Depression glass is a symbol of a time in history when money was tight, but the American people fought to keep some sense of normalcy. Although depression glass had low production costs, has it gained any value over the years?
Most depression glass pieces can be purchased or sold for anything between $10 and $100, with rarer pieces selling for $100-$250. The actual price of the depression glass piece depends on its color, condition, and rarity. Collectors can get depression glass sets for around $300-$500, with rarer color or pattern sets being priced between $1000-$1500.
Many depression glass pieces are valued by collectors. Keep reading to learn more about depression glass and how much it is worth.
What Makes Depression Glass Special?
In the early 1900s, fine china was all the rage. These glass dishes were so popular that governments paid potters to start making it. Unfortunately, when the Great Depression hit, Americans could no longer afford to purchase the expensive fine china pieces. With the economy crashing and the roaring twenties a fading memory, many people were left with no jobs or small incomes, therefore limiting them to the bare necessities.
Depression glass was created by companies to meet the needs and provide hope to a people that were down on their luck at a price all could afford.
In fact, this glass was very common in homes due to the ease they had in mass-producing these items in colors that naturally brought joy. They were made in blues, pinks, greens, yellows, and some other colors as well. They also had a variety of patterns, styles, and designs making them both useful and appealing.
Ultimately, after the Great Depression, this style of glass faded but many people still hold on to and cherish these pieces. While they may not have significant monetary value, depression glass does carry quite a bit of sentimental value. (Source) These pieces remind people about the trials their family–and many others around the world–endured. In many cases, depression glass is considered an heirloom, passed down from generation to generation.
While popularity dwindled, manufacturers continued producing this glassware until the 1970s. Since depression glass was produced for more than 50 years, there is an abundance of available pieces in the market. This increased supply, combined with a seemingly unlimited supply, is one of the reasons why depression glass has not gained significant monetary value over the years.
What is Depression Glass worth?
As mentioned above, depression glass has a lot of worth sentimentally and some worth monetarily.
The images of households struggling to get by and the family stories behind the dishes are worth a lot; however, you can purchase a similar piece at your local thrift store for a handful of change. That said, some pieces are more valuable than others.
For example, the most valuable colors (in order) are pink, green, and blue. If you’re hoping to get a bit more money for your depression glass pieces, your best chance is to sell pieces with rare colors such as lavender and tangerine. Other–less valuable–colors include white, amber/yellow, and red. (Source)
Another factor influencing the monetary value of the piece is its rarity. For example, depression glass plates, cups, and glasses were more commonly produced. For this reason, they will be easier to find. (Remember, the larger the supply the lower the price.) Even if your depression glass plates, cups, or glasses are pink, they are fairly inexpensive.
For example, the American Sweetheart set by MacBeth-Evans, which features a small pink saucer and cup, has a value between $10 and $25. In other words, even collectible items are cheap.
If you’re in possession of a full depression glass set, a pitcher, a bowl, or wine glasses, you have some of the most uncommon pieces. These pieces will sell for significantly more. You can expect to get around $40 to $100 for any of these items. For example, a green pitcher in Block Optic pattern would go for about $100. But this is a rare piece in a rare color, meaning that most depression glass pieces will cost much less. (Source)
That said, there are some pieces even rarer than those listed above. Depression glass flower vases have a wide price range. If you have a pink vase, you could sell it for more than $200! How is that for monetary value? However, that same vase if in the color green (still a rare color) sells for only $60. To find out the value of your depression glassware, consult a collector or a collector’s guide. (Source)
While some colored glassware can be expensive, those with the highest value are made with either clear or crystal depression glass. Because these pieces were more expensive to produce, fewer were produced. (Remember that supply and demand we discussed earlier?) With fewer pieces in the market, clear or crystal depression glass comes with a more expensive price tag.
The value of these pieces is further increased by the fact that they are near impossible to find. Most clear or crystal depression glassware is being displayed in museums across the country, further increasing the difficulty of finding these rare pieces. A crystal depression glass bowl is now worth about $500. (Source)
Another factor influencing the worth of your depression glassware is its design. While kitchenware is great, it is also more common. Non-kitchen glassware items are worth significantly more. Each of these pieces could sell for several hundred dollars! (Source) For example, a Murano Archimede & Antonio Seguso Aventurine Bullicante Depression Glass Lamp is listed on eBay for $2,500! If you’re collecting rare depression glass items, this one is a must-have.
Overall, the most valuable depression glass pieces are larger kitchen items or non-kitchen items in pink, green, blue, or crystal.
