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( Originally Published 1963 )
An excellent, well-rounded exhibit of Louis Comfort Tiffany's work as a painter and glass craftsman was shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City during 1958. How much this exhibit did to arouse new interest in and appreciation of Tiffany glass cannot be estimated, but the fact of the matter remains that interest has mounted steadily ever since. A piece of Tiffany glass is decidedly salable and will probably gain in value with each coming decade.
Like cut glass of the Brilliant Period, Tiffany glass will never be made again. The two very different kinds of glass were expensive in their own time. Anyone who wishes to get rid of Tiff any and Aurene glass may not obtain as much for it in the 1960's as it cost originally, but prices are certain to increase in the future.
Anything as unusual as good iridescent glass was bound to inspire imitations. Inexpensive imitations, that is. And an imitation made about 1915 is likely to sell for considerably more in the 1960's than it originally cost.
One of the first imitations of Tiffany glass was called Quezal, after the national bird of Guatemala, the quetzal, which is noted for its golden green iridescent coloring. Quezal glass was made in Brooklyn, presumably by former workmen at the "Tiffany factory, for only about two years. It has gained status and is now ranked with art glass. Quezal glass was iridescent and opaque and often in shades of gold. Lampshades and vases probably were its chief products.
Another imitation was carnival or taffeta glass and this, like Tiffany glass, is currently having a revival of interest and is in considerable demand. Since the production of carnival glass started about 1910 and continued into the 1930's, it may have had something to do with the fall from grace and favor of Tiffany glass. For carnival or taffeta glass also is iridescent, though more harshly iridescent and harshly colored than Tiffany and Aurene.
Carnival or taffeta glass was made in vast quantities in shades of gold to red. It also was made in a blue-green, a deep purple, and a blue and a green, all with iridescence. These last colors, however, were less common, at least in the East, than the golden shades. This unmistakable color sometimes is described as a marigold luster or as a little darker than pumpkin color. Some pieces verged into almost a red-gold.
Much of the carnival glass was made in western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. Probably the most aggressive manufacturer of carnival glass was Harry Northwood of Northwood, Ohio. Pieces from his factory have an "N" impressed at the middle of the plate or piece, usually on the underside but sometimes on the top as well. Sometimes the letter was circled.
Other companies seem not to have marked their carnival glass, but it is easily recognizable as such.
Carnival glass was not as expensive in its day as other kinds of art glass had been. Certainly it was far below the price of Tiffany and Aurene. In fact, the name "carnival" came from the fact that it was often given as prizes at fairs, carnivals, and the like. Butchershops and other shops also gave pieces as premiums. It could be purchased, too, and whether it was bought or won has no bearing on its sale prices today, which are much higher than between 1910 and the 1930's.
It is easy to see why this glass was given the name "taffeta," for its iridescence was not so much that as a sheen, more comparable to that of some taffeta fabrics.
Most carnival or taffeta glass was pressed. Occasionally a piece looked like a golden reproduction of cut glass. The notched edges and strawberry diamond and pseudo hob-stars were not sharp as they would be in cut glass. The acanthus leaf, a classic motif, often was worked into the pattern. Foliage, fruit, and flower patterns of all kinds were worked out, but they lacked the originality and imagination given to pressed glass patterns. The grape designs, which were popular for carnival glass, were much more routine than those on nineteenth-century pressed glass. The Peacock was another favorite motif.
All kinds of ornamental pieces were made in quantity, Vases were large and small, classic and tortured in shape. Lamps, some lampshades, compotes, candy, pickle, and other serving dishes were and are plentiful. Berry sets consisting of a serving bowl and small dishes, drinking mugs, lemonade glasses, and pitchers were probably given individually as premiums until a person had completed a set. Plates were common in sizes suitable for serving cake and the like, and for dessert and salad.
Art glass on the whole can always be disposed of, and almost certainly at higher prices than were paid for it between 1880 and 1910. There is a very great deal of painted, with the possible exception of the Mary Gregory type. A pair of blue glass vases, 8 inches high, with a boy painted on one by Mary Gregory and a girl on the other, is fairly priced now at $65; a pair 14 inches tall is worth about $125. A plaque painted by Mary Gregory probably will sell in the neighborhood of $50, a pin tray for about $15. Of other painted glass, American Bristol is probably one of the better-selling types to collectors and flower-arrangers. It also is more likely to be cherished by owners and finders.
