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by Dan Simmons

Widely collected from the 1930's through the 1950's, pattern glass has maintained a respectable following, though most new pressed glass collectors since the l960's have been devotees of the glass from the depression era. For many beginning collectors today, however, there is no emotional attachment to depression glass and all but the most pedestrian patterns have become expensive. My observations of more identified pieces of pattern glass at malls and shops and in trade journals, plus the general and specific reference books published in the last several years, would argue a renewed interest among collectors.

Pattern glass has several appealing features, but a strong one for both collectors and dealers is that one may find it at bargain prices more often than perhaps any other collectible glass. As a collector, I have purchased hundreds of pieces at a small fraction of their retail value; as a dealer, I have sold hundreds of pieces with a mark-up of 300-1000 percent. Though I have noticed an increase in dealers who recognize and price pattern glass accordingly the last few years, bargains still exist on the retail market as well as those at local auctions, flea markets, and estate and garage sales. The reasons that one can find great buys in pattern glass is, of course, that many people simply don't know what they have. Some people may believe a piece(s) to be old, but because they have no basis for identifying or valuing it, they tend to price low, hoping for a quick sale.

Though identifying and evaluating EAPG may seem intimidating to the beginning collector or dealer, a few good reference books and some basic knowledge and experience can soon result in sufficient preparation to buy and/or sell successfully. Before we consider the specifics, however, we should first generally define pattern glass and briefly review its history.

Early American Pattern Glass is the name used to describe the hundreds of patterns of pressed glass produced from approximately 1840 to 1920. Large scale production of mechanically pressed glass was begun in the 1820's to attempt to meet the growing demand for utilitarian items such as furniture knobs and bottles. As demand for glass items increased, the lacy patterns of flint (lead) table glass were produced in the l830's. The patterns usually included under EAPG begin with those introduced in the forties, geometric patterns such as Bullseye, Sawtooth, etc. In the fifties the lacy glass production ended and new patterns reflecting a stylized realism, such as Bellflower, Ribbed Ivy, etc., were added to the geometric motifs. In the sixties, with the development of a lime formula which was less expensive and thinner than flint, the number of patterns and pieces in sets began to expand. The thinner glass made possible detailed sculptural designs such as Lion, Strawberry, etc.

The seventies and eighties resulted in a wealth of patterns, and color became more common. Decorating techniques such as frosting, staining, and enamelling were developed and formulas were created for milk, chocolate, custard, and marbelized glass. In the nineties new patterns were created to imitate the ornately cut brilliant glass. In the nineties, however, financial troubles led to the closing of many companies and merging of others to form the United States and National Glass Companies. After the turn of the century, relatively few new patterns were introduced and the quality of much of the production declined. By the end of the first world war, demand had shifted to the lighter, colorful, etched depression glass.

End of Part I - Go to Part II


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