With its stunningly beautiful colors, iridescent glaze, and endless variety, carnival glass is a popular collector's item that used to be given away for free. Today, it's common for single pieces to fetch $30 to $50 at auction with especially desirable items selling for much more.
Collectors Weekly reports this affordable glass was given away as prizes by carnival vendors, hence the name. Today, however, collectors will pay top dollar for prime examples while still assigning value to more common pieces, too:
- A punch bowl set in in Northwood's Acorn Burrs pattern in ice green recently sold on eBay for $3,000, despite some condition issues.
- A seven-piece deep red water pitcher and glass set in Northwood's Grape and Cable pattern sold for over $200 on Ruby Lane.
- Retailers like CarnivalGlass.com regularly sell pieces in the range of $35 to $85. These are smaller vases, bowls, plates, and some serving pieces.
Factors Affecting Value
Because there are so many patterns, colors, and types of carnival glass on the market, there are a number of factors that can affect the value of an individual piece. In general, the rarer the item and the better its condition, the more it will be worth. Consider the following as you examine a piece.
Type of Item
Manufacturers made everything from tiny figurines to huge serving sets out of carnival glass but in general, the more useful an item is in today's world, the more value it has. Obviously, there are many exceptions when it comes to rare pieces, but things like vases, pitchers, bowls, and platters are highly valued. Additionally, items in a complete set, such as drink or berry serving sets, are among the most valuable.
Many factories created the same type of item in the same pattern in different sizes. If all other factors are equal, larger sizes tend to be more valuable. For instance, a six-inch Northwood Tree Trunk vase in amethyst sold recently on eBay for about $80. An almost 15-inch example in the same pattern and color sold for over $1,500.
Collectors Weekly reports manufacturers began creating iridescent glass in 1907, so the oldest pieces are from this era. The glass is still made today, but pieces dating from before 1940 are the most valuable.
Manufacturers and Patterns
There were dozens of manufacturers, each with many glass patterns and forms. Some of the following patterns are especially rare and desirable:
- Fenton Strawberry Scroll - a sweeping pattern featuring raised strawberries
- Millersburg Blackberry Wreath - a ring-shaped patterns with leaves and berries
- Northwood Poppy Snow - an elaborate pattern with flowers and a scalloped edge
- Dugan Farmyard - a simple pattern with detailed animal figures
Carnival glass came in dozens of colors, including white milk glass, deep blacks and purples, vivid reds, blues, and greens, and even pastels. Each manufacturer tried to outdo the others with new and unique colors, so the variety is amazing. According to Colleywood Carnival Glass, the following colors are among the rarest and most valuable:
- Fenton Ambergina - a deep orange-red tone
- Northwood Marigold - a warm-toned deep yellow
- Fenton Cherry Red - a dark, glowing red
- Northwood Black Amethyst - a very dark purple that appears almost black
- Northwood Ice Green - a cool pastel green
Condition affects value significantly, but it isn't a deal-breaker with highly desirable pieces. Still for most items, condition is something you should consider. The following types of damage can negatively affect value:
In addition, missing pieces can detract from the value of a set.
Look It Over
Collecting carnival glass is fun, and the right pieces can be a good investment. Take some time to look over items you're considering to ensure you're getting a good deal.