Got Milk Glass?

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Got Milk Glass?

By The Paula Deen Test Kitchen

Milk glass–an opaque glass aptly named for its milky-white color–dates back as early as the 1500s, but American manufacturers caught on to the trend in the 1900s by producing glass tableware as a less-expensive substitute for porcelain. The Depression Era “look for less” quickly gained popularity and spread to more affluent homes. By the time the Gilded Age rolled around, glass manufactures started creating more intricate pieces and patterns retailing for higher prices.

Today, the once affordable knock offs can fetch upwards of $200 per item, and an extremely rare piece can go for several thousand dollars. But beware newbie collectors. Remember those tacky white vases with raised bumps from the local florist? While technically considered milk glass, these commonplace vases will earn you about 50-cents at a garage sale.

In fact, milk glass is a fairly recent term that encompasses many forms, qualities and colors of opaque glass manufactured over the years. Early glass makers used arsenic to create a faintly grayish but nicely opalescent look. Later manufacturers created a denser, whiter glass using tin oxide, feldspar and other additives. The change to the glass recipe makes it possible to determine the age of a piece by examining its edges. Older milk glass will appear nearly transparent at the edge while newer pieces are bright white and may not allow light through.

The various colors of milk glass–blue, pink, yellow, brown and black¬–can also indicate the age and value of a piece. For example, a pink platter may be a piece from the widely collectible American Sweetheart pattern manufactured by the Macbeth-Evans Glass Company in the 1930s.

But it may not.

Bottom line: unless you have a signed McKee animal-covered dish on your hands–a purebred of all milk glass–it’s not always easy to determine if milk glass is rare. To make matters worse, many American manufacturers did not sign their early pieces.

There are a number of resources available intended to demystify the murky waters of milk glass collecting, including the popular Collector’s Encyclopedia of Milk Glass by Betty and Bill Newbound (Collector Books, 1994). But even avid collectors recommend leaving the guesswork to a reputable appraiser.

If the prospect of beginning a collection is too daunting, consider accenting your home with modern reproductions or newly manufactured pieces. Many popular home decor chains sell milk glass in the form of lamps and canisters. You can also purchase a quality original directly from the source; the Fenton Art Glass Company of Williamstown, West Virginia is one of the few glass makers that continue producing high-quality milk glass.

Read More From Paula Collects.

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Reader Comments:

54321

I have several pieces of milk glass dishes that belonged to my grandmother. Rather than have them damaged/destroyed, I would prefer to sell them but I have no idea what they're worth. It is not a complete set but I believe there are 2 sizes of plates. I would be happy to supply a picture. Dee

By Dolores Downing on August 09, 2013

54321

paula love the article on milk glass,i have several pieces from my mother in law she has passed on at the age of 97.she had a very good collection. I have a beautiful vase with march flowers on it. I love all she gave me.you are a very beautiful lady inside as well the out side.hope to meet you sometime soon. with regards linda whitfield

By linda whitfield on May 26, 2013

54321

Dear Folks If you are wanting to find a value on pieces of your milk glass, the best place to go that doesn't cost anything is ebay. Go to the Sold or completed sales part and it will show you the "sold" price. Or the price that it sold for. That is the best way now a days bc you wil see the real value not the hoped for or percieved value. Going to an antique shop with all your glass might work but you will only receive one half of the value. Don't forget the antique lady had to do all the work in selling, storing, advertising etc. Many factors to add on to the price.

By ma grindle on February 05, 2012

54321

Thank you Paula for the education on milk glass. I don't have any myself, although wish I did, but now I would know a little more on what to look for when finding milk glass to buy. Love your show and the really yummy recipes, even if the boys want to leave out the butter.

By Jennifer ALEXANDER on July 26, 2011

54321

When I was in my early 20's my grandmother gave me my first Milk Glass. A Westmoreland sugar & creamer set. Over the years she gave me more and I would buy pieces at flea markets and used stores. Back then it was cheap and everywhere. I have a nice collection that my 21 yr old daughter has already staked claims, I'm happy to hand down my grandmothers milk glass to her. It's not only beautiful but holds precious memories.

By Jolene P on July 23, 2011

54321

I collect Fenton Hobnail Milk Glass...and all the other Fenton Hobnail things. (love those little bumps) I miss my Saturday morning antique shops, junkin, garage and estate sales. can't seem to locate many up here near Portland.

By mary on July 23, 2011

54321

my great grandfather bought a milkglass mug from england with with scrollwork and raised dots, somewhere around the 1890's, this is what i have been told and has 140 stamped in the bottom, i would like to know if anyone has any info, seen anything like it, or knows where i could find more about it...

By dale s on June 10, 2011

54321

Wow, I didn't realize these were so rare. My grandmother passed away last Summer and she has several pieces of this in her house. She was very particular about them... now I understand why.

By Angela Ellison on April 06, 2011

54321

I have several pices of milk glass, I think it so pretty, but Iam getting old so I am going to try and sell the pices I have, if you are intrested I will take pictures of these items and send them to you. I love to watch Paula, I would just love to cook with her one day, she reminds me of myself sometimes, I love to laugh, tell jokes and just have a good time. I am so happy for her, she has really come a long way, and I know it is because of all her hard work. Best wishes for still a wonderful future for her and her family. Sincerly, Carolyn PS: I also have serval pices of depression glass that is very pretty, it belonged to my Mom.

By Carolyn Rampey on March 22, 2011

54321

My grandmother left me 'milk glass' and some gold 'whatever' (I think Tiara) and its so gorgeous. I am glad to have something you like too!

By Paula on March 06, 2011

54321

I Have a milk glass chandelier just wanted to know if it's worth anything?

