Martine M. White, ASA, AAA
Although the antique glass market has been in decline for many years, collectors do still desire art glass, just not the same pieces they collected twenty years ago. Collectors have been drawn to 19th century American glass since the first decade of the 20th century – at a time when what was collected was only 50 years old. This demand followed publications in the field by pioneers, Helen and George McKearin, James H. Rose and Ruth Webb Lee. These books influenced collector clubs in American glass to proliferate. Fueled by this strong interest throughout the twentieth century, reference volumes, active collector’s clubs and well-attended antique shows served as venues for buying, selling, and assembling collections.
After the turn of the 21st century, it is generally accepted that many categories of 19th century glass have yet to return to the earlier price levels, but market demand for rare desirable glass, especially art glass has continued to be strong. The broad field of American and European art glass is holding it’s own in the current market as well. Over the past ten years with Internet exposure sizable Continental wares have returned to collectors overseas. Continued scholarly research and on-line publications have also contributed to the demand for rare pieces in the category of Bohemian glass, Galle, Daum Nancy, Thomas Webb and other artistic wares. And the market for high-end Tiffany, Mount Washington, and other American art glass continues to maintain pre-recession price levels and high returns.
The paperweight, often referred to as ‘art frozen in glass’ continues to mesmerize collectors old and new, while their intricate designs draw appreciation, their small size makes them easy to display and ship. Another category of glass that has a strong base among young collectors are bottles and marbles. The demand for rare colored flasks and bitters bottles has remained relatively strong over the past decade with a number of unique examples bringing record prices. Much of this interest can be credited to the work of the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors and the many regional bottle clubs that continue to research and publish on the subject. As in many other glass categories, color is what usually drives bottle prices. Marbles have delighted collectors young and old for many years. Here, size plays a major role in value, as does color, design, and condition. Because they were made to be played with and not collected, antique large “shooter” marbles in mint condition are difficult to find and bring a premium price. Just like markets for most collectibles over the past 75 years, the top rarities in the best condition are the pieces that draw the most interest and sell for the highest prices, while the more common and ordinary pieces draw minimal interest and low prices.
1. Early Thumbprint/Argus spherical covered compote, 20”h realized $35,100.00 at auction on September 26, 2018
2. Pair of Free Blown & Pressed Glass Cobalt Blue Whale Oil Lamps, realized $26,910.00 at auction on May 20, 2017.
3. Enamel & Gilt Decorated Burmese Vase, 6 ½”h, realized $16,380.00 at auction on October 13, 2017.
4. Nailsea Nautilus Miniature Lamp, 11 ¼”h, realized $12,870.00 at auction on October 13, 2017.
Resources: Journal of Antiques & Collectibles, Jeffrey S. Evans