You’ve seen these pieces at antique stores, online, and at your grandparents’ house – but what exactly is the significance of pink depression glass? Collectors and historians alike are fascinated by these seemingly unimportant pieces of tableware, and many seek out the signature rosy glass at every thrift store and online shop they visit.
But the history of pink depression glass is much more than just people loving beautiful dishware. Before we get into the different kinds of pink depression glass and the potential value they hold, let’s dive a bit deeper into what pink depression glass is and the history that goes along with it.
Table of Contents
What is pink depression glass?
During the Great Depression, many were left unemployed and families had to cut back on spending to get by. As a result, people could no longer afford the hand-cut glassware that people of that time were used to. Similarly, the manufacturers of these luxury glass products couldn’t sustain their businesses if they continued to produce those goods.
In order to both keep their staff employed and continue to sell products, glass manufacturers pivoted their businesses to produce cheaper glassware that more families could afford. As opposed to hand-cut crystal, factories began churning out glassware that was created using a mold and could be mass-produced. This was cheaper for the manufacturers to make and cheaper for the American family to purchase. Suddenly, every family had the opportunity to own beautiful glassware without sacrificing other necessities.
Depression glass was made with brightly colored and often transparent glass. It came in a range of colors including yellow, blue, green, purple, and orange. And while the yellow and amber shades were the most popular at the time, now the most valuable color of depression glass is pink, and it’s highly sought out by collectors across the nation.
When was pink depression glass made?
The bulk of authentic pink depression glass was made by twenty or so manufacturers in the 1920s through the 1950s. Manufacturers of these collectibles were companies such as Federal Glass, MacBeth-Evans, and Duncan & Miller, and the pieces were created in a variety of styles, patterns, and colors. Today, each color and pattern hold different values depending on the popularity and rarity of the piece.
However, the rising value of these pieces has caused certain patterns to be reproduced in modern times. These fakes don’t hold the same value as the originals, but collectors – especially amateur collectors – are fooled by replicas every day. Before purchasing a piece, be sure you’re working with a reputable dealer and stay on the lookout for signs that your pink depression glass could be a modern-day counterfeit.
How much did pink depression glass originally cost?
Because these pieces were so cheap to manufacture, they could be sold for fairly cheap as well. Individual pieces could be purchased for just a few cents, while a twelve-piece set of dinnerware items would go for around two dollars at the time.
In fact, depression glass was so widely available that they were given away in cereal boxes and other kitchen items as well. You’d open up your box of oatmeal and find a glass cup or plate right alongside your food. You could also get free glassware in other home items such as toothpaste. Some even report getting free sets with their refrigerator or other appliance purchases. Movie theaters and other establishments would also have promotions where patrons would get free glassware to take home at the end of the night.
But the surplus of this style was fairly short-lived. After the economic downturn was over and family incomes began to reach pre-depression levels, people threw out their depression glass and replaced it once again with fine china and other hand-cut glassware. But the families who kept their cereal box trinkets either gained a new hobby or were met with an unexpected financial reward from collectors down the line.
Pink depression glass patterns and types
Depression glass came in all different shapes and sizes, and today some are definitely more valuable than others. Pink depression glass dishware was definitely the most common. These pieces – including bowls, plates, saucers, cups, serving platters, and more – could be purchased either individually or as part of a set. Many companies also manufactured other kitchen items such as butter dishes or salt and pepper shakers.
However, there were also other pieces of glassware that weren’t necessarily for the kitchen. Candy dishes, ashtrays, candle holders, perfume bottles, lamps, statues, and a variety of other glassware were produced during this same time period. Some are still fairly common, while others were only produced in small batches, making them even more rare today.
In addition to the different uses for this glassware and color options to choose from, depression glass was also produced in a variety of patterns. Although there are many patterns out there, some pink depression glass patterns you should be aware of include:
Old Colony Glass Pattern
Cherry Blossom Pattern
American Sweetheart Pattern
Royal Lace Pattern
What makes pink depression glass so valuable?
Although the products themselves have little intrinsic value, much of the draw of pink depression glass is the history tied to the pieces. Many families who held onto their glassware after the Great Depression was over continued to pass them down to their children, igniting an interest and a hobby for generations to come.
Because of the interest today’s population still has in these pieces, the demand is often greater than the (authentic) supply. Only so many pieces were manufactured during – and kept after – that time period. The limited number of pieces, patterns, colors, or combinations of all three make every piece have some kind of value. And as time passes and more pieces are damaged or are acquired permanently by collectors, the value of the remaining pink depression glass items will presumably continue to rise – or at least collectors hope it will.
How much is pink depression glass worth?
What a certain pink depression glass piece can be sold for depends on a variety of factors. For example, a pink depression glass candy dish can go anywhere from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars depending on the pattern and condition. General ranges for different categories of pink depression glass are listed below for your own reference, but keep in mind that every item is only worth as much as a buyer will actually pay for it.
