Friday, November 26, 2010

What Have I Got? A Glass Primer

One of the biggest changes in the last few decades in the antiques business is a heightened awareness by the layman of the value of collectibles. She who finds a possible treasure in the attic wants to know what she has before she sells or donates to a thrift store. Will it be a rare piece as was found in a British home recently when a Chinese vase broke auction records. Or is it a piece that ultimately will be recycled, sold for a quarter at a yard sale or donated to her favorite charity?

"What have I got?," you ask. I'm beginning a series to help you on your quest to research your items. We begin with glassware. Here is a primer covering several of the major areas of American glassmaking.

Art Glass This glass is usually handmade or blown, and pieces were produced in smaller quantities since it was not manufactured. Usually the term refers to glass of this type made in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Contemporary glass is being made in this style.

Carnival Glass Original pieces of this iridescent glass were made ca. 1907-1925. Many, many patterns were made, and some are currently being reproduced. Reproductions tend to be shinier and less sharply detailed than originals.

Crystal Lead Crystal refers to glass that contains 24-35% lead. Lead was added to glass to make it easier to cut, although crystal is more difficult to form. The lead changes the way that the glass reflects and refracts light; therefore; lead crystal has a sparkle or shimmer. The term crystal can refer to the color when speaking about depression, elegant or 40s 50s & 60s glass.

Cut Glass This term usually refers to pieces (produced ca. 1880-1905) on which elaborate geometric designs were cut into the glass. Because of this, cut glass tends to have sharper pattern edges than EAPG (sharper to the touch). See below for info on EAPG. Cut glass as a technique was used before this, the Brilliant era, and it is being used in glass production today as well.

EAPG Early American Pattern Glass or Early American Pressed Glass Glass in the category was produced primarily from 1880s to 1910 after the method of manufacturing glass pressed into molds was perfected. This glass can be colored or clear and was produced in a variety of patterns and shapes. Earlier examples of glass pressed into molds do exist, and the method is still used today. Some EAPG patterns are being reproduced. Reproductions can sometimes be spotted with a black light since they do not contain manganese as the originals did. Because of the manganese, EAPG turns purple in the sun as well. “Sun-purpling” the glass permanently ruins the value of the piece. EAPG is not to be confused with EAPC which stands for Early American Prescut, a much later pattern that was still being made in the late 20th century.

Depression Glass Popular and highly collectible today, this glass was made inexpensively in the 1920s and 30s. Many colors and patterns were made, and often they were promotional give-aways. Some collectors seek particular patterns while others collect colors. Reproductions are being made of some patterns. Often the detailing or size is different than the original.

Elegant Glass This glassware was also made during the depression era and through the 1950s. However, it has better clarity and is a better quality glass than ‘depression glass.’ It was also made in a variety of colors and shapes. Often the pattern is etched.

40s 50s and 60s Glassware The name says it all: this glass was produced after the depression era. Many popular patterns are included, such as EAPC, Silver Crest by Fenton, and various patterns of the popular ‘Swanky Swigs.’

Opalescent Glass It was mainly produced from the 1880s to the 1920s, Opalescent Glass is a type of pressed glass. If you hold up a piece of opalescent glass you will see a base color with milky edges. Fenton Glass Company produced many examples of opalescent glass and has continued to produce modern examples.

If you think your glassware falls into a particular category, check with your local library for cursory research before you purchase a value guide. Interlibrary loan may be more cost effective than buying several books for a small collection of glass. Stay tuned for part II of What Have I Got: Glassware. We'll provide some tips on spotting knock-offs, reproductions, and old glass.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Provenance: Sharing your Story

In my ten years as a dealer, I have heard many stories from customers. Some were funny stories about how people came to collect a particular genre of items or happy stories about bargains hunted. Others were stories of sadness over treasures broken and lost or families competing for estate items. Countless people have come in looking for a treasure "just like the Grandma's."

