Collecting Depression glass stemware is a great starter hobby for people who're interested in collecting Depression era items but don't want to break the bank. Generally, Depression era glassware is inexpensive and comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns to match anyone's décor and personal style.
What Is Depression Glass?
Depression glass was first manufactured during the 1920s, actually being manufactured before the Great Depression occurred. The identifiable characteristics of Depression glass that causal collectors can be on the lookout for are machine-molded designs with intricate patterns, geometric shapes, or optic motifs.
While the colors of Depression glass vary greatly, they're commonly found in the following colors:
- Canary yellow
- Clear or crystal (as with vintage crystal glassware)
- Milk glass
The glassware was made cheaply and was commonly used as giveaways for advertising or as promotional premiums. Many items found in the secondary market today have advertising logos on them, such as the green glass log houses that advertised cough drops.
Depression Era Stemware
Since Depression glass stemware was made of glass, that could potentially be broken easily, finding it can be slightly more difficult than locating plates, saucers, and cups. However, finding a beautiful piece of stemware is well worth the hunt.
Specific patterns of Depression glass stemware that you may be able to locate in antique stores and auctions include:
Hocking Glass Company/Anchor-Hocking Glass Corporation
Hocking Glass Company - later the Anchor-Hocking Glass Corporation - was one of the most popular and prolific Depression glass manufacturers during the era, making their patterns highly desirable for glass collectors.
- Circle (1930s) - Hocking's Circle pattern is easily identified by its sequence of horizontal lines that traverse around the cup of each piece.
- Colonial (1934-1938) - The Colonial design is really interesting since it has vertical parallel lines of ribbing running down the glass as well as an upper wave pattern demarcating a top section of the glass that's devoid of any ribbing.
- Hobnail (1934-1936) - Hobnail pieces have the same circular bevelled design as the Moonstone line, except these glasses were crafted out of milkglass rather than clear glass.
- Manhattan (1938-1941) - Manhattan pieces from the Hocking Glass Company are simplistic in their appearance, with a series of horizontal ribbing that stretched across most of the glass.
- Mayfair (Open Rose) (1931-1937) - Mayfair stemware has an iconic motif of two open, intertwined, roses at the center of the glass. Around the roses is a delicate design of linework that creates a curtain effect framing the floral motif.
- Miss America (1933-1938) - The Miss America pattern is defined by its encompassing embossed diamond pattern and sunburst pattern on the stem's base.
- Moonstone (1941-1946) - Moonstone is a unique pattern since it's identified by its raised, circular pieces that encase the stemware around its entire surface area. These little bezels are smooth to the touch and generally the same color as the glass itself.
- Waterford (1938-1944 and 1950s) - Waterford glassware has a similar appearance to the Miss America pattern in that it's also diamond shaped, although the size of the diamonds are much larger, meaning there's more clear space coming through the glass itself.
Jeanette Glass Company
The Jeanette Glass Company was a Pennsylvania-based glassware manufacturer that produced Depression glass, among other types of bottles and glassware.
- Anniversary (1947-1949) - Depending on which era of Anniversary glass you have (1940s vs 1960s/70s), you'll find stemware with either a vertical ribbing pattern around the whole glass or an intricate diamond pattern with both relief and intaglio making these diamonds texturally and visually striking.
- Iris (1928-1932) - This eponymous pattern is easily identified thanks to the series of curved and open iris flowers that are carved into the glass.
Indiana Glass Company
Another prominent glassware manufacturer was the Indian Glass Company, which operated between 1907 and 2002, and created pressed, hand-molded, and blown glassware of all kinds.
- Sandwich (1920s - present) - Indiana Glass' Sandwich pattern can be identified by its central 12 petal flower and intricate filigree spanning out from the top towards the bottom of the glass.
- Tea Room (1926-1931) - The Tea Room pattern is well-known for its geometric shape, with stemware seemingly being created out of glass shingles that are slightly raised outward from the glass itself.
Various Other Glass Companies
Glassware during the pre-war and post-war period was a profitable market as homes were expected to have quality tableware available. Therefore, there were far too many glassware companies that created the highly popular and cheap to make Depression glassware to keep tabs on. So, here are just a few of the other popular pattern examples from various glassware companies around the United States that you might already have or be interested in collecting yourself.
- Liberty Work's American Pioneer (1931-1934) - Liberty Work's American Pioneer pattern is incredibly similar to Hocking's Moonstone pattern in that it has the same exact circular beveling around its stemware.
- Imperial Glass Company's Diamond Quilted (1930) - Appropriately named, the Imperial Glass Company's Diamond Quilted pattern is easily identified by the softly carved diamond pattern which is printed in such a fashion as to look like it has been quilted onto the glass.
