Well, maybe there is one good thing that came out of The 1930s Depression: Glass. To be more specific, Depression Glass, which is highly collectible and showing signs of increasing in value right now - especially the Green color. It could be that Green Depression Glass reminds people, in a soothing way, of the two current crises we face now: the dreadful economy (similar to the 1930s) and global warming. If people living during the 1930s turmoil could get through it, so can we. Favoring Green just reinforces the idea we've promised to keep cutting down on our energy use. Green is THE color in everything this year - including Depression glass.
In case you're not familiar, Depression glass is the clear or colored glass that was given away as a premium or "enticement" to people during the 1930s. If they bought a box of cereal, a movie ticket or even a gallon of gas, they'd also get a free piece of glassware. Along with your Quaker Oats, you might find a pink glass saucer inside the box. Giving away Depression glass was a great marketing idea for a time when people weren't in the mood (or couldn't afford) to go shopping. Depression glass give-aways grew so popular, during the heyday at least 20 U.S. factories were churning out the 100 glass patterns to meet demand. Place settings came in a wide variety of colors - clear, pink, pale blue, green and amber. There were also some less common colors (like red and black,but in all my years of collecting, I've never seen any). People could find their patterns at the 5 & 10-cent store (Woolworths) when they wanted to fill in their settings or replace a piece. We're not talking Steuben or Orrefors; Depression glass was inexpensively produced, so it was generally heavier and sometimes a bit flawed often (glass bubble, for instance), unlike the high-end glass from France or Sweden.
I've been picking up Depression Glass pieces here and there, as I've gone about collecting my other passions. I've always focused on the more Modernistic Depression Glass pieces, which are generally square, not round. I love to pour a cup of coffee in my dark green Modernistic Depression glass cup (no saucers required). I've also managed to acquire Depression Glass cake plates, sherbets, small bowls and various serving dishes in a variety of patterns. For me, it's all about the color. One trend in interior design these days, seems to be to mix unmatched glassware with unmatched antique or vintage glass or china (generally in floral patterns in the colors of the Depression Glass). As I mentioned, there are about 100 patterns of Depression Glass; it's pretty much your choice whether you want to stick to one pattern (say Old Cafe) or go for colors (blue from Hazel Atlas Co. goes for the big bucks). Of course, just like every other popular collectible known to man and woman, the copiers have been out and about - mainly since the 1960s, when Depression Glass first became so popular to collect. I pretty much know a reproduction when I see one -- first, the color, clarity and weight of any newer fake Depression dish or cup is unlike the original. The copiers, unfortunately, grow better by the day, but if you pick up a clunky piece of so-called Depression Glass and it shows no wear of any kind - beware or be wary.
I like to find authentic Depression Glass at estate sales where I can see what other types of items are being offered (like those from the 1930-40s) or flea markets. Yesterday I visited an antique mall and saw numerous examples of Depression Glass (mainly pink) in various patterns, all selling for inflated prices. It would be - and is- nice to pick up a piece of Depression Glass at a charity thrift store - generally $2.99 for a plate or $.69-$.99 for a cup - depending on where you live. If you get into this, in a big way, you'll want to go to the library or the 2nd hand store and get a Guide to Depression Glass, so you can tell the patterns and their values. Since I've never collected Depression Glass for resale, I don't have a Guide. But in the case of someone who wants to collect or re-sell for profit, a Guide is necessary, given the numbers of patterns. The Guides also offer hints on how to tell a reproduction from an original.
What prompted me to think about Green Depression glass was a newsletter mention by Mrs. Kovel (of the famed Kovel Antique Guides), who recently wrote she'd gone to a swap meet and three different sellers reported selling sets of green drinking glasses that very day. It wasn't a far leap to go check out the sales on eBay to discover some Depression Glass selling in the 3 figures (some selling for much less, of course). What caught my eye was a Modernistic green Depression Glass fish bowl (the round vintage variety) that sold for $175. Don't suppose there are too many of those out there, but you just never know.
The other thought about Depression glass was how few "enticements" are given out these days. I'm not talking Fast Food toys (although there's a good market for the very oldest giveaways), but free, practical items that would come in cereal boxes or soap boxes or with gas-station fill-ups (like the 1930s). Okay, I dream. Of course, just when I decided that practical giveaways would be a good idea, I saw a commercial for McD's and their current promotional glass giveaway. (At a fast food outlet near you!). If contemporary glass is not your thing, check out Depression Glass. A goblet, found in a thrift store, may cost you less than a big value meal at McDs. And you won't feel guilty for indulging in a little fast (fats) food.
Here's a list of some of the more expensive and popular patterns to be looking for: Adam, American Sweetheart, Block Optic,Cherry Blossom, Dogwood,Lace Edge, Manhattan, Miss America, Moderntone, Moondrops, Tea Room, Windsor. Of course, pristine condition and certain sought-after colors will determine the varying values.
Collecting Depression Glass is not as easy as it sounds or looks, but it's certainly fun to send yourself on a treasure hunt. I expect Depression Glass (certain patterns)to go up and up in the near future. Just two days after I predicted a boom in tobacco-product collecting, the U.S. government decided to regulate cigarettes and their advertising. Voila. Instant price increase for some cigarette collectibles. For some of us, it's really hard making green backs these days. Scouting around for a little green Depression Glass to buy and sell for profit couldn't hurt. And if you can't sell it, you can always drink your morning coffee in it.
With thanks to Kovels, eBay, internet resources and my library of antique & collectibles reference books.