Q: My mom is 96 and has a glass pitcher that has been in the family for a very long time. It has no markings on the bottom to research. I’ve tried to find a picture of it but am not having any luck. Any info?
A: First, congratulations to your mother on reaching such an august age. What changes she must have witnessed.
The thing about marks and old glass is that a lot of early glass was never marked. Factory-made pieces, even art glass, had paper labels, which in time disappeared. Of course, that makes the job of identification all the more challenging.
Glass collectors are a special breed. I figure they have special memory banks, because memorizing the endless details of who made exactly what pattern takes a special collector. Add complicating facts such as the huge variety of glass out there and factory molds that were sold off and reused by others so multiple makers made the same glass, plus infinite nuances of color and shape — no wonder you’re confused!
In the images sent, milky semi-opaque loops in the clear pitcher identify the glass type as opalescent. First introduced in the 1880s, opalescent glass was made by many American factories and glass studios, from Northwood to Tiffany.
Mike Carwile, author of the “Standard Encyclopedia of Opalescent Glass: 7th Edition,” identified the pitcher as Fenton’s “Drapery” pattern. See if your library has the title because there’s a Fenton Drapery pitcher on page 53.
Carwile still has a few copies of his book left (see “More” below). Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Made for about 40 years up to WWI, original examples of opalescent glass are popular with today’s collectors. The glass is still made, mainly overseas.
Readers familiar with contemporary Fenton sold on a home shopping TV network may be surprised to learn that the glassmaker’s mold-blown Drapery pattern dates from around 1910. Drapery opalescent glass made by The Northwood Glass Company came earlier, in 1904, and is usually marked. Smart collectors differentiate the two by pitcher shape: Fenton’s is bulbous while Northwood’s is tankard-like.
In their book on Fenton Art Glass 1907-1939, Margaret and Kenn Whitmyer write that Drapery was made in 14 shapes, from the pitcher to bowls, a plate and even a spittoon. The earliest colors date from 1908-1912 and were amethyst, blue, crystal and green opalescent. By the 1930s, crystal opalescent was called “French Opalescent.”
According to Carwile, book value on the reader’s crystal pitcher is $275. But “with the economy as it is,” he adds, “I would put a realistic value of $225 on the pitcher at this time.”
Many smart collectors are angry and upset that several longtime publishers of antiques and collecting-related books have left the print business.
For decades, the print giants of collector reference titles were Schiffer Books, a family-owned firm in Pennsylvania, Krause Publishing of Iola, Wis., and Collector Books, a division of family-owned Schroeder Publishing, Paducah, Ky.
Today, only Schiffer still stands intact. In 2002, F&W Media in Ohio bought Krause. In 2005, F&W was bought by a private equity group that’s in the process of taking Krause/F&W titles digital.
Krause’s new corporate line is all about “going green” and “saving the environment.” The bottom line to readers is, don’t expect any more books in traditional format.
Collector Books announced last year that it would close after all titles sell out. No new titles are planned.
Remember how the opening section mentioned that Carwile still had a few copies of his book? He was a Collector Books author. Repeated phone calls to Bill Schroeder of CB requesting information were not returned.
In a recent posting to press, Peter Schiffer, the second-generation head of Schiffer Books, emphasized that the 30-year-old company intends to continue with “quality reference books.” That’s some great good news.
A 13-inch-by-10⅝-inch etching of Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart in the classic film “Casablanca” recently brought $4,375 in a sale of items from the late Al Hirschfeld. Famed for his caricatures of theater and showbiz personalities, the artist socialized with many of his subjects. The etching was signed in pencil, dated 1995, and numbered 68 of 160.
Q: Milk glass is one of the Fenton Art Glass Company’s best sellers. When did it first appear, and what milk glass pattern is a Fenton best seller?
A: A small assortment was first offered in the early 1930s. Larger quantities appeared in 1938. Hobnail milk glass, a company mainstay, was introduced in 1950. Source: “The Big Book of Fenton Milk Glass 1940-1985: 2nd Ed.” by John Walk (Schiffer, $29.95).
Danielle Arnet welcomes questions from readers. She cannot respond to each one individually, but will answer those of general interest in her column. Send email to email@example.com or write Danielle Arnet, c/o Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 60611. Please include an address in your query. Photos cannot be returned.