Can Most Anyone Afford to Collect
Elegant Glassware of the Depression Era?

by Les Stewart
Volume 21 No. 10 - June 1995

Reprinted from the October 1988 News & Views

Elegant glassware of the Depression Era has become quite expensive. To collect a large traditional table setting would run in the thousands of dollars on the average. Many people have answered my lead question with a resounding NO! What they are overlooking is the ability to create a Nut dishes beautiful collection of elegant glass by specializing in one shape. This article ... has inspired by ... one person's beautiful collection of elegant glass nut dishes.

First, for the new collector we need to recap what exactly is Depression Era and Depression Era Elegant Glass.

The Depression Era is considered to he that Period of our country's history when the country went through the Great Depression (1925 - 1935). It seems to be a contradiction of terms to think of that period of high unemployment as when many new glass companies were being formed in the Ohio and West Virginia area. However, many new companies did start producing the traditional, high volume, machine made, depression glass (DG) that DG addicts collect today. Additionally, some of the new glass companies being formed also wanted to produce a higher quality Nut dishes glass. The companies that left the DG path and strived for higher quality are considered to be Fostoria, Cambridge, Heisey, Imperial, Tiffin, and others.

The first three companies created the majority of Depression Era elegant glass known today. A large portion of this glassware was never marked or only marked with a paper sticker. Since most of the people removed any stickers from their new purchases, the stickers have become lost for the most part. Most of the Heisey glass is marked with a diamond and "H" in the center of the diamond. Do not be lulled into believing all Heisey is marked! Many obvious Heisey pieces have been found without marks. If someone questions that statement, ask them if they have toured the Heisey museum. Cambridge was marked at first with a triangle and a "C" in the center of the triangle. They later went to a paper sticker - "Genuine Hand Made Cambridge". Fostoria was the most heavily produced and it never had any permanent marks. The other companies all bad various marking practices.

Now That we know who and when, lets look at how elegant glass appeared. The elegant glass these companies made differs from the traditional DG glass in obvious quality. The flaws that make DG glass loved by collectors were created by machines that continuously poured molten glass into molds and dumped out DG. Remember, in that period the perfection that machines and robots achieve today was unheard of. So Nut dishes the elegant glass was only achievable by heavy use of man's hands. All elegant glass was either hand made or hand finished. Even though the elegant glass was hand made, they created millions of pieces of glass with thousands of hands. The glassware was produced in crystal as well as in color in hues of pink, yellow, blue and green. The glass was left with a smooth surface or it was etched.

You have to become knowledgable about Depression Era elegant glass to be able to collect it; I recommend that the beginning collector get a copy of Elegant Glassware of the Depression Era by Gene Florence, or a similar book. Its a good starting point in the education process; they show the major patterns made by each of the companies. You may want to specialize in only one company's glass. If so, there Nut dishes are also reference books on each company which you will need to help you identify and price potential purchases.

There is considerable confusion about what is a nut dish, an ash tray, or even a salt dish. Some pieces are clearly identified by one expert as a nut dish and another expert says it is an ash tray. Some of these questionable pieces have a slit in the top rear. Again, the experts argue whether the slit should hold a name card on a nut dish or matches for the ash tray. I contend the companies making the glass didn't care what you used them for as long as you kept buying! So Nut dishes whatever you call your collection, it will be enjoyable. Maybe they are ash trays for nuts! If you are hung up on detail, collect something that can be clearly identified by shape such as baskets.

The pictures with this article are from one member's personal collection of elegant glass nut dishes. She has concentrated on collecting full sets of the individual size dishes and has found many different patterns and colors. Her hobby makes a beautiful collection, is affordable by most, and doesn't need a huge storage area. I found her collection a thing of beauty and fun to photograph.

Quite often the best places to find Depression Era Elegant Glass dishes are the Depression Era Glass shows that occur in your region.