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    Auction Finds

    Reader asks how to sell mom’s cache of Depression glassware

    Friday at Auction Finds is readers’ questions day. I try to guide readers to resources to help them determine the value of their items. I’m not able to appraise their treasures, but I can do some preliminary research to get them started. So, these are market values based on prices I find on the web, not appraisal for insurance purposes that I suggest for items that have been determined to be of great value.

    Depression glass

    Amber Depression glass cup in the Daisy pattern. It was among glassware in a mother’s collection.

    Today’s question is about how to sell a mother’s collection of Depression and other glassware.


    I am writing to inquire about your recommendation for an auction house for Depression glass, milk glass and cut glass. My mother died in Philadelphia last December and left – to everyone’s surprise – some 40 boxes of assorted glassware. While there are some pieces we would like to keep, we need to find a good home for a majority of the collection. Can you recommend an auction house in the Philadelphia area that would be interested in auctioning the glassware?


    I’m sure there are a lot of daughters and sons out there who stumble on items that parents have been storing or collecting for years, and aren’t quite sure what to make of it or to do with it. There’s usually a market for most of what is collected, and reputable auction houses are a good place to seek help. Too bad mom never mentioned the glassware; it’d be interesting to know the provenance of it – how she acquired the pieces and when.

    Depression glass

    Depression glass in the Daisy pattern.

    The reader mentioned that some of the glass was Depression glass, whose prices on eBay are all over the place, depending on the piece and color (my search produced 97,000 results). At auction, most of the Depression glass I see is either pink or green, and don’t sell for big bucks (unless two buyers know it’s a rare piece). Depression glass was both cheap and plentiful, so there’s lots of it out there and the prices for most won’t be so great.

    I don’t normally buy glass, but I do have a few pieces of the pink because I loved their shape and color.

    Depression glass was made during the Great Depression, its manufacture stretching from the late 1920s to the early 1940s. It was distributed free in a detergent box or at a gas station, or at low cost to folks who could easily pick it up at the five-and-dime store.

    It also came in pale blue and amber, along with such less-common colors as canary yellow, cobalt blue, red and black.

    Depression glass

    Doric & Pansy Depression glass.

    The glassware was made by a number of companies in various patterns, mass-produced and was of poor quality. It became collectible starting in the 1960s. One site cautioned that most of the glass on online websites are reproductions. Here’s an eBay guide on how to identify it, and here is a site with photos of patterns and another with a database to search for patterns by color, maker, etc.

    Milk glass has the white appearance of milk, hence its name. It was popular in the 1880s, but didn’t get its name until the 20th century. In the United States around the turn of the century, it apparently represented taste and sophistication in the homes of the well-to-do. Like Depression glass, it also is collectible.

    It has its own association of collectors that offers tips on how to collect.

    Depression glass

    Doric & Pansy Depression glass.

    The top-tier of cut glass is American Brilliant, which dates from the late 19th century into the early 20th century. Learning about this type of glass and how to identify it takes vigilance. One site offered suggestions on how to determine if you have American Brilliant glass. Another warned against fakes. Some reputable companies produce cut glass and it can be marked.

    As for the reader, I first had a few questions: Was any of the glassware in their original boxes with manufacturers’ names that could be Googled or checked on eBay to see what they were selling for? Was any of the glassware marked?

    The glassware should be checked very closely (with a magnifying glass, if possible) for a manufacturer’s mark. The process is time consuming, but you don’t want to give away for peanuts some items that your mother may have paid dearly for.

    Amber Depression glassware

    Depression glassware in amber.

    I suggested two auction houses I frequent in the area that sells a lot of glassware. She could also find others via, stop by the auction houses, and choose one that she feels comfortable with. If she finds valuable pieces, she could consider consigning them to an antiques shop or asking the auction house to sell them in its high-end Decorative Arts sale that draws phone and online buyers. Bids at these tend to be higher.

    Depression glass also has a collectors association, which offers help in putting you into contact with collectors who may be interested in buying glass. Be sure to do research on your glass so you’ll have some idea of the value before accepting offers.

    Reader’s reply:

    Unfortunately, we do not have the original boxes for any of the glassware. My brother has been photographing the items for recording and identification. We will take the time to research patterns and potential prices on eBay.

    Thanks for providing two options for auction houses. I will check them both out.

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