If you are a collector of carnival glass, or thinking of becoming one, knowing how to determine carnival glass value is very important and often somewhat confusing.
What is Carnival Glass?
Carnival Glass is an inexpensive pressed glass that has an applied iridescent coating. To form pressed glass, hot molten glass is pressed into a mold taking on the shape and details of the mold as it cools. While the pressed glass is still relatively hot, it is removed from the mold. The piece is then sprayed with metallic salts. It is the coating that gives Carnival Glass its beautiful iridescent rainbow of color.
Carnival Glass: An Overview
The Tiffany Company was the first to introduce handmade iridized art glass in the late 1800s. Tiffany's manufacturing process was very expensive, causing their retail prices to be high.
In 1907, the Fenton Company produced the first iridescent art glass, later to be called Carnival Glass. Known as Venetian art glass, Iridescent Ware, luster glass and poor man's Tiffany, the beautiful inexpensive glass quickly became popular and remained popular through the early 1920s. In addition to Fenton, other major manufacturers of Carnival Glass included:
As the United States entered the Great Depression, the beautiful glass had fallen out of favor. Factories and warehouses were stocked with unwanted glass. Most of it was sold to traveling carnivals and used as prizes for the carnival games. It wasn't until the 1950s, when collector's embraced the lovely iridescent glass, that the name Carnival Glass became popular.
Collecting Carnival Glass
The shimmering rainbows of color create a magical effect as light dances on the surface of carnival glass. A popular collectible, carnival glass collectors range from experienced experts to those new to the hobby.
Some collectors add pieces of carnival glass to their collection regardless of its color or pattern while others limit their purchases to a certain pattern, color, style or manufacturer. There are also those collectors that search for an elusive piece, such as a Northwood Strawberry pattern dinner plate in a beautiful ice blue with shimmering colors of purple, pink, green and gold, similar to the one that sold in an eBay auction several years ago for $16,237.55
The sellers of the Northwood dinner plate had no idea of the value of the piece. They had inherited it from a grandmother that passed away at the age of 92. Opening the bidding at $5.00, word of the plate spread quickly amongst collectors. The first day of bidding ended at a whopping $3,978.00. When the auction closed after one week of bidding, a collector from Arkansas happily paid for the plate.
What made this Northwood Strawberry pattern plate so desirable to collectors? It was the rarity of its color in the Strawberry pattern. The plate is one of only four known plates in this pattern and color, and two of those plates are damaged. The value of Carnival Glass, as the value of all antiques and collectibles, is relevant to what someone is willing to pay for the item.
Determining Carnival Glass Value
In many instances, determining the value of Carnival Glass is confusing to the novice glass collector. Generally, the value of a Carnival Glass piece is determined using the following criteria.
- Condition of the piece
- The quality of the iridescent sheen
- Clarity of the pattern
- Sales venue
- The collector's market at the time of sale
- The price a collector is willing to pay for the item
There are several additional factors adding to the difficulty in determining the value of Carnival Glass.
- There are more than 2,000 patterns of Carnival Glass with many of them very similar.
- First produced in1907, Carnival Glass is still produced today.
- During the revival of Carnival Glass in the 1960s and 1970s, many companies used original molds for their pieces.
- The clarity and radiance of the colors in Carnival Glass may vary slightly in similar pieces.
Carnival Glass Resources
- David Dotty's Carnival Glass Website has more than 4,000 photographs and 1,600 pages of valuable information.
- The Contemporary Carnival Glass Website
- The International Carnival Glass Association
- Carnival Glass Education
Whether you are new to collecting Carnival Glass or an experienced collector, Carnival Glass value price guides and websites are an invaluable resource..