They didn’t drink from cups back in the day. They drank from goblets and tumblers. Little footed juice glasses. Fancy vessels etched with stars, flowers and geometric patterns. Charming teacups and sherbet dishes in punchy shades of ruby, amber and blueberry.
Today, you can find vintage glassware in most local antique shops. Like a scene from your grandmother’s china cabinet, they’re sorted by color, shape and style.
They’re usually sold in monochromatic sets, although sometimes you can buy them a la carte. Prices range anywhere from $3 for a single punch cup to upward of $100 for a rare set.
Price tags tell some of the glasses’ stories: “cobalt George Washington goblets,” reads one at Aladdin’s Lamp Antiques. The tag on a wavy pink glass at The Pink Elephant Antiques reads “milkshake/soda sundae glass (or a lot of wine).”
Ask any of the shops’ owners, and they can fill in the rest of the story for you, with information about glassware types and everything you need to know about depression vs. elegant vs. carnival vs. opalescent.
They’ll reminisce about the days when glassware would come free with another purchase, buried in a canister of oatmeal or container of detergent.
They can guesstimate with a simple glance when a glass was produced. Behind the counter at Aladdin’s Lamp Antiques, owner Greg Hanson turns over a rose-colored milk glass in his hands. “These are from the 1930s,” he says. He gestures to a pair of Avon cobalt goblets—those are from the ’70s. “You can tell by the wear on the bottom of the glasses,” he explains. “And the colors are a giveaway.”
Collectors like Hanson will warn you to never, ever wash colored glassware in the dishwasher; you’d risk ruining the finish that has worn on through the decades.
And most of all, they’ll instruct you to look for the bubbles, ridges and ripples. These imperfections are original, dating back to the ’30s or ’70s or even the ’90s, before modern manufacturing brought us the streamlined perfect pieces we are used to today.
It’s reason enough to start a collection. Because they don’t make them like that anymore.
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