By mary dinowitz on March 06, 2011

54321

I have quite a few pieces of black milk glass including two vases with handles on each side and on pedestals. I would love to know if there is any value to these pieces. Thanks Linda Linda Vacketta on February 3, 2011

By Anonymous on February 03, 2011

I was wondering what you meant by animal covered dish?  And what size dish?  I have been collecting milk glass for years.  I inherited all of my grandmothers also.  And she had alot.I have a covered dish where the bottom is round looks like a basket the top is a chicken head and the body is all eggs with grass in between.  and it is stamped.  Only 1 of many many peices
Thanks JILL

By Jill Rosecrans on October 26, 2010

I can’t believe it Paula!  My Grandson says I look like you!  You also collect aprons and milk glass!  Small, small world!

By Pat Neal on October 14, 2010

It’s so hard to determine what milk glass is worth w/o taking it to an appraiser. I’m sitting on a beautiful 27 piece milk white punch bowl set from Anchor Hocking in the original box. I’d like to sell it as it has no sentimental value to me, but I’m not sure what it’s worth. I’ve heard anywhere from $100 - $1500!!!

By Beth Hawks on September 03, 2010

Please email me and let me know how i can get your appraiser to tell me if he knows about a wooden Icebox that has six glass pane doors on it with heavy hardware. i have searched the internet and find nothing that looks like it just almost and that was a mccray this must be 1901-1920 era.

By diana carter on August 14, 2010

I am so sad.  I had milk glass which my grandmother gave me.  My husband and I divorced and before I could get all of my things out of his house his girlfriend got rid of it.  They would not tell me who they gave it to.  It really hurt in every way because my husband knew how much I loved the pieces that I had and he knew how much it meant to me because it came from my grandmother.  The understanding was that because I did not have anywhere to keep it where I was staying I could keep some of my things there until I found a place.  Well, a good lesson learned.  Take everything with you girls, even the milk glass.

By Kathy on July 27, 2010

Years ago,my Aunt lived in Ohio and every time she came to visit my Mom in TN, she stopped by the Fenton company and bought her a piece of milk glass. She has since died and my Mom has about 50 pieces displayed beautifully in her cabinets. I love these dishes. Thanks for the article!

By Serena on June 13, 2010

HI,
I am so glad to see the Milk Glass being talked about.  With the oil issues, spill, and pollution, I think using glassware, and such, is a great idea, instead of using plastics.
We need to think about where the things we use comes from and the impact on the planet from there use, from creation to disposal.  We need to be aware and be good stewards of Earth.  It is up to us as individuals, not up to companies, and governments only. 
Peace,
Susan

By Susan on June 03, 2010

I like many others have recieved my collection from my mother. I have a set of eight place settings and all the extrats. I have 150 piecies at present.I display and truly enjoy my collection year round. My collection keeps a part of my mom close to me.

By Annette Hornbostel on June 03, 2010

I have been collecting milk glass for several years.  I got several special pieces from my Mom before she passed away.  My step-daughter used some of my collection as center pieces to hold flowers at her wedding reception.  It was beautiful and so special since some had been lovingly cared for and used by my Mom.

By Diane Cook on June 03, 2010

I have a few of those milk glass vases and one fruit bowl.  These were gifts for my mother as well.  I also have a large set of Peach Luster dishes that were left to me from my mother in law.  They are like orange sherbert togehter!

By Karen Offermann on June 02, 2010

What a heart-breaker.  I had quite a bit of real milk glass and each of my 3 kids managed to knock one off my shelves (also broke one).  I finally just put the rest of them in a second hard store before moving to our first condo in 1997.  I sure could use the cash for them now.

We best all be careful of what we think is “Junk” now as it might be valuable later.

By Margaret Wisler on June 02, 2010

in regarding to your jadeite collection,I have my Mom’s antique kitchen cabinet,when I was a child growing up,Dad would be studing his lesson for Sunday,for he was a pastor of a church,and Mom was a very old fashion cook,especially for him.she would keep her potato chips in the cabinet,just for me,and now I have it filled with the wonderful jadeite,and every time I look at it,I think of my potato chips,so I include that in there as well.

By madge Bailey on June 02, 2010

Ihave a collection of milk glass I received after my mom passed away.  I remember my dad giving them to her when I was young (along time ago).  Mine have a grape design on them.  Have No idea of the value if any.

By Sandra Pollard Turberville on June 02, 2010

Hi Paula!
I wrote previously and mentioned that I liked the milk glass in the picture of the strawberry cake. Thank you for a special article about one of my favorite collections. Most of my collection was made by the Fenton company. I also collect “Moonstone” which is a clear hobnail glass with a white border - I think most of it is older than my milk glass. I use my glassware as much as possible - I don’t like to just have something that I have to dust. God bless.

By Donna Haffenden on June 02, 2010

My Grandmother & my mother collected milk glass. I have boxes of it. Would like (I think) to sell it, but then I hate to part with it too!  My decor/house is limited in displaying my large collection… have several big pieces.  Any ideas on selling?

By Cindy Cabaniss on June 02, 2010

I have several pieces of milk glass that belonged
to my late mother in law.  Have been trying to find a reputable source to find out the value of
the pieces.  Thanks for the book tip.

By Claudia Herring on June 02, 2010

I have about 150 peices of milk glass my mother gave me when she moved from her home to down size to a apartment she has had them for over 66 years I love them and will cherish them. Thanks for your story.

By Doris on May 15, 2010

Last year I went to an auction and bought some dog bowles there was this white small bowl in the box. Now my kitty eats out of it, Im glad i kept it.

By Karen Faison on April 23, 2010

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