Saturday, November 27, 2021

The Gift of Glass - How to Become a Collector

Readers know that I am a glassaholic if there is such a thing. I became a glass collector totally by accident, being at the right place at the right time many years ago.  My SO accepted a job that was right in the middle of "elegant glass country" and we spent a weekend in the town that we were moving to looking at houses.  While we were driving around we saw a sign for a "Glass Show" and decided to venture in. This glass show happened to be the annual Old Morgantown Glass Show where collectors go to find the most unusual and most collectable glass.  The glass shows are still the very best way to find collectable "elegant glass" from the 1920's through the 1970's although you can find glass on Etsy and Ebay.  This is not the heavy colored "Depression Glass" that you often see at antique malls but very well made, sometimes hand-painted glass that was made from molds, from etchings, from artisans brought over from Europe starting in the early 20th century. My favorite pieces tend to be made in the 1920's and 30's. Search Ebay under "elegant glass."

Most of this glass was made in Ohio, West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania where the raw materials existed to make the glass. These glass companies at one time employed thousands of people and were well-known throughout America.  The glass went out of production in the 50's, 60's and 70's.  Mass production killed it. Today, clubs and museums have proliferated, trying to preserve the history of the glass.  Each club has its own "glass show" like the one we found that day in June. If I had the time I'd go to the shows - they are generally held on the same weekend every year - in or the near the town in which they were made. Cambridge's show is in late June in Cambridge, Ohio. The museums are also great places to visit where collectors have donated their most fabulous pieces to preserve it and to allow others to see the finest pieces ever made.  And there are many books out there on the glass - my glass library is large and still expanding.  There is still so much to learn!

The fun is learning about the history of the glass - who made it, when it came out, when it went out of production.  Colors can date glass.  Certain colors were made starting in specific time periods.  And each company has their own colors - their shades that differ from other companies.  And the stems can also tell you what company made the glass in some cases. The etchings though don't always tell the story and some glass companies outsourced their etchings. And much has been lost so every now and then a pattern or a piece will pop up that no one has ever seen before.  

My favorite pattern is Imperial Hunt Scene made by Cambridge Glass (Ohio) for a very short period of time from the 20's into the early 30's.  It was made in a only a few colors - clear, amber, green, peachblo (a peachy pink), black (rare) and blue (very rare).  You also find pieces in pink and green (the preppy version).  The hunt scene is etched around the edge and sometimes it is in gold. You'll pay more for the gold. This is a sandwich plate. I have this one in green.

Cambridge was a very large company and they produced many items.  For example, in Imperial Hunt Scene there are 17 different sizes of glasses ranging from an 12 oz footed tumbler to 2 1/2 oz footed goblet. So it hard to find pieces that are the same size and color.  And it is rare and very collectable so finding it now is difficult. I own two pieces in the light blue and two pieces in the black.  My rarest piece is likely my large satin peachblo vase etched in gold.  I have bought most of my pieces at glass shows. You can also find interesting pieces of IHS - cigarette holders, candlesticks, plates, bridge sets, finger bowls, and I have yet to ever see an ice bucket but I know they exist.  They also made Imperial Hunt Scene on the Tally Ho blank.  This is a much heavier glass and I don't like it nearly as well. I have only seen this in clear (and I have a set of 10) but I have seen pictures of IHS on the Tally Ho blank in green.

There is very little out there right now on Ebay and Etsy (Santa must be bringing some glass) but peruse it regularly.  And I have a picker who finds glass for me and calls me when he finds things for my collection.

The very best books to own are two books by Hazel Marie Weatherman.  "Colored Glassware of the Depression Era" and there are two volumes, 1 and 2. 2 is better. If you can find this set it's a great way to learn about the various companies and it's full of pictures from advertisements from way back when. It is my favorite book and I thumb through it all of the time.

My other collection, albeit much smaller, is bulb boxes. I bought my first one at a glass show in Pittsburgh about 15 years ago and fell in love with it. They are also rare and I don't see them too often although last year I found two on Ebay. The ones I prefer are made by Tiffin.  Tiffin made these only in a few colors - amber (below), reflex green (a lighter green), black, rose pink, sky blue (really an aqua), and crystal satin.  I have all except amber and crystal.  I cannot tell you lovely these are and they are heavy. They are 9 1/2 inches long and I put Paperwhites in my black one at Christmas.

Tiffin was based initially in Steubenville, Ohio but moved to Tiffin, Ohio after a fire.  It was one of the rare factories that did not close during the Great Depression.  These boxes were made in the 1920's and 1930's and expect to pay anywhere from $150 to $275 for a bulb box in good condition.

LE Smith also made a bulb box and I have a few of these.  They are smaller, not as beautiful but still are worth collecting.  LE Smith was based in Mount Pleasant, PA which is just off the PA Turnpike east of Pittsburgh.  They made plain window box and also a larger one with nymphs. There is a white one now on Ebay:

The other pieces I collect mostly stemware - wine glasses - various patterns and companies.  My favorites - Fry, Morgantown Glass, Fostoria, Heisey, Central Glass Works, among others.  Stay tuned. Become a collector!

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