Some glass pieces retain collector value

By Terry Maurer, What’s It Worth?September 22, 2013 

A couple of weeks ago, we told What’s It Worth? readers about the continuing diminishing value of glass items. Antique and collectible pieces have been dropping in value for the past five to 10 years and the trend shows no sign of stopping.

We also noted there were exceptions, and in today’s column we explore two of those. One is a small glass beer stein. The other a set of glass bowls that still have collector interest today.

Q. I know you’ve said glass isn’t much of a collectible these days, but I wonder if my little beer stein is an exception? — Anna in Richland

A. There is quite an active group of beer stein collectors here in the Northwest, and their interest makes this quarter-liter clear glass stein an exception to the current downward market for glass items.

Steins go back as far as the Dark Ages in Europe. Most were made in Germany, like this example. Many beer mugs, but few steins, were ever made in America.

The difference between a mug and a stein is simple. A stein has a hinged lid and a mug has no lid at all.

The most valuable steins are of porcelain and are the so-called regimental or reservists’ steins made in Germany just before World War I.

They are personalized souvenirs of a man’s active-duty service with a military unit.

This little stein, although unmarked except for the volume it holds, was made in Germany and probably in the period “between the wars,” as collectors call the years from the end of WWI and the beginning of the Second World War in 1939.

It has minimal decoration; there are delicate lines of green running vertically between the glass panels.

Not nearly as desirable as its military cousins, it will have collector interest today and a fair value would be $75.

Q. Can you give me some clues as to what these dishes are called, who made them and when? They have been passed down in my family and could date back to early 1900s, but I really don't know if they are pre-or post-Depression. I haven't been able to find any like them online. Any help in tracking these dishes down would be appreciated. — Jerry in Pasco   A. This is a berry bowl set, made of opalescent glass.

Opalescent glass was first introduced in England in the 1880s and came to America at the turn of the 20th century.

The opalescent manufacturing technique is tricky. Think of two layers of glass, one colored and one clear, that have been fused together so that the clear parts become milky when the piece is fired a second or third time. The milky “opalescent” parts are almost always on the edges. On this set, in yellow or “vaseline” colored glass, the creamy parts are the rims of the bowls.

More than 20 American companies made opalescent glass; it is sometimes also called “opal glass.” There were hundreds of patterns and no late Victorian American dinner table was complete without at least one or two pieces.

Shapes and functions ranged from toothpick holders to sugar and creamer sets, small syrup pitchers, lemonade pitcher and glasses sets, and even dishes designed specifically to hold bananas.

This set consists of a master berry bowl (the big one) and four smaller bowls for individual servings. There may or may not have been one or two more small bowls at one time.

The pattern looks to be a variant of “Jewel & Flower” or perhaps “Spokes & Wheel.” Most pieces were not named or identified by the manufacturer; pattern names have been coined by collectors over the years.

There are several standard reference books and price guides on opalescent glass. One is Opalescent Glass from A to Z by William Heacock.

As a general rule, berry sets like this one will be valued as individual pieces, with a premium added for the fact it is a set. Many sets were broken up through the years, so there is added value for complete or almost-complete sets.

In this case, we would expect to see each smaller bowl priced in the $15 to $20 range at a shop or show. The larger master berry bowl would be in the $35 to $50 range. The set of would should be valued as a group at between $80 and $125.

— Terry Maurer, Tri–Cities personal property appraiser, is a member of the Certified Appraisers Guild of America. For possible use in a future column, direct questions on your antiques and collectibles to What's It Worth? by email to tchwhatsitworth@gmail.com.

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