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Coin GlassAuthor: Clarence T. Hubbard
(Article orginally published September 1963)
The original Wheeling "coin glass", produced in 1892, was stopped in its manufacture by the United States Government. The Treasury Department declared that this pressed glass bearing prints of coins made from moulds fashioned from silver coins was counterfeiting.
The Central Glass Company of Wheeling, West Virginia, initiated the "coin glass" pattern. It was unique at the time, and still is something different in the way of pattern glass. Albert Mader of the Central Glass Company, upon returning from the West Coast, carried in his mind the impression of a floor covered with silver dollars he had seen in a prosperous saloon there. "Why not add a likeness of some silver coins to glassware?" he reasoned. So genuine coins were used to fashion moulds of the coins' likenesses. John Betz, the company moulder, cast the first pieces but the attempt was unsuccessful. The glass coin impressions were indistinct. Then he tried ribbed glass and it worked. These reproduced coins-in-glass were used for borders, also on knobs and in bases of footed pieces.
The Central Glass Company was a manufacturer of glassware of an inexpensive variety. The company sought a wide market and this coin glass novelty, they felt, would expand their countrywide sales. While silver dollars and silver half-dollars were used mainly, other coin denominations were used such as the dime, the quarter, a twenty cent piece, and even a three cent piece.
Five months of actual production took place before the Treasury Department moved in and declared that the process was actually counterfeiting. A Federal law had been violated in the practice of reproducing actual coins. The moulds were destroyed. This stopped the production of the "coin glass" pattern and left but a very limited amount of genuine "coin glass" in the hands of scattered dealers and unsuspecting owners.
The glass pieces were not always decorated with a single coin size. A seven-inch diameter compote used dimes in the base, quarters impressed around the body, and a silver dollar impressed in the knob on the cover. In some pieces the coins were reversed so that the coins can be identified from both sides, front and back. A cruet has a border of impressed Seated Liberty dimes, as well as a Seated Liberty dime impressed on the stopper. The square butter dishes show up the coin impressions very clearly.
This novelty glass includes cakestands, footed bowls, celery dishes, goblets, sauce dishes, bread trays, syrup pitchers and pickle dishes. There are also spooners, jugs, footed sauces, and lamps.
These pieces as a rule were made of clear glass. A few odd items had the coins flashed in amber or red; for example, there is a clear glass lamp with amber half dollars on the base. Other rare pieces have been made in milk glass, a few gilded, and a very few pieces in flashed red with the coins clear glass.
One of the original owners of the Central Glass Company, Senator Scott, may have been persuaded in the making of the coin glass by more than just the story of the lavish use of silver dollars for flooring. First, there was the coming of the Chicago Exposition which, in addition to commemorating the discovery of America, was also honoring the 100th anniversary of the Mint in Philadelphia. Secondly, "free silver" had been advocated by "Coin" Harvey in the Western States, and William Jennings Bryan was using it as a political platform at the moment. So the Central Glass Company may have felt that it was the opportune time to enter the market with their "coin glass" pattern.
The Central Glass Company lasted until 1901 when it burned down.
During the 1890's another type of coin glass made its appearance. It was called Spanish coin glass and foreign coins were used for the impressed glass designs. Other medal designs were used, such as the profile of Columbus, the coat of arms of Spain, and even the coat of arms of America. The Spanish coin glass is not as rare as the Central Glass Company ware.
Another variation of coin glass is that of impressing the actual coin into the glass. Tumblers containing coins in their bases dated 1878 and 1879 are to be found.
Coin glass, so called, is still produced today, utilizing medallion type designs in place of real coins. Fourteen glassmakers associated with Fostoria Glass Company, Moundsville, West Virginia, are recreating what appears to be coins impressed in glass. These are modern ware and not sold as antique coin glass.
Thomas Schoch of Parksburg, Pennsylvania, is the owner of one of the best collections of original coin glass anywhere. His extensive collection is a complete sampling of all of the pieces produced by the Central Glass Company.