Carnival glass is colorful glassware that is created by pressing hot molten glass into molds. Some pieces are hand finished.

Carnival glass was made in many colors, but the predominant colors were marigold, blue, amber, red and green.

In the early 1900s wealthy customers could find beautiful iridized glass by Loetz, Tiffany and others, but mass production soon brought the products into the reach of more consumers. They were able to purchase carnival glassware at such stores as F .W. Woolworth. Some pieces were used as “packers” as Lee Manufacturing Co. used carnival glass as premiums for its baking powder and other products, causing some early pieces to be known by the generic term, “Baking Powder Glass.”

The classic pieces were produced for about 20 years, with Fenton Art Glass becoming the top producer, with more than 150 patterns. Carnival glass later was produced by others, including Northwood, Dugan, Millersburg and Imperial. Later producers were in England, Australia, India, Mexico, Finland, Czechoslovakia, Argentina, Germany and Mexico.

Value

Carnival glass values range from just a few dollars to several thousand, depending on the item, color, maker, rarity, condition and demand. Values will also vary greatly from area to another. An example of some good valued pieces include Northwood's grape ($10,000), a frolicking bears water pitcher and a tumbler made by U.S. Glass ($42,000) and a green multi-fruits and flowers water pitcher, made by Millersburg ($15,000), according to "Warman's Carnival Glass Identification and Price Guide," by Ellen T. Schroy.

Chipped glass will normally bring no more than 10%-25% of the value of a mint piece, and a piece with a crack is nearly worthless.

Buyer beware

There have been reproductions of many pieces over the years. Some of them, such as the items made for L.G. Wright, have become collectible. Some companies, such as Imperial Glass Company and the Fenton Art Glass Company, have also reissued items using the original molds they used during the early carnival glass days. These two companies did mark the newer pieces with their trademarks that are not found on the old glass. Unfortunately, not all makers have marked the reissued or reproduction items.

Finding

Richard Gehrke, of Father Times Antiques, Duluth, said, “Prices in our shop range from $20-$40 for Indiana carnival glass to higher prices for the Fenton pieces. Carnival glass has been doing especially well with younger collectors. A young man came in this spring and purchased all of the lime green carnival glass we had, including our punch bowl set. The colors that are more popular are blue, purple, red, and green with less demand for amber and gold at our shop.”

Brenda Jannsen, owner of Treasures Under Sugar Loaf, Winona: “We have several pieces of carnival glassware in various colors. If anyone is looking for punch bowl sets, compotes, pitchers, bowls, jars, butter dishes, vases, or more in carnival glass, we have it! One trend we have noticed is how many Amish customers are attracted to carnival glass, especially the punch bowls. In just the past month and a half we have sold two green punch bowl sets and two amber sets! Prices vary with color, type of item, and pattern. Typically red and blue glass are more popular here and priced higher than green and amber.”

According to Joan Thilges, owner, New Generations of Harmony that sits in the middle of the largest Amish community in Minnesota, “We have a number of Amish customers who regularly visit the mall, searching for the carnival glassware and Depression glassware as wedding gifts.”

Sandy Erdman is a Winona-based freelance writer concentrating on vintage, antique and collectible items. Send comments and story suggestions to Sandy at life@postbulletin.com.

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