How to Identify Antique and Vintage Glassware

Updated on February 1, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

Learning how to identify antique glassware from reproduction takes some time but it can keep you from making costly mistakes. Since many vintage patterns have been reissued it is easy for even the most experienced collector to mistake new for old.

Don't let that stop you from picking up beautiful antique glassware! There are several ways that you can reduce the possibility of making a mistake.

Get an Identification and Price Guide

A good identification and price guide to antique glassware is probably the single best investment that you can make. Get a current guide so that the values will be up to date and it is helpful to choose one that will fit in your pocket or purse. When you are in an antique store or at a garage sale you can just whip out the identification guide and read up on the piece right then.

The price guide should tell you if the particular piece was reproduced at a later date. Generally companies would create the new pieces a little differently than the old ones they might be smaller or a different color or some other barely noticeable change. Your price guide should have information about the newer pieces and how each can be identified.


The ABC's of Identifying Antique Glassware

Once you have a price guide you can begin to look at antique glass with a critical eye.

Antique Glass Ages Gracefully

Antique and vintage glass will have signs of use. While you certainly don't want chips and cracks, if you look carefully at old glassware you will notice that the edges are softer and more rounded from years of wear. New pieces have sharp crisp edges.

The exception is cut glass, which is just the opposite. Antique cut glass will have sharp, crisp edges while the newer cut glass is more roughly made.

Be Careful of Color

While antique glassware comes in many different colors not every piece was made in every color. Most patterns were distributed in two or three different colors plus clear. Some very popular patterns may have been available in more colors but virtually none was available in every color.

The identification guide will have each pattern listed with the colors it was available in and the years it was available. If it isn't listed in the price guide you should assume that you are looking at a reproduction piece.

Check Rarity

Some colors are rarer than others in some patterns. These rare colors are more valuable than the more common colors in the same pieces. Learning which colors were rare in your favorite patterns will ensure that you don't miss a great find.

Dates Are Important

Patterns would be created by a company and distributed for a short period of time. There was no set amount of time - some companies might release a pattern and distribute it for two years while others remained available for five or six years.

Often the same company would re-release a pattern decades later. This is why it is extremely important to read up and become knowledgeable about your favorite patterns.

Examine the Details

Learn to be detail oriented. Make sure the items look and measure exactly like the pieces in the price guide.

For the sake of evaluation you will also want to look carefully for chips, cracks, flaking color and other undesirable details. These will greatly reduce the value even on the rarest of glass pieces.

Find Dealers You Trust

Shopping locally is important with antiques. You develop a relationship with the antique dealers you shop with over time and learn which you can trust and which may run things a little on the shady side.

When you do buy on the Internet, buy from people with excellent feedback and that are selling on a respected and trusted venue. Craigslist might be a great place to find a used couch but it is best for the novice collector the shy away from the great deal on pink Depression glass.

Go with Your Gut

If your gut feeling is that the glass is just not right somehow don't be pushed into buying it because it seems like such a good deal. Go with that inner antique expert that is telling you "no."

How to Identify the Purpose of Glass Items

Enjoy Your Hobby

Collecting antique glassware is fun. Nothing compares with the feeling of satisfaction as you find the final sherbet dish to complete your Carnival glass set or fall in love with a pattern that you have never seen before.

Learning as much as you can about the things you collect can make hunting down the individual pieces even more satisfying and rewarding. Plus you are less likely to wake up the next day with a bad case of buyer's remorse.

You may also like these articles by Marye Audet...

Questions & Answers


      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • profile image

        Kim Whitford 2 months ago

        There are a couple of groups out there to learn, identify and buy. Subscriptions to join VGCI "Vaseline Glass Collectors Inc." Also EAPG "Early American Pressed Glass." You can check them out on Facebook.

        Love this site.

        Thanks so much.

      • profile image

        Illya 9 months ago

        I bought some blue glass that has a mark on the bottom that looks like an Anchor. Do you know anything about the maker?

        Thank you

      • ZipperConstantine profile image

        Zipper 5 years ago from United States

        Good article, you are a good writer. Are all eight children yours? If that is your pic you look fantastic for caring for eight children.

      • Hello, hello, profile image

        Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

        Thank you for your interesting information.

      • tamron profile image

        tamron 6 years ago

        I was going through stuff in my mother in laws house and I almost throughout a plastic cow creamer. I would give 2 cents for I noticed serial numbers on the bottom. So I typed them in search it took me to ebay.

        I was surprised that it was biding at $21 and the bidding just started. My point is don't through anything out until you research it first. Great hub! Vote up! Ping Ya

      • Linda1971 profile image

        Linda1971 6 years ago

        Marye Audet, I love going antique hunting on weekends. What a great hub.Thank you, so much!

      • Julz09 profile image

        Julz09 6 years ago

        ah :) interesting hub! enjoyed reading it.