Depression Glass: America’s Cheapest Dinnerware


Depression glass is one of the more easily found and popular antiques to collect. You’ll find it all over the place once you start to look, in antique stores, grandma’s house, Pinterest and Etsy. People like it because it’s colorful and has a fancy flair. 

​But the real reason why it can be easy to find is because it was rapidly produced and distributed between 1920 and 1940, almost every American family had some. It came in a charming range of colors and patterns. 

The glass was usually clear but a few of the more popular styles were done in an opaque milky color, which is where Milk Glass got its name. Although the Milk Glass you might know isn’t technically the same, it is a bit thicker, making it more valuable. 

Depression Glass was cheap, manufacturing had developed to a point where mass quantities of a product could be produced for a low price. So low, that Depression Glass was often given away for FREE as an incentive to shop!   

The Quaker Oats Company and several other companies included small dishes and cups in their products to get people to purchase more during the Great Depression of 1929, which had devastated the American economy.

Movie theaters and gas stations would give away butter dishes and coffee cups if you supported their business.

Dining sets were given away as carnival prizes or as gifts when purchasing appliances. Pieces could also be bought at the five and dime store for as little as 5 cents. These days, collectors pay anywhere from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars for apiece.

The more collectable and valuable pieces are the rare colors, such as Royal Red, black, Jadite, Amethyst, Monax and the uranium green. Fun fact, the uranium green glows under a black light, and might be a bit radioactive.
The more common colors are the Sweetheart Pink, Ritz Blue, Golden Glo. There was also a large variety of styles with different pressed motifs. These styles mimicked finer cut crystal, that were used by the wealthy. 

​The designs were similar to the more expensive glassware that was being produced the decade before it, often very elegant with floral motifs. The sets would all have different names like Aurora, Block Optic, and Colonial.

There were about 20 different glass manufacturers during this time. The most notable being Anchor Hocking, Federal Glass Company, Indiana Glass Company, and Jeannette Glass Company. The manufacturers names are usually embossed into the bottom of the piece, which helps when identifying a collectable worthy piece.

​A lot of Depression Glass was poorly made, it was being produced so quickly and for such a cheap price, refining the final product wasn’t a concern. When you look closely at a piece there are often small air bubbles or rough seams along the edges. Pieces with manufacturing blemishes are less attractive to collectors.

Today Depression Glass is becoming less widely available, but it can often be found in our shop! Our vendors come across a lot of Depression Glass and usually of good quality.

​Pieces usually range between $5-$50 depending on the color, style, and function. Butter dishes happen to be one of the more coveted pieces. Jadeite, Canary, Delphite and Monax are more desirable colors. Come find a beautiful piece!