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Finding and Pricing Vintage Barware and Glassware

We know what we sell and we try our best to give you the very best.

Having collected vintage barware and glassware for over twenty-five years, I am often asked “where do you find your items” and “why are they so expensive compared to new items”?  The former question is an easy one.  I find my vintage cocktail items everywhere:  from flea markets around the world to antique centers, malls, estate sales, and even live auctions.  It has taken me many years to acquire the knowledge I have with respect to the items I like and now sell at The Hour.

During the turn of the 20th Century, glassware and metal manufacturers were prolific in the United States.  The Machine Age, which was the end of the Industrial Age, brought with it an ability to produce high volumes of these goods.  What was once painstakingly produced by hand, now was easily replaced by machine.  Fine hand blown, colored and etched glassware became too expensive to make forcing many U.S. manufacturers to close their businesses.  After WWII, of the glass manufacturers that had survived, they now produced “blank” glassware.  At this time, Americans wanted to celebrate and entertain at home.  So as the times began to change, so did the glassware.  Well trained designers and renowned artists started creating patterns that would be applied by hand to the mass-produced blanks.  Often these glass designs had elements of 22k gold and sterling.  The procedure for applying these high quality metals was, again, painstakingly done by hand by skilled craftsmen who worked at the glass companies.  Often, several layers of the precious metals were added to create a raised effect.  By the 1970s, times began to change again.  U.S. glass companies were now faced with overseas competition that were producing and importing glass products at a much cheaper price point.  The result of this importing foreign-made glassware was the closure of most of the remaining U.S. glassware manufacturers and a loss of the skilled workers who applied the beautiful designs.  Today, what was once well over a hundred glassware manufacturers in the U.S. is now less than a handful.

With this knowledge in mind, I return to the two questions posed above.  With respect to the first question, as I said, vintage glassware can be found anywhere.  While U.S. produced glassware was plentiful during the first half of the 20th Century, most of it was originally intended for everyday use and is not what cocktail enthusiasts seek in today’s market.  What has become more difficult to find is beautiful cocktail-worthy items that can be up to 100 years old (or more) in mint or near mint condition.  Finding complete vintage sets is even harder to find.  In addition, there is very little information about most of these U.S. companies and designers and often what is found is misleading, misinformed or even completely incorrect.  In part, I started The Hour to honor these companies and designers and share my knowledge of their products with those interested.

With the onset of the 21st Century, there has been a resurgence in the interest of cocktails, and glassware styles of the past have once again come into fashion.  Unfortunately, many of the shapes and styles of vintage glassware will never be produced again.  The steel molds for most of the glassware made during and following the Machine Age were destroyed as glassware companies sold what they could to try to stay in business.  By the 1970s, most of, if not all of, the glass molds were melted to repurpose the steel.  In addition, the quality of the metals used on the decorated pieces of vintage glassware was simply better and much more affordable to use than it is today.

This leads us back to our second question above.  When pricing vintage barware and glassware, we take into account many factors, including: detail of etching, color of glassware, amount and quality of precious metals, rarity of cocktail item, desirability of item, completeness of set, designer, manufacturer, style, shape of item, and, most importantly, condition.  Simply put, there is a truly limited supply of excellent vintage cocktail glassware and barware products available today that was originally made in America.  We know what we sell and we try our very best in offering it to you.

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