Learn About Vintage Glassware Collectibles

By Amanda Patterson

It's rewarding to learn about early housewares, even if you don't collect yourself. Useful or decorative items made of glass are especially fun, because you can see examples of them in antique centers, flea markets, and even yard sales. You may not want vintage glassware collectibles on your dining room table, but then again maybe you fall in love. This is an inexpensive and enjoyable way to make browsing through junk shops and antique malls more interesting.

The words 'vintage' and 'collectible' can be confusing. Basically anything for which there is a demand can interest collectors, and anything made in your grandparents' era can be called vintage. Many feel that the year of manufacture should be included in an item's description, if possible, just as people do when they speak of a fine wine.

Collectibles are more fun than investment. Glass dishes are pretty, and if they're 'vintage' rather than 'antique', you won't mind using them. Once you start looking at glass from the twenties, thirties, and forties, you are sure to find patterns, colors, and styles that you admire. Even if you don't want a complete set, consider nut dishes, vases, or dessert plates.

Functional items made of glass include drinking glasses, platters, serving dishes, and decorative items like paperweights or table-top ornaments. Glassware has always been a popular wedding present, so patterns popular in the 1930s and '40s are plentiful. Even the cheapest glass, like 'Carnival' which was given out as BINGO prizes at fairs, is colorful and prized seventy years later.

It's fun to link styles of glass to history. In America, Depression glass (as it is now known) was a cheap, molded line and not all that well made. However, it was affordable and came in gorgeous colors like cobalt blue, pink, pearly white, and iridescent. Housewives could buy it at the dime store or get it in a box of cereal or detergent. This pretty style was definitely a bright spot in the otherwise dreary 1930s.

The popularity of patterned glass remained popular through the World War II years, when imported dishes and ornaments were unavailable. Look at Fostoria glass online to get an idea of the dishes, pitchers, vases, punch bowls, salt shakers, and platters made for the American home. Clear glass was popular, as well as pink, green, and opaque white. Cambridge and Heisey were other leading brands of hand-molded and colored 'elegant glass', a cut above the cheaper, machine-made Depression items.

Maybe you have glasses packed away in the attic, those old-fashioned ones your grandmother used. Get them out and identify them by maker, pattern, color, and date. You may have fairly valuable collectibles or you may just have charming heirlooms to use, as well as knowledge to pass along to your children.

This is a great hobby. It makes trips to city antique malls and flea markets more fun, as you identify what you're seeing. Maybe you'll find a piece that is rare because of its function or color and get a real treasure. Take a hint from Martha Stewart and serve your distinctive desserts on vintage glass plates, hang WWII glass ornaments on your Christmas tree, or find a patterned shade for a hall lamp. There is no end to the decorating possibilities in using glassware from earlier times.

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