Carnival glass is a type of decorated, pressed glass that was mass-produced and was first produced in the United States in apporximately 1900. It was particularly popular in the 1920s and 1930s and was often given away as prizes at carnivals.
It was sprayed with metallic salts, which produced a variety of colors on the surface when it was fired in the kiln. Actually, it was an inexpensive pressed glass that imitated some of the expensive art glass made by Tiffany and other prestigious companies. Although new carnival glass is still being produced, the old is usually more valuable.
I have often been asked how can one tell which is the true color of certain pieces of carnival glass. Actually, that is a good question, because as you hold some pieces up to a light source, they can exhibit a mixture of colors. The answer is you hold the piece up to a good source of light and look at the center of the base. The primary color that you see there is considered to be the true color of that particular piece of carnival glass.
If you have been to antique shops that handle carnival glass, you have probably noticed a wide range of prices. Also at sales, you might have observed that the pieces of carnival glass typically sell for many different prices. Rarity, color, condition and eye appeal are some common criteria that often significantly influence the selling price.
Also, who is at that particular sale can greatly affect the selling price. For example: If it had belonged to beloved Aunt Molly, and two or more relatives at the auction are emotionally attached to memories of that particular piece, the selling price can go right off the chart. The relative with the deepest pockets will probably end up buying it because you can't put a dollar value on someone's personal, emotional value.
Many carnival glass items sell for approximately $50 to more than $100. However, there were some eye-opening exceptions this last year. Did you know that in 2007, there were 36 pieces of carnival glass in the United States that sold for a total of $655,000? That averages out about $18,000 for each of those 36 pieces. One particular rarity in that group of 36 pieces even sold for $65,000.
Many people are not aware that certain -- not all -- antiques and collectibles have greatly increased in value during the years. Many individuals in our areas, especially seniors on fixed incomes, are seriously struggling to meet their housing, food and medical expenses. Selling antiques and collectibles without knowing their current value sometimes results in unknowingly selling them for considerably less than their actual value.
A question you might ask yourself is this: Can you really afford to "not" know which of your antiques and collectibles are rare and valuable and which are not? What is really sad is sometimes individuals are unaware certain items they have sold have significantly more value than they realized. A few years ago, I found out that an individual had come and gone through our area and had bought many rare and valuable antiques for pennies on the dollar from some unsuspecting elderly people.
The importance of knowing the current value of the antiques that have acquired or inherited through the years cannot be overstated. You are highly encouraged to find a knowledgeable and trustworthy auctioneer, dealer, appraiser, etc., before making important decisions concerning your antiques and collectibles.
Marvin Mann, Plainville, is an accredited member of the International Society of Appraisers. Send questions to him in care of The Hays Daily News, P.O. Box 857, Hays KS 67601.