Certainly plenty of Tiffany glass remains to be found wherever it was packed away forty years or so ago. It is true that Tiffany glass has been included in the auctions of reputable art and auction galleries in New York City, and anyone with a small but representative collection might consider this method of sale. Otherwise, the problem at the present time is to find buyers. A Tiffany shade for a gas lamp ought to bring at least $25, a lamp correspondingly more, and a pair of candlesticks about 7 inches high $50. A small Quezal glass lampshade of about the same size as the Tiffany one really should not sell for more than $10.
Some pieces of carnival or taffeta glass are selling for prices that compare favorably with Quezal glass. Certainly the prices nowadays are much higher than the original ones for carnival glass. Furthermore, there seems to be a ready market. A marigold berry set can be sold in- some parts of the country for $25, in others for $35 or so. A water set with pitcher and six tumblers that are not nicked brings fully as much. A 5-inch-high vase will sell for $5 to $10. Grandparents who won pieces of carnival glass should be gratified with present-day prices.
Of all the art glass, none at the present time is in greater demand than satin glass. There always seems to be some available, yet it brings excellent prices. Even satin glass not of the best quality or with the finest sort of decoration finds buyers willing to spend good money. As an example of how satin glass prices have skyrocketed: a turquoise rose bowl 5 inches in diameter that was purchased for 25 cents in the 1880's now could be sold for $30, and it is a plain rose bowl without decoration or molded pattern. A plain 4-inch bowl in any pastel color brings $25. A pair of salt and pepper shakers with flower decoration also sells for about $25; a tumbler with a diamond quilted pattern may sell for anything from $12.50 to $35, depending on the area where you are trying to sell. Large vases and pitchers may be priced at more than $100.
Amberina, almost as plentiful as satin glass, sells quickly and well too. A covered butter dish with glass insert is considered fairly priced at $75. A milk pitcher in the Inverted Thumbprint pattern of pressed glass has been sold recently for $75, and a taller water pitcher in the same pattern and coloring is waiting for a buyer at $100. A toothpick-holder with a molded pattern can be priced at $25; vases start at about $40 for one 4 1/2-inches high.
Cameo, Burmese, Agata, crackle, Crown Milano, and other types of art glass that were made in smaller quantities have great allure for collectors and consequently bring worthwhile prices. Unless you are a collector of that particular glass, it's hard to believe the prices for which Agata now sells. It's ironical that hardly a piece now sells for less than $200-and that price is for a tumbler; and many of them sell for considerably more - when you stop to think that Agata was not a success with the public in the 1880's. It was not made for long, and as a result much less is available now than of satin glass. Genuine Burmese sells for prices very much higher than comparable pieces of satin glass. A Crown Milano syrup jar with metal top is worth about $75 now, as is a garlanded vase about 8 inches high.
Bride's baskets, made in such quantity, average from $15 to $25 if they lack a holder, and with holder from $25 to $50. In the latter case, the price will be influenced by whether or not the holder needs resilvering. A Vasa murrhina basket in a plated holder is unusual, and so it might be priced at about $50. Vasa murrhina vases 6 inches or so high may sell for only a few dollars at a country auction, for perhaps $35 closer to a metropolitan area. A syrup jug of the same type of glass with a pewter top cannot be sold for more than $25 to $35.
The truth is that there undoubtedly is a buyer for any piece of art glass. The lovelier ones like satin, Peachblow, Pomona, and Burmese bring premium prices, as do the scarce ones like Agata. Furthermore, the colorful art glass sells much more readily than cut glass, even though much of the art glass was not of as good quality or as expensive in its heyday.
Chips and cracks reduce the value of a piece of any kind of glass, and if cracked, a piece may be unusable. A chip can be polished off. However, if a chip is removed by polishing, the value of both American and Waterford cut glass is lessened, as is that of other types of old glass.