your Rodeo bowl is 9" across, it is vintage. True West does not make a demitasse cup/saucer. If you have them, they are vintage. Vintage Rodeo pieces were hand-painted with yellow and green. If you compare two dinner plates side-by-side, you can see variations, especially in the grass. No two are exactly alike. True West's transfer design/decal includes the green and yellow colors, and every piece is identical.
Wallace Original Little Buckaroo (left) / True West Reproduction Little Buckaroo (right)
Wallace Original Boots & Saddle (left) / True West Reproduction Boots & Saddle (right)
Wallace Original Rodeo (left) / True West Reproduction Rodeo (right)
Wallace Original Longhorn (left) / True West Reproduction Longhorn (right)