When appraising the value of your depression glass pieces, the condition has a significant impact on the price. As you can imagine, a depression glass plate broken in half will be worth less than an intact plate. Similarly, depression glass pieces with cracks, chips, or faded colors will have decreased value.
If you own depression glassware and want to maintain its condition, there are several things to remember. First of all, there are certain cleaning tips. Although dishwashers had been around since the late 1800s, they were nowhere near as powerful as the dishwashers in homes today. If you put your depression glassware in the dishwasher, you can expect it to come out with cracks, chips, and faded color. When cleaning depression glass pieces, wash them by hand in warm water with a mild soap.
Of course, if you’re collecting depression glass to sell, you shouldn’t eat off it. In this case, occasionally dust off the piece using a non-abrasive cloth and lukewarm water.
The final factor that influences the value of your depression glass pieces is its pattern.
As mentioned earlier, depression glass pieces were meant to replace the more expensive fine china shipped in from Great Britain. To do this, the pieces needed to appear more elegant, at a lower production cost. This was achieved by adding unique patterns to many of the pieces.
Many patterns were added by hand. In other words, every depression glass piece was slightly unique. Unfortunately, companies have begun producing fake depression glass, reusing many of the most popular (and most valuable) patterns from the Great Depression. Collectors suggest studying the details of unique patterns to best identify real depression-era glass.
Some of the most desirable (and therefore most valuable) depression glass patterns include the Royal Lace and Avocado patterns. As you can imagine, some patterns are worth more when used in combination with certain colors.
Depression Glass: Should you Collect it?
Depression glass is a common item to collect. Many families pass pieces of depression glassware down to their posterity for many generations. If your main motivation in collecting depression glass is sentimentality, go for it! You can get a variety of unique, beautiful glass dishes at a very affordable price!
However, if you’re hoping to collect depression glass pieces in an effort to resell them at a higher price, you may want to consider another type of glassware. In order to have your pieces sell at a higher price, you’d need to either have all the available pieces or control the prices that others sell their pieces at. Unfortunately, both of these scenarios are fairly impossible.
Because depression glass pieces are common and cheap, chances are you would be better off not collecting them. Considering the amount of time, effort, money, and expertise it would require to collect enough pieces to be worth any amount of money, you wouldn’t make much money.
That said, if you’re going to collect depression glass, regardless of your reason for doing so, you need to be knowledgeable. There are hundreds of different combinations of pieces, colors, patterns out there. Each combination will be worth a different amount. You’ll need to know which combinations are worth the most if you’re going to make any money off them. Additionally, you need to be able to distinguish original depression glass from the reproductions of it.
Because depression glass reproductions are so similar to the original pieces, identifying them can be a bit more difficult. And no, a “depression glass” vase produced in 2019 is not worth the same as a depression glass vase produced in 1921. The older piece has gained value simply by enduring the years. Don’t get fooled by those attempting to sell reproductions for the same amount as an original depression glass piece. (Source)
Successfully collecting depression glass will require money, time, and a decently sized reference library. If you have any friends or family knowledgable about these pieces, use them as frequent contacts. They may even enjoy getting in on the collecting too!
When collecting depression glass, always factor the condition of the piece into the price and your decision. If you end up buying glass that is damaged, put in the dishwasher, or otherwise mistreated you won’t make a profit. You need to be able to effectively assess what condition a piece is in before buying and selling.
If you feel confident in your abilities in glass assessment or have a desire to develop those skills and want to try them, then collecting depression glass could be a good move for you!
The Future of Depression Glass Investments
While depression glass is currently worth much, this could change in the future. The potential for depression glass to gain in value determines whether or not it is something you should invest in.
Originally these pieces of glass were cheap enough that everyone, even in a national economic crisis, could afford some. Within the last century or so, the price has increased substantially. It is easy to see this pattern continue as it gains value and scarcity with time. Yes, even glassware as common as depression glass will become scarce.
Because these pieces are made from glass, they will break and degrade over time. With fewer pieces supplying the market, their price will increase. Additionally, as the pieces fade from commonality, more people will seek them out for the sentimental experience they provide.
You could make minimal return collecting depression glass and selling it today; however, you are more likely to make a larger profit if you purchase the pieces now, maintain their current condition, and resell them in 10 years or so. This will give them time to gain more value. Don’t wait for depression glass to start gaining in value before you start investing in it.
Even if depression glass doesn’t significantly increase in value in the next decade or so, you could resell it at a price similar to what you bought it for. You could even pass the pieces down to your children as an heirloom. After all, isn’t sentimental value more important than monetary value anyways? For many depression glass collectors, it is.