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In this new periodic feature, Bob Brooke offers personal insights into the world of antiques and antiques collecting.

LATEST EXTRA!_______________________________________

The Problem with Victorian
Glassware Reproductions

by Bob Brooke


 

The market demand for antique Victorian glassware has been increasing for the last 25 years. Today, collectors have to sort through fakes, look-alikes, reproductions and misrepresentations to find original pieces.

This, in turn, has resulted in a dollar value surge due to supply and demand. Most colored Victorian glassware is highly collectible. The increased demand for it by collectors has caused copies to appear in ever-growing numbers. And with authentic antique glass so difficult to identify, it’s becoming a serious problem.

This trend seems to have begun during the 1960s and has continued until it has reached alarming proportions today. A sea of glass confusion confronts collectors visiting the antique shows, shops, and malls. Today, it’s mandatory that they have the capability to visually separate the old items from the new and not-so-new. This means that collectors have to wade through the imitations, reissues, copies, and reproductions.



Adding to their bewilderment is that dealers often intermingle glassware from the 1930s through the mid-1980s with the old. Most glass collectors and dealers aren’t specialists, so they’re vulnerable to serious buying and selling errors. Thus, collectors must become knowledgeable of the type of glassware they collect. This is the only way they can be assured that when they make a purchase, it will result in the acquisition of authentic antique pieces.

One way for novice glass collectors to become knowledgeable quickly is to join a national glass collector’s club. There are clubs for just about every type of antique glass and most have local or regional chapters. These groups promote detailed studies of their special glass category and track and report the various reproductions and look-alikes by listing them in newsletters sent out to their members.

Reproductions, copies and reissues from the 1960s and early 1970s are having the most serious impact upon today's collectors and dealers; particularly those folks who have entered the glassware field within the last decade. For example, a wide variety of Victorian glass patterns has been reproduced by the L.G. Wright Glass Company of New Martinsville, West Virigina.

Beginning in the late 1930s. Wright became a serious purchaser of old glass molds from departed early American glass factories. Wright contracted with such outstanding glass houses as Fenton, Imperial, Fostoria and Westmoreland to reissue glass using his molds. Using his old original molds, Wright sold the resulting wares to various dealers, jobbers, and wholesale outlets. Many of these glass patterns ultimately found their way into various antique shows and shops throughout the United States. If marked at all, the glassware usually just had a paper label. Once someone removed the label, these reproductions could be represented as old pieces. Now that 30 to 40 years have passed, many of these reproductions have acquired some wear, which makes identifying them as reproductions/look-alikes of Victorian patterns even more challenging.

Over the years, the importance of the LG. Wright account at Fenton was considerable. His many contracts amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars involving what Fenton called private mold work" According to Fenton factory records starting in 1959, a six year period involved ware that was delivered to L.G. Wright from his own molds. In 1965 Fenton produced 125 pressed glass and 140 blown forms for Wright. The pressed ware consisted of at least 25 Daisy and Button patterns; a large quantity of covered animal dishes and assorted goblets and compotes. The blown ware involved lamp fonts and lamp shades in both ruby overlay and various opalescent colors; large pitchers, milk pitchers, pickle jars, lamp bases, tobacco jars, barber bottles, cruets, sugar shakers, toothpicks and salt and pepper shakers. Wright died in 1969, but the business has been continued by members of his family.

While few reproductions can pass as authentic if placed side by side with an original piece, few people have the luxury of being able to do so. Fortunately, there are plenty of books and articles available that have made a concerted effort to track, alert and ex-pose the existence of many items as they appear in the antique market place. It’s well worth the effort for novice collectors to acquire and read them because these publications will alert them to reproduced patterns and forms.



To make sure they’re buying authentic Victorian glassware, novice collectors need to find out in advance if the pattern of interest has ever been reproduced and in what forms, such as cruets, master salts, compotes, and toothpick holders.

Once they’ve done that, they need to carefully check the pattern detail and quality. If the piece they’re interested in has been hand decorated, some paint wear should be noticeable.

Next, they need to check for any uniform wear marks that have been artificially created. And Upon closer inspection with a 10-power loupe, beginning collectors need to look for signs of wear that will usually be most prevalent on top rims and bottom of a piece. Normal wear will appear in the form of random marks or scratches.

If wear marks on a piece of Victorian glassware appear uniform, then most likely someone created them artificially on a fake piece. This is especially true if these marks have a frosty look to them.

Thickness of glass varies with age. Generally, the older a piece is, the thicker it is, but not some Victorian pieces which were originally mold blown. Such items as salt shakers, sugar shakers, mustard cups, and toothpick holders in their original Victorian form have thin sides. In the case of salt shakers and sugar shakers, the gaffer snapped them off at the top of the pontil rod, which left fine chipping that would then be hidden by the addition of their metal tops. Forms with thick sides and ground-off top rims are usually reproductions and not authentic. In the end, the old adage, “Caveat Emptor”—buyer beware–-applies.

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