Old Colony not the only lace edge Depression glass - Part II

by Johanna S. Billings
Volume 25 No. 9 - May 1999

Continued from the April 1999 issue of News & Views.

Accurately identifying Old Colony drinkware can be challenging because it has no lace work on it.

Beginning collectors can be confused into thinking they've found a bargain Old Colony cup, when what they really have is a piece of Hocking's Queen Mary. Florence's latest Pocket Guide to Depression Glass lists a lace edge cup as selling for $22, while the Queen Mary cup in pink lists for only $7. Though the cups are similar at first glance, closer inspection reveals they are very different. The lace edge cup has ribbing on the bottom, extending only about a quarter of the way up the sides of the cup. In contrast, the ribbing on a Queen Mary cup extends almost the entire way up the sides.

Tumblers in these two patterns are not so easily confused. The flat-bottomed Old Colony and Queen Mary tumblers both have straight sides and ribbing which extends almost all the way up. But the Queen Mary tumblers flare out at the top in a bulbous fashion, and Old Colony ones do not. Queen Mary tumblers run $9 to $12 each, where lace edge tumblers run $16 and up.

The Old Colony footed tumblers are also similar in shape to those found in the Queen Mary pattern. But tumblers in Hocking's Coronation pattern can also cause contusion. Queen Mary tumblers have a rounded foot where both Coronation and lace edge tumblers have a scalloped foot making them look like they are a part of the lace edge pattern. However, the Coronation tumbler has wider ribbing running from the bottom to the middle and a band of fine ribbing above that. This fine ribbing is not found on the lace edge tumbler. Price-wise, a footed Coronation tumbler will run you only $20, while a lace edge footed tumbler will cost $65 and Queen Mary footed tumbler runs about $57.

Confusion also has resulted from incorrect measurements listed in Florence's books for the Old Colony luncheon and salad plates. According to the books, luncheon plates measure 8¾ inches and the less common and more expensive salad plates measure 8¼ inches. However, the salad plate actually measures only 7¼ inches. There is an 8¼ inch plate, but this is the luncheon plate. There are no known Old Colony plates sized between the 8¼ inch luncheon plate and the 10½ inch dinner plate, so the existence of an 8¾ inch plate is doubtful. Earlier editions of Florence's book do list the salad plate accurately. The incorrect size showed up by the 9th edition.

Florence lists the price of the salad plate as being $20 and the more common luncheon plate at $17.50. But buyers unwittingly pay $20 and up for the luncheon plates, thinking the are getting salad plates. This confusion causes problems for more advanced collectors who know the 8¼ plate is the more common one, but are still forced to pay the higher price if they wish to acquire this size.

The true salad plates, those that measure only 7¼ inches, are much less common than the 8¼ inch luncheon plates.

Confusion aside, the Old Colony pattern has a lot of interesting pieces to offer. Perhaps the most unusual pieces in the pattern are the closed lace 13 inch plate and a similar 13 inch four-part relish. Like their open lace counterparts, the solid lace pieces are also ribbed. Aside from that, they actually look very different. The edging on the closed lace pieces is quite a bit larger than that of their open lace counterparts. The closed lace also had a design in it, not found in other Old Colony pieces. The later editions of Florence's Collector's Encyclopedia mention the solid lace pieces, currently valued at $28 each. But one has to go to considerably earlier editions, such as the 4th edition, to see a solid lace piece pictured.

The Old Colony pattern also includes a fish bowl, which was originally advertised in ½, 1, and 2-gallon sizes, writes Weatherman. Florence lists only the 1-gallon fish bowl in his books, noting that it comes in crystal. This piece lists in his book at $30.

The Old Colony butter dish, currently listed at $60, is unusual in that the bottom also serves as a 7¾ inch salad bowl. Florence says, quoting old catalogs. It is interesting to note that Weatherman says the butter dish is actually a preserve and cover. "We sometimes call the preserve and cover a butter dish, but it isn't," she writes.

