Thinking about collecting milk glass or just getting started? Learn a few basics you can put to the test on your next visit to the thrift shop!
If you follow along on Facebook, you may have noticed the call out for reader questions earlier this week. I’m still taking submissions, so be sure to post them on the wall or send me an email or message. I always enjoy seeing what you’re up to! These design and decorating (and other) dilemmas you’re currently facing help me plan future blog posts, as well as social media content. Be sure to subscribe HERE so you never miss a thing.
This go-around, I’m answering a question that came to me via Instagram. It’s a topic that’s near and dear to my heart…
Milk Glass Collecting
HOW MUCH IS MY MILK GLASS PIECE WORTH?
“Hi Shauna, Your Valentine’s Day table has so many pretties! I’m curious if you know anything about the textured milk glass vase (taller one) in the upper left? I have some similar ones and, while I love them, I’m not sure how careful I should be! Old or not old?”
Thank you! Kate
Glad you reached out, Kate! I love collecting milk glass, so naturally your question about my GALentine’s Day table caught my attention.
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The taller milk glass vase (with a feather pattern around the base) that you’re referring to was made by the US based glass company, Randall. Its production dates somewhere in the late 1950s to early 1960s, which is fairly young by milk glass standards.
I also have the smaller feather pattern milk glass pot that goes for around $10-15 on the same sites. You can spot it, along with a few other milk glass vases, on my spring table from last year.
Let’s get back to your question about that particular milk glass vase. Is it old and valuable?
While it’s not as inexpensive as many other pieces out there, its replacement value is fairly minimal. The taller version you asked about is a bit more difficult to find than the smaller pot, but it’s highly likely you’ll find another if something goes wrong.
I say, go ahead and use it any way your little heart desires!
Then again, I like to think about collecting milk glass (or many items for that matter) in a different way. Let me explain…
Years ago, a friend and I went to a local vintage market and I spotted a pretty hobnail pot. I didn’t know much about milk glass at the time, but I was certain it would look beautiful on our kitchen table filled with spring flowers or bulbs. I mean, how can anyone resist those cute raised dots and scalloped top? So, I spent $5 on it.
I made that decision based solely on the way it looked. Good thing, because I found out it wasn’t worth much more than what I paid for it at the time. It wouldn’t have been a good investment from a monetary standpoint. For me, it was more about the enjoyment of it rather than the milk glass value. (Now it may be closer to $15, so not a bad return if I were to sell it. Still, nothing to write home about.)
Shortly after that purchase, I got the milk glass collecting bug. I kept my eyes open at thrift shops and garage sales for more pieces. Most were picked up for $1-2 each, so I didn’t put too much thought into how much they were actually worth. Again, it was about the pretty factor.
I remember seeing the milk glass collection in Sarah Richardson’s cottage kitchen and I was hooked. So stunning!
Now, I have more than 40 pieces in my milk glass collection, big and small. Although I have a hard time passing up on any great deals I come across, I tend to save my “milk(glass)” money for higher value purchases, such as cake stands, pitchers, covered candy dishes and decorative plates. Over the years, I have learned a whole bunch more about specific patterns and manufacturers and dates and knowing a good deal when I spot one…
I’m all about the white!
How can you spot the real deal?
Milk glass is an opaque glass that’s been pressed or blown into a variety of shapes and forms. It has its signature “milky” appearance. Simply put, it’s milky glass.
Did you know it also comes in other colours, such as blue, pink and yellow?
HOW CAN YOU TELL IF MILK GLASS IS VALUABLE?
This is where it gets complicated and requires more experience.
To spot a genuine antique (1960s or earlier), hold a piece up to the sunlight (a window or outdoors) and look for a halo of iridescent reds, greens and blues, otherwise known as the “Ring of Fire” (you’ll know it when you see it). Some milk glass does not have this effect, however, so don’t rule it out. (See, it’s confusing!)
Milk glass should have a silky smooth texture. If it appears grainy, it’s probably a newer version.
Many milk glass pieces have markings on the bottom, such as the company name or numbers, so you can use that information to look it up. There are also certain patterns, including hobnail (one of my favourites), daisy, holly or stars that can determine the maker and era. Be wary of reproductions, as some factories use old moulds that can look like authentic pieces. If you’re only paying a minimal amount and you like the way it looks, I say go for it!
Do your research. There are all kinds of online resources, as well as books written about collecting milk glass and how to identify real milk glass, such as this one on Country Living.
Spotting the real deal and knowing the value of each milk glass piece will develop over time. Set your own standards and guidelines. 19th century antique milk glass is often a deep white. If you prefer the more translucent look of depression-era milk glass, collect that. Or, perhaps, you’re drawn to the shiny, bright white pieces that came a bit later. Building a milk glass collection is about your own preference and style.
Personally, I have no problem adding a 1980s milk glass bud vase to my collection. Sometimes those pieces are the ones that pull a vignette together. I prefer groupings of different sizes, textures and subtle variations in colour. I’m certainly not a purist.
I say, just have fun when it comes to decorating with milk glass!
Finally, be sure to consider the condition of a milk glass piece. I stay away from cracks, chips and permanent stains, which tend to have a negative affect on the value (and overall look).
Shop Milk Glass Vases and More
Be sure to pin this Milk Glass Collecting Guide as a reference!
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