Many grandparents have also told me sadly that their children and grandchildren don't care about their collections. These collectors are imagining their treasures being sold for pennies on the dollar at a yard sale or - worse yet - being chucked in the landfill. This is why it's so important to tell our children the stories of our collections. Even if descendants choose to sell their inheritance, they should know the value of it. Whether your collection is worth hundreds or thousands of dollars or hundreds of thousands of dollars, it has more value when accompanied by the story or provenance of your items. Personal stories add value for your family, and stories of origin add value for resale.

There are various media for capturing stories.
  • A Journal - draw the items and write down their stories
  • A Scrapbook - photograph the items and write or type the stories
  • A Video - Tell the stories of each item while videotaping several angles
  • Computer database - include digital/scanned photos and the stories
  • Simply write down the story and store it with the item
Include in each story
  1. purchase price if known, with original or scanned receipt if possible
  2. story of origin as well as how and to whom the item has been passed
  3. info about professional cleaning, restoring, repairing that has occurred
  4. professional appraisal documents if appraised
  5. any personal stories about the items

Friday, October 1, 2010

Mid-century Coffee Table Re-do

When my great uncle Jon died my senior year in college, he left behind lots of laughing memories, a cross and a coffee table. Truly his possessions were few. The cross hung on my bedroom wall, and the coffee table went into storage not to be rediscovered until I was preparing to marry. It's a mid-century (20th) piece. The legs remind me a bit of the Mission style or Arts and Crafts style. When I saw it again, the table reminded me of many good times in the living room that my uncle and grandmother shared. It also spoke practicality and fit the combined eclectic style of two twenty somethings trying to merge lives.

For six years it held the traditional role of a coffee table - a place to sort mail, stack magazines, display coffee table books, and yes, place a coffee mug. When my son came along and began to crawl, the coffee table was laid off. It was not home to mail, magazines, books . . . definitely not ceramic mugs with hot liquids. The table sat barren, its sharp corners now rounded by the latest baby proofing technique. Its lone drawer was empty. Had the coffee table become useless?

Right after my son's birthday, we moved. New surroundings and a new layout changed my view of our household furniture. At Christmas the table displayed a toy nativity scene making it easy for my fifteen month old to play. After the holidays the table began to collect toys as it once had mail and magazines. It now had a use again! It was also a mess. My mother-in-law gave me some small canvas bins, and I began to envision a play table that could appeal to a mom's need for order and a tot's need to play.

Our play center, puts the drawer handle to the wall in order to protect the drawer and curious hands. Canvas bins can be purchased for $1 - $10 each and up. If you are creative, make your own bins or use found items that are safe for children. If you are using the table in a play room or child's room, you could also use the bins to teach organization by adding pictures of what goes in each bin.

Other ideas for Coffee Table Re-dos:

  1. Create an entertainment center - create a remote drawer, never lose a remote again
  2. Cover with a fitted table cloth - use the shelf for hidden storage, top with coffee table books
  3. Create a game table for older kids - store games below, add risers for height & pillows as seating
  4. Add a fitted glass top and display travel memorabilia or a postcard collection
  5. Refinish the table and enjoy as a traditional coffee table

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Elegant Recycling

I've been living with antiques and collectibles my whole life - some were inherited, others were purchased. That's what I call Elegant Recycling. Elegant Recycling is about incorporating beautiful pieces into your everyday life. If you are guest in my home, you'll notice a mix of older and newer furniture and design pieces. Being a dealer hasn't made me a purist. I shop at the big box stores from time to time. Most of all I'm looking for beautiful, functional pieces. My practicality and the fact that I'm the mother of a toddler necessitate function and the beauty adds a little sunshine to my day.

There is a growing awareness among dealers that Gen Xers are not getting into antiques and collectibles. Some theorize that it comes down to functionality. For more on this, check out this article from the trade publication Antique Trader here. I was catching up on my back issues, and read this article. I'm a GenXer who lives with antiques and collectibles. You can enjoy living with them too! I'll show you how. Check back soon for some ideas about how to use that 1950s coffee table that you inherited.