When we make a reference to Depression glass, it not only means different things to different people, but it can also bring up a wide variety of different feelings in different people. As a matter of fact, it seems to have become a sort of catchall term that included the cheap clear and colored glass made during the 1930s.
The term Depression glass began to appear in the various antiques trading publications in the late 1960s. The general use of the term refers to the tank-molded, low-cost glass that was made from heating soda ash, silica sand and limestone in large ceramic tanks during the so-called American Depression era. The liquid glass was then drained through pipes into automated pressing molds.
The resulting glass was inexpensive to make and was also known for its imperfections. Particles of dirt sometimes got molded in the glass, inconsistencies in the color occurred, and extra blobs of glass can sometimes be found on some pieces, especially along the edges. Dents, pieces that lean slightly and bubbles are also found in some of this low budget, mass-produced glassware.
We need to realize, however, that this glassware was available in many patterns, came in various colors and was affordable at a time when most of the public had little or no extra money to spend. It was very reasonably priced and sometimes given away as premiums and prizes. How does this sound for getting the most bang for your buck? You could even by a 20-piece set from Sears and Roebuck for $1.99. The glassware was made in luncheon sets, dinner sets and other useful pieces. It also enabled glass companies to make a profit.
Although this mass-produced glassware sometimes included a wide variety of defects when it was manufactured, it has been quite collectible for several generations. If you collect Depression glass, you need to do your homework first because some defects do not even distract from the selling price of some pieces. Certain highly sought-after rare pieces have sold for hundreds of dollars, and I'm told there have even been exceptional pieces and sets that have gone for more than $1,000.
However, a word of caution is in order for certain situations. Beware of glass that is cloudy, foggy or has lime deposits on it. These conditions are referred to as "sick" glass. Sadly, there may be no cure for this problem.
The term Depression glass has taken on a much broader and more complicated meaning than it did back in 1969. It now often includes many types of glassware made from the last part of the 1920s through the 1970s.
It can now refer to the mass-produced, low-cost glass discussed in this article through various types of better-made and more expensive glass that was made during the American Depression era. The more expensive type of glassware made during that time frame is often referred to as Elegant glass.
Our readers who want to do additional reading on the subject of Depression glass might want to find books written by Barbara and Jim Mauzy. They are respected authors on the subject of Depression glass.
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.