Depression glass debuted during a time in history when America was struggling economically. The glass, produced between 1920 and 1940, was factory-made and mass-produced as dinnerware and decorative pieces. Consumers liked the glass because it was colorful, designed in intricate patterns and cheap to buy.
Depression glass was extremely affordable and found its way into American households in several ways. During the Depression, movie houses offered promotions where you could go see a movie and purchase a single piece of glassware for a nickel. Families could get whole dish sets this way. Some Depression glass was also free as a marketing giveaway, found inside bags of flour or cereal.
Of the 19 Depression glass manufacturers, the seven major ones were the Indiana Glass Co., Hocking Glass Co., Federal Glass Co., U.S. Glass Co., Jeannette Glass Co., MacBeth-Evans Glass Co. and the Hazel-Atlas Glass Co.. These manufacturers produced pieces in a variety of patterns and colors.
Collectors can identify Depression glass by the patterns, which have distinct names such as Adam, Windsor and Radiance. Some manufacturers also marked their pieces on the bottom with the company name. To determine how much a particular piece or set is worth, you can look up the pattern name in current-value guide books (see Resources). The seven major manufacturers of Depression glass made 92 patterns in total.
Colors and Types
Popular colors of Depression glass range from ruby red and pink to yellow, blue and amber. More commonplace colors include green, white and crystal. Manufacturers produced functional Depression glass pieces--such as nut or candy dishes, stemware and plates--as well as ornately decorative Art Deco pieces, such as vases.
The first five years that Depression Glass was manufactured, from 1925 to 1930, was the experimental age, when the most Art Deco pieces were made. These pieces were influenced by the 1925 International Exposition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in Paris. The second five-year period was considered the "Golden Age," when different colors and mold-etched patterns were heavily produced. This period saw a combination of colors on each piece, sometimes up to five different colors at a time.
The last five years of Depression Glass manufacturing saw an end to mould-etched patterns and a return to plainer pieces with a more traditional look and classical geometric patterns. Darker colors came out during this time; the glass was also less translucent, and the pieces were utilitarian--for use with dinner or lunch--and not as elaborate or decorative.
Colors and patterns of Depression glassware that were made for a shorter period of time and were intricately detailed could fetch up to $1,000, as of March 2010. Other pieces can range from $10 for plain individual cups and saucers to $300 for pink Depression glass butter dishes and certain types of pitchers.