Art Of Glass
Glass Collector Digest Magazine
making of glassware dates to the dawn of history, and the first
glass collectors probably appeared soon after the first glass
objects cooled. Early pieces included pendants and beads--often
made to imitate jewels--and small flasks fashioned by winding
hot glass threads around a removable core. These appealing shapes
were natural collectibles. The activity of glass collecting was
The discovery of glass blowing in the late first century B.C.
made glass making more efficient and economical. Tableware was
either free blown or mold blown until the glass press was invented
in the 1820s. This process speeded up production, lowered costs,
and opened up new markets among the general population.
collecting as an organized hobby, however, probably had its beginnings
in the United States in the 1920s. Pioneer collectors like George
Lorimer, editor of the Saturday Evening Post, favored flasks,
and like-minded individuals organized The National Early American
Glass Club in 1933. Not long afterward, glass collectors also
formed clubs in England, but no other country has matched the
level of interest exhibited by collectors in the United States.
important stimulus was the publication of books on American glass
in the 1940s by authors such as Ruth Webb Lee, Minnie Watson Kamm,
and Mr. and Mrs. George McKearins. Glass collecting was given
a further boost by the steady proliferation of antique shops and
shows. More recently, eBay and other online auction sites have
made the Internet a major force in glass collecting.
Glass is collected in a bewildering number of categories: by shape
(toothpick holders, salt shakers, cruets); by geographical origin
(Czech, South Jersey, etc.); by manufacturer (Fenton, Cambridge,
and Heisey); by type (art glass, cut glass, pattern glass); by
color or decoration (cranberry, Mary Gregory); by age (Early American
flint glass, contemporary studio glass); or by a seemingly limitless
number of overlapping categories (17th-century English goblets).
Some people collect any piece of glass that strikes their fancy!
is a good market for most types of collectible glass--especially
the better or rarer examples. Art glass by Tiffany leads the way
with prices often in the five-figure range. Close behind are exceptional
pieces by Loetz, Daum, and others. Carnival glass, the so-called
"poor-man's Tiffany," can also sell for thousands, although it
was originally a cheap, pressed glass.
hottest glass category since the 1970s has been Depression glass--pastel-colored,
machine-made ware that originally sold in dime stores or was given
away in cereal boxes. Scores of clubs around the country continue
to hold regular shows. Although interest in this collectible may
have peaked, prices remain high.
glass should not be overlooked. The commercial wares of the Fenton
Art Glass Company attract a big following, especially because
of its long-running presence on the QVC Shopping Network. And
studio glass by Dale Chihuly, Dan Dailey, and others has elevated
glass making to a fine art, with prices to match.
Hundreds of books on glassware have been published in the past
25 years. This availability of information makes it easier for
dealers and collectors to identify pieces.
major problems still exist in authenticating glassware. While
books are helpful, they do contain mistakes and sometimes contain
contradictory information. Since few pieces were marked until
recent times, a lot of guesswork is involved in authenticating
items not documented in the glass literature. A further difficulty
is that many types of glass have been reproduced. Even experienced
collectors have been fooled by a new piece being misrepresented
as an antique.
new glass from old can be difficult, especially for the inexperienced.
Some things to look out for in spotting a reproduction are: lack
of wear on the base; an oily feel on the glass surface; signs
of careless workmanship; a thick and heavy feel to the glass;
and unusual colors not normally found in older glass.
grading (and pricing) of glassware depends on many factors. Values
found in price guides are for pieces in mint condition; any cracks,
chips, or signs of repair lower the value. Besides condition,
glass is graded according to rarity, as well as that intangible
quality known as aesthetic beauty. Ultimately, a piece of glass
is worth whatever the buyer will pay.
Every glass category has its share of prominent collectors. For
example, E. J. Williford of Missouri has more than 1,000 covered
butter dishes in various patterns. Oregon's Stu Farnsworth owns
scores of glass fishing floats that he found while beach combing
on the Pacific coast. Jim Miller's passion is cut glass, and many
of his pieces are displayed in a bomb shelter under his parents'
Arkansas home! The list is endless.
most prominent collectors, of course, are museums. Few individual
collectors can match the displays in our nation's museums and
those around the world--and few can offer the same degree of accessibility.
of Bohemian glass should visit the Passauer Glasmuseum in Passau,
Germany, as well as the many fine collections housed in the Czech
Republic. America's leading glass center is The Corning Museum
of Glass in Corning, New York. Other notable displays are found
at Wheaton Village in Millville, New Jersey; the Chrysler Museum
in Norfolk, Virginia; the Oglebay Collection in Wheeling, West
Virginia; the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City; and
the Heinz Regional History Center in Pittsburgh. These museums
(and many others) exist because of the generosity of private collectors.
as a Whistle
How do you clean glass? Very carefully. Most glass can be cleaned
with a mild dishwashing detergent. It is a good idea to place
a soft liner in your sink or dish pan in case the piece is dropped
while cleaning. Safe solvents are available for removing marks
left by stickers and certain types of stains. Ask a good glass
dealer or repairman to recommend one.
repair has always been a controversial subject among collectors.
Some prefer to keep their glass "as is" even if an item has a
few chips or cracks. Others favor restoration to eliminate unsightly
blemishes. Both damage and evidence of glass repair can lower
the value of a piece, so decisions should be made carefully on
a case-by-case basis.
to avoid storing glass where it will be subjected to extreme hot
and cold temperatures. Also, glass should not be exposed to continuous
sunlight as this may produce damage. For storage, each piece should
be individually wrapped in soft paper (cloth and paper diapers
work great!) and packed in a cardboard box. If items must be shipped,
it is safer to "double box" expensive pieces.
Glass shows are usually sponsored by glass clubs. Some clubs preserve
the heritage of a single company by holding a convention and glass
show every summer, while others focus on shapes, colors, or glass
general organizations, the National American Glass Club and the
Glass Collectors Club of Toledo, conduct regular seminars on glass-related
topics. To keep abreast of all these opportunities and the glass
collecting world in general, read publications like Glass Collector's
Digest, The Antique Trader Weekly, or The Daze. The more you know,
the more you'll be able to appreciate the ever-evolving art of
Collector's Digest is a bimonthly magazine that has been covering
all types of collectible glass since 1987. Subscriptions cost
$22 per year ($30 for non-U.S. residents). For more information,
call 800/533-3433 or 740/373-6146; write P.O. Box 553, Marietta,
OH 45750; email firstname.lastname@example.org;
or visit the magazine's Web