Most vintage milk glass baskets found today were manufactured in the 1950s and 1960s. Although some were made as early as the mid 1800s, their age makes them difficult to find. Mid 20th century versions were made by several different companies in a number of different designs. These items are increasingly sought after for collections.
About Milk Glass
Milk glass is an opaque, white glass that was first used in the early half of the 1800s to stand in for porcelain dinnerware. It was inexpensive to make using a pressed glass technique and soon became so popular that milk glass was being used for everything from hair receivers to salve jars.
The earliest pieces used arsenic as an ingredient. These can be identified by the opalescence and delicate, fiery glow around the edged of the pieces. These early examples of milk glass have a distinctive look and can't be reproduced. The collector with some experience will be able to instantlt spot the difference between 1850 and 1950 milk glass.
The popularity of milk glass grew throughout the Victorian era and well into the 1900s, finally dropping out in the early 1980s, nearly 140 years after it was first released. During that time milk glass was made into a variety of shapes and colors. While there are several colors, all of them will be opaque and milky. Some of the colors of milk glass are:
- Black (Victorian and rare)
Companies reused molds for decades so it can be difficult for the novice collector to determine the differences between antique and vintage milk glass. A cookie jar that was made in the 1950s will look different than one that was made in 1902.
Companies that Produced Milk Glass Baskets
During the 1950s and 1960s milk glass baskets were found in almost every home.
Fenton Art Glass Company produced several vintage milk glass basket designs. Items that are recognizably Fenton but have no logo are generally considered to be produced prior to 1970.
Among them are:
- Daisy and Button crossed handle basket was on a scalloped pedestal with scalloped edges
- Silvercrest basket has a clear handle and a ruffled edge
- Silvercrest Spanish Lace has a raised lace design all over it
- Hobnail basket has a ruffled edge and hobnail design
- Plumcrest has a plum colored edge and handle
- Hobnail Moses basket
Westmoreland Glass Company was founded in 1899 and produced a variety of glass products, including vintage milk glass baskets, until 1984.Among the designs are:
- Panel Grape pattern with a split handle and scalloped edges
- Panel Grape with painted rosebuds
- Tall Panel Grape design
- Rose and Trellis design
- English Hobnail (diamond shaped hobnails)
- Hen on Nest covered basket
There were hundreds of other companies that produced these baskets. Some can be identified and some cannot. Some of the companies that produced baskets were:
- LE Smith
Evaluating a Vintage Milk Glass Basket
Like all antique and vintage items, milk glass is evaluated on several levels. Investing in a good milk glass collectibles reference guide will help you to identify the maker, age, and other specifics of the milk glass baskets you find.
You should gently run the tip of your finger over the milk glass basket. Try to feel for any rough spots, chips, or cracks. These will bring the value of your basket down. Staining, yellowing, or other marring to the object will make it less desirable to the collector.
It is difficult to tell how old some of the milk glass baskets are. Companies often reused molds for decades. Look for color differences that might indicate that arsenic or lead was used in production.
Provenance simply refers to the story behind the object that might set it apart form the rest. Was it owned by Eleanor Roosevelt? If so it will sell for much more than it would have if it was owned by your grandmother.
When buying an object that is marked up due to unusual provenance be sure to get a Certificate of Authenticity. This is an official certificate that states the object is as it is represented.
Value will depend on how much a collector wants what you have. This can change from area to area. In one part of the country Fenton Spanish Lace might be very rare and collectible, driving the price up much higher than in other areas.
Vintage milk glass will commands a higher price if is rare because not many were made or because of age. A lower price should be expected if the pattern was so popular millions were made and thousands are still in existence.
Vintage milk glass baskets are fantastic collectibles as well as decorative objects. They can be used for candy dishes, potpourri baskets, and even to hold jelly on the breakfast table. They are sturdy and will last for decades with proper care.