Common Pink Depression Glass
The mass manufacturing of depression glass over the course of a few decades means there is still bound to be a surplus of certain products. For example, we can assume that manufacturers produced plates in every one of their patterns. Therefore, most plates – especially in common patterns – may only sell for a few dollars. Some pieces, however, may go for $10 – $25 – even if they are considered common.
Common pink depression glassware can include:
Queen Mary Sherbert Plate (typically around $2)
Petal Swirl Vase (typically around $17)
Queen Mary Dessert Bowl (typically $5 – $15)
American Sweetheart Cup and Saucer (typically $10 – $15)
Windsor Pitcher (typically $15 – $25)
Uncommon/Rare Pink Depression Glass
Certain items or patterns that were manufactured in smaller batches tend to sell for much more than their common counterparts. Not only does the original availability factor into these prices, but the passage of time means that even fewer are available today due to damage or permanent ownership by collectors. Pieces that are considered uncommon can usually sell for around $45 – $75 if they’re in good condition. Rare pieces, however, can range from $100 – $250 or even higher for just an individual piece.
Uncommon and rare pink depression glassware can include:
Old Colony Flower Bowl (typically $30 – $40)
Princess Footed Tumbler (typically $15 – $50)
Cubist Butter Dish (typically around $40)
Anchor Hocking Glass Company Pitcher (typically $400 or more)
Miss America Covered Butter Dish (typically around $485)
Pink Depression Glass Sets
Although individual pink depression glass pieces are valuable on their own, having a pair or even an entire set could increase their value even further. For example, a Queen Mary cup in pink will typically sell for between $2 – $5. However, if it’s paired with a matching saucer, that set could sell for as much as $20.
Full sets of cups (the exact number in a set will depend on the piece and manufacturer) commonly sell for $40 – $60. If you’re able to collect a full set of dinnerware, it could be worth $300 – $500 altogether. If you snag a rarer pattern/color combo, it could be worth up to $1,000 – $1,500 in total. If you’re looking to collect in order to make a profit, collecting individual pieces to create a full set will be tricky, but it’s your best bet to get a return.
Determining the value of your pink depression glass
If you’ve acquired some pink depression glass at an antique store, a flea market, or from family, you may be wondering what exactly it’s worth. Although the best way to determine the value of your pink depression glass is by working with an appraiser, you can get a general idea by considering the following factors and looking at current listings for similar items.
In order for your pink depression glass to be worth anything, it needs to be authentic. There are many replicas out there today, but authentic pink depression glass was manufactured in the 1920s through the 1950s by specific manufacturers of that time. Before you sell your pink depression glass (or if you’re looking to purchase a piece), be sure the piece is not a counterfeit.
One of the most common ways collectors can determine whether or not a piece is real is by looking for flaws. Authentic depression glass was produced very quickly, so there are often noticeable seams on real pieces. Additionally, this glassware wasn’t just used for decoration – they were used for meals every day. If you see scratches from utensils on a plate or the reminisce of wax on a candle holder, the piece is more likely to be authentic.
Once you’ve confirmed the piece is authentic, figuring out the specific pattern is critical in determining value. Certain companies may have only manufactured a limited number of pieces in a certain pattern and even fewer in a specific color. If your piece was widely manufactured, the demand is smaller, lowering its overall value. However, if you’ve managed to get your hands on a rare piece or a rare pattern in pink, it could be worth much more.
The Mayfair pattern, for example, is one of the most common patterns used for pink depression glass. Plates and bowls are likely to be worth very little. If you’re able to find a piece in this pattern that’s less common, such as a jar or butter dish, could be worth slightly more. The Royal Lace pattern, on the other hand, is one of the most sought-after patterns of depression glass. Even plates and bowls are valuable, and less common pieces or sets will be worth even more.
Because depression glass was mass-produced in such a short amount of time, many originals are bound to have flaws. Bubbled, overly-sharp edges, mold marks, or slight color variations are common in depression glass, but they shouldn’t diminish the value since those are some of the things that show the piece is authentic. Even small chips or minor scratches are usually expected since the pieces were cheaply made and nearly a century old.
However, extreme damage from neglect or accidents will cause the value of pink depression glass to go down. If a piece is majorly chipped or cracked, you can expect the value to lower considerably. Even if the piece is rare and still sought after by collectors, they are unlikely to pay as much for extremely damaged items as they would for pieces in mint condition or with normal signs of wear and tear.
Where can you buy pink depression glass?
If you’re ready to join the world of pink depression glass, you have a few options to get your collection started. The most obvious answer is on the internet. If you’re looking for specific pieces, sites like eBay or Etsy can be great places to find those and understand the price ranges. However, these can often be at or above their value, so it may not be the best use of your time to scour the internet for deals if your main goal is to make a profit.
Oftentimes the best way to grow your collection of pink depression glass for little investment is by visiting thrift stores or antique stores. Thrift stores will often have pieces priced under their actual value simply because nobody knows that they’re valuable. Antique stores may also get you a great deal depending on where they’re coming from. If you’re going to shop at these establishments, however, just be sure to authenticate your pieces before you get too excited.