Although the 7¾ inch bowl (or preserve or butter bottom) can serve as salad bowl, Florence's book says, "many collectors like to think the true salad bowl is ribbed." There is a big difference in pricing between the ribbed and plain bowl. The ribbed salad bowl sells for about $45 where the plain salad bowl sells for only about $20. Both ribbed and plain versions of the 9½ inch bowl are available, but there is no difference in pricing. The plain 9½ inch bowl, which is probably one of the most common pieces of this pattern, lists for $20, as does its ribbed counterpart. What is most interesting about these two ribbed bowls is the fact that the lace is not ribbed on the 7¾ inch salad bowl but the lace is ribbed on the 9½ inch bowl.

Like those made by Lancaster and Standard, Old Colony pieces can also he found in satinized or frosted glass. Florence lists prices for frosted pieces at 50 percent or less of the price for their unfrosted counterparts. "Lack of demand is the main reason," Florence states in the 10th edition of his book. "Although some collection think frosted Old Colony is beautiful, most do not!" An earlier edition of his book says that most patterns can be found in frosted glass, usually to fill special orders. Whether collectors like frosted pieces or not, buying frosted Old Colony can give the collector an easier shot at owning big hard-to-find or expensive pieces. An unfrosted console bowl in mint condition, for instance, lists in the current edition of Florence's Pocket Guide for $195. This howl, which measures 10½ inches across and sits on three legs, can be found in frosted glass for $18 to $20. Cost is but one factor keeping mint unfrosted console bowls out of collectors' hands. The lace edging chips and cracks easily on all lace edge pieces, and this seems to be particularly true with console howls. Most are found with a considerable number of chips.

It is interesting to note that U.S. Glass made a bowl which is very similar to Hocking's Old Colony console bowl. Noting that the official name of this bowl is unknown, Weatherman calls it a "peep-hole bowl". This bowl also sits on three legs and has an open lace edging around the top. Peep-hole bowls are made of much heavier glass than Old Colony's console bowls and their lace edging is long and narrow, rather than open and rounded as in Old Colony pieces. Peep-hole bowls measure approximately 11 inches across, compared to the 10 inch Old Colony consoles, and were made in pink, green and black. I have encountered only pink examples, and these are generally priced around $25.

Candlesticks are another hard-to-find Old Colony item. Unfrosted candlesticks list in Florence's book for $195 a pair. The only mint set of unfrosted candlesticks I've seen was priced almost $400 at a Maryland antique mall.

Frosted candlesticks are a bit more abundant, and a pair sells for $30 to $40. Frosted 7¾ inch bowls can be found, usually priced between $7 to $12 each, as compared to the unfrosted price of $20. I once picked up a pair of these for $5, though. The only other frosted pieces I have encountered are cookie jars, though Florence's book pictures a frosted vase, which is another piece that is hard to find. The 7 inch vase lists for $325 unfrosted, but can be found in the $50 range if frosted, says Florence.

Most, if not all, of these frosted pieces are decorated with a painted floral design. With Old Colony, the lace edging is also frosted in contrast to Lancaster and Standard pieces which may have frosted bodies but unfrosted lace.

Some people speculate that Old Colony prices will skyrocket because the pattern is pictured on the front cover of Gene Florence's Pocket Guide. Only time will tell if this is the case. But one thing is for sure. It certainly won't dull the popularity of this pattern, which seldom sits long enough to collect dust inside a dealer's shop. In fact, many dealers say pieces frequently sell before they are cleaned and priced. The speed with which Old Colony disappears from dealer stock is no doubt related to complaints by collectors that the supply seems to be drying up.

Still, it is not impossible to find. I have been collecting this pattern for only three years but already I am close to having a complete set, except for some of the most rare or hard-to-find pieces. The trick is to keep looking and acquire a piece at a time, just as our ancestors did.

Editor's Note: The NDGA wishes to thank Johanna Billings for allowing us to reprint this interesting and informative article and to Antique Week for its cooperation.