Anyone new to collecting depression glass can be easily overwhelmed by the amount of things to learn about this beautiful glassware. Below are a few tips that will come in handy:
Know your shapes! Elegant glass companies like Cambridge and Heisey produced hundreds of etchings. Very few people out there can name them all. However, most of these etchings appear on half a dozen “blanks” – the unetched/undecorated version of the glass. Once you are familiar with those basic shapes and which companies made them, you can more easily identify a piece of glass. Even if you don’t know the etching name, you can at least tell what company made it.
Know your colors! Color can mean a BIG different in value for depression glass. For example, a white (aka monax) lunch plate in the American Sweetheart pattern is worth $8. But if you found one in red, you would have a $100 plate. Some patterns have minimal value differences between colors, but in other patterns they can be substantial. The best place to learn more is in a depression glass reference book, which you can either buy online or check out from your local library. Or better yet, come to one of our depression glass meetings where you can browse the club’s collection of nearly 200 glass reference books.
The price isn’t always the price. Most antique malls will offer a 10% discount if you are paying by check or cash for items over $20. You can also negotiate at a flea market or antique show. At a depression glass show, the prices may be a bit more firm, but it never hurts to try a bit of negotiation – especially if you are buying an expensive item or making a large purchase of many smaller items. Just keep in mind that this dealer not only has the expense of the glass to cover, but also their travel expenses (gas, truck rental, hotel, meals) plus booth rent to be at that show.
Never (ever) put your depression glass in the dishwasher – hand wash only! While you might be able to get away with throwing your jadeite or sturdier glass in the dishwasher once a year on the china/crystal setting, for the most part, all glass should be hand washed. Dishwasher liquids have particles that can make your glass cloudy over time. Also, the high temperatures and movement of water can risk breakage.
Put a metal spoon in your teacups before you pour in coffee or hot water. Nothing is more upsetting that a depression glass cup cracking after a hot liquid is poured into it. While this isn’t the norm, it can happen, which is why you should always place a metal spoon in the cup before you pour. The metal absorbs some of the heat from the liquid. Also – never pour in boiling water – take the kettle off the stove and let the water cool down for a few minutes. It will still be plenty hot for a nice cup of tea on a cold evening.
If you are in southeastern Michigan, attend one (or more) of the Michigan Depression Glass Society’s monthly meetings. There is no better way to learn than by connecting with other collectors who share your passion and are eager to impart their knowledge.