In Appreciation of Amber Madrid

by Cheryl Kevish
Volume 20 No. 9 - May 1994

Lovers of Madrid, the DG pattern made by the Federal Glass Company from 1932 through 1939, have experienced some of the best and worst aspects of collecting. Their chosen pattern has one of the most Madrid grill plate extensive selections of pieces available in abundant quantities. It is a majestic and bold mold-etched pattern, distinguished by a distinctive diamond-shaped motif surrounded by festoons and scrolls. Yet due to an unfortunate series of reissues, interest in Madrid has lagged behind other DG patterns.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Madrid collectors should feel that their chosen pattern has been highly complimented. But given what an adverse impact this flattery has had on Madrid prices, they cannot be very pleased. In 1976, Federal reissued the pattern in the original amber color, calling it the "Recollection Series." Reissued pieces were marked with a "76," but collector comfort level was disturbed. A few years later, Federal went into bankruptcy and sold the Madrid molds to Indiana Glass Company. Things went from bad to worse as Indiana reissued Madrid in the original colors of crystal, pink and blue without putting any explicit reissue mark on the pieces. Mr. Florence has made a very eloquent case against this type of activity by glass companies in his Encyclopedia, to which I can add little except my agreement and sympathy for all collectors who have been hurt by reissues and reproductions (and that includes most of us at one time or another!). Compared to the patterns previously profiled in this series, Madrid price appreciation trails behind dramatically. Madrid place setting prices have risen 79% over the past fifteen years, far less than other patterns.

Amber Madrid
Soup Bowl, 7" 6.50 15.00
Cup 4.00 6.50
Saucer 2.00 4.00
Sherbet Plate, 6" 2.00 4.00
Luncheon Plate, 8 7/8" 4.00 8.00
Dinner Plate, 10½" 19.50 35.00
Sherbet 4.50 7.50
Tumbler, 5½" 10 oz. Ftd. 15.50 24.00

The difference in price appreciation is even more evident in the Madrid accessory pieces which have increased only about l00%, in spite of wide variety and availability.

Amber Madrid
Creamer, Ftd. 5.00 8.50
Sugar and Cover 21.00 42.50
Butter Dish & Cover 47.50 67.00
Candlesticks, 2¼" Pair 12.50 22.00
Gravy Boat & Platter 500.00 1075.00
Vegetable Bowl, 10" Oval 7.50 15.00
Platter, 11½" Oval 6.50 15.00
Pitcher, 8½" 80 oz. 42.50 60.00
Salt & Pepper Shakers. 3½" Ftd. 39.50 65.00

Fortunately, the joys of Madrid collecting offer a salve for the reissue woes. This pattern has an incredible variety of accessory pieces. Madrid offers lovely historical evidence of America's changing culinary and dietary patterns in the 1930s. The abundance of tumblers and pitchers is linked to the introduction of refrigeration, which supplied iced drinks and juices. The availability of new foods, such as cold cuts, sherbet and jello, is recognized in an array of dishes, bowls and specialty pieces such as a lazy susan server and a jello mold. Madrid also has a gravy boat, which is rarely seen in DG, although at a price that doesn't encourage frequent use of the piece.

The shapes of the Madrid pieces also display distinctive 1930s design elements. Mrs. Weatherman states that Federal reworked the molds from the earlier, less successful Parrot pattern into Madrid. The square platters, softened by scalloped corners, make a striking break with conventional round pieces, The cone shapes, repeated in the tumblers and sherbets, add flair and style. In addition, Federal created new colors such as amber "Golden Blo" and "Madonna Blue" for this pattern, giving collectors a rainbow of choices. It is interesting to note that the glass companies cannot seem to capture the true shades of these original DG colors in their reissued and reproduced pieces. I have been pleased that I have been able to recognize reproductions by the fact that the color wasn't "right." Perhaps this may lead these companies to give up their efforts to replicate the past and, if they must reissue, try new colors such as the teal that Indiana has used for new Madrid. Ideally, I wish American glass companies would attempt to reproduce the ingenuity and design flair that led to the creation of DG, rather than the actual pieces, so that our grandchildren will have something different and worthwhile to collect in the future!

My next article will feature Sharon, another Federal pattern that has suffered from reproductions, rather than reissues.

Florence, Gene, Collector's Encyclopedia of Depression Glass, Eleventh Edition, Paducah, KY, Collector Books, 1994
Weatherman, Hazel Marie, Colored Glassware of the Depression Era, Ozark, MO, Weatherman GLASSBOOKS, 1970.