Monday, June 16, 2014

Fragile as Lace

QUESTION: My mother always liked decorative glass. She had an eclectic collection, some of which was Depression Glass. I now have her collection, but I know little about glass and almost nothing about Depression Glass.  I have four plates that I particularly like. Each has a pierced rim. Can you tell me anything about them?

ANSWER: Your plates are a pattern known as Old Colony, made by the Hocking Glass Company from 1935 to 1938. Back then your plate sold for only 10 cents at stores like F.W. Woolworth’s 5 and 10 Cent Stores.

When the Great Depression began, glass makers began producing inexpensive, colored translucent glass ware, which they sold for 5 and 10 cents. Some food manufacturers and distributors, such as the Quaker Oats Company, put pieces of Depression glassware in boxes of food as an incentive to purchase. Movie theaters and businesses also handed out pieces to customers simply for coming in the door.

More than 20 glass makers, most located in the central U.S. where access to raw materials and power made manufacturing inexpensive, produced over 100 patterns, including  entire dinner sets in some patterns, and in a variety of colors—clear, pink, pale blue, green, and amber.

Collectors commonly call the Old Colony pattern “open lace” or “lace edge.” However, this can be misleading since other companies like Westmoreland, Duncan & Miller, and Imperial also made lace-edged Depression Glass.

Of all the patterns they produced, Hocking’s Old Colony is by far the most popular with collectors. It comes mostly in a deep pink and clear, also known as crystal. And all pieces have some sort of ribbing incorporated into their design. Other manufacturers also produced lace-edged glass but in a lighter pink. Color is an important element in determining various patterns of Depression Glass since no mark appears on glass as with china. Hocking (later Anchor Hocking) eventually did embed their logo into the bottom of their glass pieces, but not their Depression Glass.

While all Old Colony pieces are open lace, not all open lace pieces are Old Colony. A variety of companies made lace-edged pieces in shapes and colors that are different from Old Colony. The Lancaster and Standard Glass Companies, both of which came under Hocking's control in 1924, made some open lace pieces in the late 1920s and early 1930s which were similar in style and shape to Old Colony.

Some people collect only Old Colony pieces. Others, who like the open lace style, find other companies' pieces complement` their Old Colony collections, especially pieces that don’t come in the Old Colony pattern, such as sandwich plates.

To sort out the various patterns, colors, and manufacturers of Depression Glass, collectors usually consult guidebooks on the subject. However, the information from one guidebook to another can be incorrect or misleading. For instance, in some books, luncheon plates list as measuring 8¾ inches in diameter while the less common and more expensive salad plates measure 8¼ inches. But, in fact, the salad plate actually measures only 7¼ inches. And while there’s an 8¼-inch plate, it’s the luncheon plate. Plus, there are no Old Colony plates sized between the 8¼- inch luncheon plate and the 10½-inch dinner plate.

This confusion can be especially problematic on auction sites like eBay where dealers don’t always do thorough research of their wares. The Old Colony salad plate usually sells for around $22  on eBay while the luncheon plate sells for $13-15. And even though this isn’t a huge difference in price, collectors often pay the higher amount for a luncheon plate if they really want it. The true salad plates, measuring 7¼ inches, are much less common than the 8¼-inch luncheon plates.

Old Colony pieces can also be found in frosted glass. These sell for half of what unfrosted pieces do, so collectors can buy and collect frosted pieces for half the price, especially for the more expensive ones.  
An unfrosted console bowl in mint condition, for instance, lists for over $200. This howl, which measures 10½ inches across and sits on three legs, sells for $25 on eBay in its frosted edition.

But there’s a downside to collecting Old Colony. The lace edging chips and cracks easily on all lace edge pieces. Many of the more unique pieces have chips. Unfortunately, the supply of Old Colony, as with other unusual patterns of Depression Glass, is drying up as collectors have amassed collections which has taken a lot of it off the market.

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