This week’s cover feature on Depression glass is more than an opportunity to revisit one of the 20th century’s most prevalent collectibles. The similarities between the economic climate during its debut and the current crisis may be the tipping point needed to introduce collecting to a new generation.
Just look at the similarities between then and now:
• high unemployment
• big declines in the stock market and commerce
• both were preceded by a period of people living beyond their means
• the lack of resources gave rise to a more sustainable lifestyle
• leisure became a luxury, not an expectation
Of course, our current economic problems pale in comparison to the troubles surrounding the Great Depression. Our current unemployment rate is nearing 10 percent, a far cry from the 25 percent who were out of work during the Great Depression.
Depression glass gained its foothold in American popular culture because of the way it was marketed to cash-strapped consumers. It was mainly used as a sales premium or value-added component to draw shoppers back into stores. Dishes were packed into boxes of soap or given away at local movie theaters.
Manufacturers were prolific in producing Depression glass. One account puts the number of different manufacturers at more than 20, which made more than 100 patterns. Its low quality meant ever-increasing output.
Thanks to their marketing push, collectors today have a wide variety of patterns to choose from, not to mention a wide variety of prices.
Noted collectible glass expert Ellen Schroy said sellers of Depression-era glass notice that all of their buyers are using the glass that they buy. She also notes that Depression glass has been identified as one of the hottest areas of interest among collectibles sold on the Internet.
It’s common to see dealers during Depression glass shows offering his or her opinion about the source of a particular piece. Depression glass, she said, is one area of the antiques and collectibles marketplace where knowledge is freely shared.
Hopefully the generosity of dealers, affordable price points and quantity available continue to attract new collectors.