- Westmoreland's Glass Company English Hobnail (1925-1970s) - Westmoreland's differed in their English Hobnail pattern from Hocking's by using diamonds rather than circles as their accoutrements as well as placed them in a denser frequency around the glass.
- Lancaster Glass Company's Jubilee (1920-1930s) - Lancaster Glass Company's Jubilee pattern is incredibly delicate, featuring floral etching around the body of the stemware; keep in mind that the Standard Glass Manufacturing Company also had its own cut of this design, so you'll want to check for markings to see which company's glassware you have.
- Fenton Art Glass Company's Lincoln Inn (1930) - A sleek design, the Lincoln Inn pattern of Fenton Art Glass Company features ribbing about half of the way down the glass, and the ribbing is broken up by circular bands creating baguette sections of cut ribs for a cool geometric effect.
- Hazel Atlas Glass Company New Century (1930) - The New Century pattern from the Hazel Atlas Glass Company is one of the longest-lasting of all the designs, with some modern glassware reflecting obvious inspiration from the Greco-Roman column like ribs placed around the glass.
All of these companies commonly made stemware such as wine glasses and goblets. There are also many more patterns and manufacturers that included footed glassware and tumblers, such as sherbet cups and glass tumblers. Keep in mind that no matter how popular Depression glass was, it's rare to find a complete set of wine glasses or goblets, and many of these items have chips or cracks.
Depression Stemware Values
Given that you pick up the same Depression glass for multiple different prices depending on where you've gotten it from, it can be really difficult for casual collectors to know how much their pieces are worth and how much they should be willing to spend on a specific item. To compare, individual replacement stemware of Depression glass patterns costs anywhere between $10-$15 on average. Interestingly, you'll find that most vintage stemware of the same pattern costs about the same amount of money. Generally, vintage pieces aren't sold individually; most often you can find them sold in sets of two or four depending on the pieces.
Yet, if you have a rare piece or a highly popular pattern from a significant manufacturer, then you might find the values have increased. For instance, this unique Optic pattern set of four martini glasses sold for $45.00 and this unusual set of five Fenton Hobnail goblets in an opalescent blue sold for nearly $80. Yet, even mint condition pieces of Depression stemware mostly sell for $20 and under, so you shouldn't bank on your grandparents' Depression glass paying for your next vacation.
Where to Find Antique Stemware
Finding Depression glass is usually pretty easy if you already make the rounds looking at antique shops in your region. Other places to find great pieces of stemware include:
- eBay - One of the oldest and largest online retailers of all sorts of antique, vintage, and contemporary goods, eBay is a perfect place to start looking for cheap stemware to add to your collection. Similarly, you can sell your stemware there as well, but be cautious of shipping costs as glassware requires specialty shipping.
- Etsy - Similar to eBay, Etsy is an online retailer that's growing more and more recognized for the vintage stock is has for sale. You can find people selling sets of Depression stemware in almost every pattern imaginable.
- Estate Auctions - Checking out estate auctions is a great idea if you're looking to add whole sets to your collection and most auctions will try to sell the glassware in bulk. So, if you have a pattern or color in mind for a new set of tableware, then estate auctions are the place to go.
- Flea Markets & Garage Sales - Flea markets and garage sales present you with the best opportunity to bring down the costs of your stemware really low. Often, these sellers aren't well-versed in the prices of the items they're selling, so you have a good chance of being able to haggle down a $15 item to $5 and under.
If you're new to shopping for antique glassware, it would be a good idea to shop with a knowledgeable friend or with a current price guide. When choosing a price guide, look for plenty of pictures, drawings, and a range of prices next to the individual glassware pieces. This will help you determine if an item is priced appropriately, and if the item is rare enough to garner a high price.
Reference Books on Depression Glass Stemware
Collecting Depression era glassware is still a very popular hobby, so finding books on the subject is super easy. Popular books on the subject that you can find online and in-stores include the following:
- Depression Era Glassware by Carl F. Luckey
- Collector's Encyclopedia of Depression Glass by Gene and Cathy Florence
- Warman's Field Guide to Depression Glass: Identification, Values, Pattern Guide by Ellen T. Schroy and Pam Meyer
- Warman's Field Guide to Depression Glass: Identification and Price Guide by Ellen T. Schroy
- Mauzy's Depression Glass: A Photographic Reference Guide with Prices by Barbara and Jim Mauzy
- Pocket Guide to Depression Glass and More by Gene and Cathy Florence
Happiness Stems From Depression Stemware
Collecting any type of Depression glassware can be a fun, as well as inexpensive, hobby. Pieces can easily be found in the secondary market in a variety of places, from eBay to your local antique store. Be sure to shop with a knowledgeable friend or a well illustrated price guide before you hit the ground running. Finally, choose pieces that you really love and ones that complement your décor, since the pieces that you collect today may become extremely valuable in the future.