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Collect For Fun
Fortunately the satisfaction of collecting is not necessarily based on the age of articles nor on workmanship nor on former use. Whether you collect Renaissance Venetian, Anglo-Irish, Blown Three-mold, or pressed glass of the 1890s, your enthusiasm and joy of ownership can be the same. That is as it should be, for collecting brings its own satisfaction.
The development of a collection will add to your knowledge of the art of glassworking, the customs of a period, and the history of the times. It will also take you to new places to obtain new pieces for your collection and perhaps best of all, to form new friendships.
Much of the joy of collecting is in the search. Don't be afraid to make mistakes. The best authorities have made them before you. While it may be expensive at the moment, charge it off to acquisition of knowledge. Since learning about your collection is part of the fun, read extensively on the subject, but remember mistakes are also made in print and that new material replaces old. Everyday new information is found to change old "facts" or substantiate new theories.
Unlike some of the other handicrafts, American glass can seldom be identified with one factory or even allocated to one district. Because it is a cooperative craft, scarcely ever has the master craftsman, the glassblower or decorator, signed his name on an article. Some early American articles were marked with the name of the factory. After trade-marks came into use in the late nineteenth century, a great deal of pressed glass was trade-marked on the bottom by cutting into the mold. L.C.Tiffany was one of the first designers to mark his wares. Since he insisted that every piece should be marked with his name or initials, his glass is easier to authenticate.
After you decide what kind of glass or pattern to buy, you will be wise to familiarize yourself with your choice by reading the specialty books. You should also talk to well-informed dealers in antiques. If possible, visit museums that have authenticated examples of your type of glass. Such large institutions as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Carnegie Museum at Pittsburgh, and the Toledo Museum of Art have excellent collections of glass.
If there is a well-known collector in your town, ask to see his collection. Almost everyone likes to show his treasures and is glad to give suggestions or information.
It is a good idea to have a purpose for your collection. Some people feel it should be kept to the number of items that the owner can easily display. Others point out that many people enjoy arranging a large collection in their homes and showing it to other enthusiasts. However, it is nice to sell duplicates or pieces that are packed away. After all, it gives other people a chance to have the experiences you have been enjoying. All collections should be sorted or weeded out from time to time.
Another useful thing to do with your collection is to loan it to schools, libraries, or for display in store windows. Work out a system for exhibiting your glass. Mark each piece and keep a list with the number and description. (If your collection is insured, this list is required.) It is also wise to put down the price you paid and where you bought the article. Some collectors keep scrapbooks which include magazine clippings about the type they collect, pictures of the collection, newspaper accounts of the exhibits, and even sketches. Sharing your collection with others will often reward you in most unexpected ways. One collector received anonymously a cut glass cruet to add to her collection which she was displaying in a bank window.
Building or decorating a house around a collection is lots of fun and gives a purpose for your glass. A Cincinnati couple had shelves arranged between the dining room and living room to display their beautiful pitchers. Some Cleveland enthusiasts designed their dining room especially to display their large collection of Amberina ware.
Some business houses (such as restaurants, banks, inns, and specialty stores) use small or large collections for decorative purposes. A wine cellar at Hammondsport, New York, has a display cabinet with a number of pieces of old glass including a Stiegel-type drug bottle. Rare pieces should be kept in a cabinet (locked or unlocked according to the location). Such pieces should eventually go to a museum.
Many collectors plan to leave their entire collection to a museum. Investigate first as to whether the chosen museum wishes it or needs the kind of glass you have. Perhaps it would be better to send it to another type of museum, or allow it to be sold for other collectors. That is also a way of giving pleasure to many people. Of course, if you have children who are interested in your collection, you will want to consider their wishes. The size of the collection-perhaps part of it should be loaned or given to a museum now-the rarity of the articles, and the need of the museum should be considered.