Friday, April 24, 2009

A Glassware Addiction

You've all seen 'em...fantastical shaped, colored and patterned glassware at flea markets, yard sales, thrift shops and antique to find, fun to collect, and a collectible that increases in value while being perfectly lovely and functional all at the same time. You might even have some pieces yourself, inherited from your mother or grandmother, pretty little bowls, plates, pitchers, vases... What is it? Depression Glass, as it is commonly called, is patterned and/or colored glassware sets that came about during the Great Depression...and trust me, collecting this stuff can easily become addicting!

I've been collecting it for a little over a year, and I've learned a lot about it in that time. There are so many different patterns, some still unidentified. The pieces below are from the 60's, for example, the pattern is Sonora, in avocado and harvest gold. The large salad bowl and smaller green serving bowls belonged to my mother, and they came to me when she passed away about a year ago. The piece at the top of this post is Twisted Optic, in green, a preserve jar, which, if I had the spoon that goes with it, is worth about $50.00. I paid $2.99 at a thrift store for it. It was made by Imperial Glass Company, Bellaire, Ohio, from 1927 to 1930, so it is considerably older than the Sonora set.

All this started when my mother passed away and we began cleaning out her house. Items I had forgotten about along with those I had loved as a child were now in my possession. I had no idea what I had until I started doing a little research, both online an at the library, where they have many wonderful price guides. I started with may 20-30 pieces and now have closer to 120, in various patterns and colors, which prompted me to buy my own latest edition price guide, Warman's Depression Glass, written by a lady considered to be a leading, if not the leading authority on Depression Glass, Ellen T. Shroy. While the guide boasts 500 color photos and 170 of the most popular patterns from 1920-1980, there are some pieces that don't have an established price due to being rare or not available in enough quantities to determine prices. There are also misidentified patterns out there as well as patterns not listed in the Warman's guide. Add to the mix reproductions of various pieces and patterns, and it makes it challenging for any collector, novice or knowledgeable, to add to their collections.

Growing up, when I was old enough, I was in charge of making dessert, which, most nights, was instant pudding. I'd get out the mixer, milk, bowl and measuring cup and whip up a box. When it was mixed, I would put it in these lovely little footed glass dessert dishes.
I now know this is the Wexford Pattern, made by Anchor Hocking. These six cups in this pattern has grown to a collection of nearly 50 pieces, including a gorgeous decanter set that includes six goblets and six wine glasses as well as a beautiful cake stand with glass cover.

Mom had several other pieces in another pattern that we used occasionally. There were ten pieces in this pattern, Early American Prescut, to which I have added nearly 40 pieces. It was interesting to note that there are variations on this pattern. I primarily have what's called EAP (Early American Prescut) 'Star of David', although I have a couple small tumblers in the EAP 'Oatmeal' pattern, so called for being a premium in boxes of oatmeal during the Depression. There is also a EAP 'Pineapple' pattern, of which I haven't found any yet. But, I continue to look, as some pieces are worth more than others. I have to admit, it's a bit of a thrill to see a piece you know is exceptional in condition and price and to add it to your collection!

One pattern, which I have been unable to find any reference to in any book, is a beautiful little green bowl with a quilted-type pattern and an unusual crimped top. I've found only two more pieces in the green, one, a tall, footed piece and another with a gilt foot on it, as well as a bowl in white 'milk glass'. I bought the two green ones at antique flea markets, and neither person I bought them from knows either the pattern or manufacturer, although the lady I bought the tall piece from said she had two just like in it the white glass. It's a mystery I hope to solve!
With yard sale and flea market season coming up, I expect I'll be adding more to my collection. Of course, there's thrift stores to peruse in the meantime. many times, when a parent passes away, the person who disposes of the various household stuff that they or other family members don't want, it gets donated to thrift stores, where it can be picked up for a song. And it's not just glassware you'll find there, either. Vintage Pyrex bowls, bake-ware and coffee cups, antique picture frames, kitchen items and other sundries that can be used to decorate. We have two in the city where I work and I try to go at least every couple days or so. There's a third store that I frequent once a week when I grocery-shop. I'm learning to be more discerning when it comes to buying . items should be thoroughly examined for chips and cracks, which lower the value. You also must watch out for reproductions, of which I've bought three. I've studied my guide book and have learned more what to look for that identifies pieces as reproductions, and therefore not worth purchasing, unless it's something real darling and I must have it.

Pieces are fanciful, like 'Cube' and 'American'...

Pretty, like 'Pioneer

Whimsical, like 'Twiggy'
One thing is for sure, whether a piece is 80 years old, or only 20, these timeless bits of history are beautiful, functional, and, in many cases, valuable. They can be mixed and matched to form a 'usable set' for everyday or special occasions, or simply collected and displayed. Some collectors focus on one pattern or color exclusively, others collect everything they can get their hands on, while still others, collect bits and pieces from different patterns they like with no regard to build a complete set. In any case, they make great conversation pieces, gifts, and heirlooms. Smiles...