Dear Helaine and Joe:
I found this bowl in my grandmother’s attic, but she does not remember anything about its origins. I believe it is carnival glass. Is there any significant value to this bowl?
Dear T. H.:
We are always glad when someone finds a “treasure in the attic,” and in this case, what T. H. found is something of a treasure.
We have two important words that we need to explore. The first is “carnival glass” that brings to mind barkers shouting about throwing a ball and knocking bottles down to “win the pretty lady a Kewpie doll” or some other cheaply made treasure.
But while some carnival glass was distributed at carnivals, it was also available from other sources such as mail order catalogs and the corner store. It could be found as giftware, and while it has a less than glamorous name, there are pieces of “carnival glass” that will sell in today’s world above the $10,000 mark (sometimes much above).
The other phrase that sets a trap is “significant value.” In some people’s minds that might be as little as $100 but others think that “significant value” starts much higher. For today’s purposes, we are going to propose that for a piece of carnival glass, “significant value” starts at any piece worth more than $1,000 – and the piece belonging to T. H. qualifies using this monetary standard.
The pattern on the inside of this piece is called “Butterfly and Tulip” and on the outside it is “Inverted Fan and Feather.” The color is a deep rich amethyst, which was one of the two most noteworthy hues made by the manufacturer of this piece – the Dugan Glass Company of Indiana, Pennsylvania.
Their other special color was “peach opalescence” and this piece in that beautiful peachy gold color with white edges can sell for upwards of $17,000. Unfortunately, the amethyst examples are somewhat more common and less valuable – but that value is still significant according to our working definition.
The Dugan Glass Company was founded by Thomas Dugan and W. G. Minnemayer in 1904 when they purchased the old Northwood Glass factory in Indiana. Pennsylvania. The Dugan Family left the business in 1913 and the enterprise was renamed the Diamond Glass Company, which continued to operate until the facility was destroyed by fire in 1931.
This piece was certainly made after 1908 (the year that the Fenton Glass Company produced the first carnival glass) but probably before 1920 and we think a circa 1915 date (with circa meaning plus or minus 10 years) is about right. “Carnival glass” gets something of bad rap and is also known as “dope glass,” “taffeta glass” and “poor man’s Tiffany.”
We think this bowl, which should be about 13 inches at its widest diameter and 4 inches tall, is rather spectacular – and buyers tend to agree. At auction, we find prices for this piece to be around $2,200, but this is for pieces with a tad bit of roughage. If the bowl in today’s question is undamaged and in pristine condition, we think the auction value would be $2,500 or better with an insurance replacement value neatly twice that figure.
And that is significant.
(Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson have written a number of books on antiques. Do you have an item you’d like to know more about? Contact them at Joe Rosson, 2504 Seymour Ave., Knoxville, TN 37917, or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like your question to be considered for their column, please include a high-resolution photo of the subject, which must be in focus, with your inquiry.)
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