Most people have some Depression glassware in their home and don’t even know it. Very often it’s a platter or a bowl passed down in the family that makes an annual appearance at Thanksgiving, or a sentimental item from a grandparent’s house.
“People start collecting because they see a piece that reminds them of something they grew up with and try to recapture it,” says Rosemary Trietsch of Albertson, who’s organizing the Big Apple Depression Glass Club Show & Sale, being held May 7. “It gives them a sense of connection from where they came from.”
ABOUT THE GLASS
Depression glassware is the term used to describe machine-produced glass products made in the United States from 1925 to 1940. During the Depression, glass companies such as Fenton, Anchor Hocking and Cambridge gave their products away as premiums when people made other purchases.
“The Depression hit and people didn’t have any disposable income. They had to be creative with their marketing,” says Trietsch. “The glassware industry would wholesale its products to other businesses rather than selling directly to people. If you went to the movies, you got a bowl. If you bought a 10-pound bag of flour instead of a 5-pound bag of flour, you got a cake plate. It kept the glassware industry afloat.”
ON THE HUNT
Today, tracking down Depression glassware is a sport. Collectors travel all over seeking particular pieces.
“Often people come in with wish lists,” Trietsch says. “It’s just like comic book collectors looking for certain issues.”
Ralph and Roberta Edwards of Floral Park specifically collect Heisey glassware — and nothing else.
“It’s the quality,” Ralph, 86, says.
The couple are part of a national Heisey organization, and they’ve gone to conventions and participated in a local study group. “It’s an adventure to look for something that matches what you have and putting pieces together,” Ralph says. “Sometimes you are simply looking for a spoon that goes with a marmalade dish. Then you realize that you are missing a top to it. You are always looking for a find.”
Cathy and George Simpson of Smithtown have collected red glassware since 1966, when they received a four-piece red place setting at their engagement party.
“We were married the week before Christmas,” says Cathy, 68, who owns more than 3,500 pieces. “Therefore I like everything red.”
Tiffin Rose Marie etched goblets are what Stephen Allen, 74, of Sea Cliff fancies since he bought a set in Rhode Island and fell in love with the design.
“I want to own all the Rose Marie etched goblets in the world,” says Allen, who travels to the Tiffin Glass Collectors Club Show & Sale twice a year.
WHAT IT’S WORTH
Prices for Depression glass pieces can range from $1 into the thousands. There are guide books determining the value. However, sellers are always willing to bargain.
“Generally you can get a discount on things,” Trietsch says. “Dealers are always willing to work with people.”
Next weekend, the Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport will hold a Mother’s Day sale from the collection of the disbanded Depression Glass Society.
“We are selling random pieces — no full sets — with prices ranging from $2 to $600,” says Stephanie Gress, curatorial affairs director. “We have over 650 pieces for sale. There’s something for everyone.”
Big Apple Depression Glass Show & Sale
WHEN | WHERE 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday, May 7, at Albertson VFW Hall, 155 Searingtown Rd.
INFO 516-476-0155, justglass.com
Depression glass sale
WHEN | WHERE Noon-5 p.m. May 14, Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Rd., Centerport
INFO 631-854-5579, vanderbiltmuseum.org
ADMISSION $7 ($3 ages 12 and younger)
There are several types of Depression glass:
ELEGANT Hand polished and etched after production
MILK Solid white
CARNIVAL Glass with an iridescent finish that’s been pressed and coated with a metallic salt and then refired
KITCHENWARE Opaque colored glassware
BED & BATH Perfume bottles, powder jars, lamps, desk sets