Ask About Antiques/Fostoria - Dazzling Glassware For The Home And Collector
by Budd A. Moore, Ed.D.
As a youngster, I remember having cake for a birthday or another celebration and my mother bringing down the large square glass cake stand that was perched high in the cupboard to set a special cake upon. That cake stand fascinated me with its many-faceted pattern and its brilliant heavy clear glass. It was a Fostoria cake stand. As the years went by, and I became increasingly involved in antiques, I re-discovered Fostoria as a category of glassware that people could still easily collect and that was reasonably priced. It was also suitably elegant for the table and special occasions.
The history of this fine glass is as interesting to me as the glassware itself. The company was started in 1887 in Fostoria, Ohio and moved to Moundsville, West Virginia in 1892. It remained there in full production until the factory finally closed its doors in 1986. Although the company produced glassware of many patterns and designs, the most famous of these products was Fostoria American pattern, or American 2056. The company introduced the pattern in 1915 and described it as the most brilliant glassware ever. It became very popular throughout the country and was given as gifts at weddings, anniversaries, etc.
In 1950, the company had its best year to date. It produced over eight million pieces of the glassware for the table and for decoration. The Fostoria became the “good dishes” in many family homes and was both beautiful and very durable. It would last as an heirloom to be passed down to future generations.
The history of this elegant glassware is written in the pages of its catalogs and sales literature and is easily traced. Pieces were made almost continually throughout the history of the company. When production ceased in 1986, Lancaster Colony acquired the molds and began producing glassware employing the same patterns and production molds. Consequently, knowing the recent history of the glassware is crucial for the collector. Glassware of the latter production was of inferior quality and less brilliant to the eye. Lancaster Colony called their production ware American Whitehall. This was made by the Indiana Glass Company [a Lancaster Colony affiliate]. In addition, Jeanette Glass Company (1929-1933) produced the cubist pattern that was an American look-alike.
When collecting this elegant glassware, the buyer really has to beware and also be knowledgeable of the pieces that he or she is purchasing. Some pieces that are being produced were never made by the Fostoria Company and are therefore not welcome additions to a collection. A good place to start is to invest in a guide to Fostoria Glassware. Sidney Seligson (2001) wrote what I believe is a great guide to getting started in the category, Fostoria American: A Complete Guide. If the piece you are considering is not in this book, you might as well pass it by.
Fostoria was made in crystal clear glassware and also in colors. As a rule of thumb, the colored pieces are more expensive and more highly prized. Colored glass triples the price in most cases.
Overall, if you are beginning to dip your foot tenuously in the icy waters of the antique and collectable waterways, Fostoria is a very good place for a young couple to start. These gorgeous items are very pleasing to have in anyone’s home to use on the table for special occasions or just to have in a collection. Hardly an antique mall or flea market does not have some Fostoria American pattern pieces for sale. Happy hunting and happy collecting. The Fostoria collector is truly keeping the great tradition alive in the dining rooms of this era and making this brilliant glassware a very prized possession to have and to pass on to children.
Auction Action: [Recently sold at Matt Hurley’s Legacy Auction Center, 2800 Buchanan Trail East, Greencastle, Pa. 17225]
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Moore, Ed.D., is a specialist in the valuation of antique and collectable objects of the last 100 years. He is an educator, counselor, and avid antique enthusiast as well as a candidate member of the American Society of Appraisers. He has been a collector of antique American Art Pottery and has been a dealer for over 20 years. He is familiar with nearly all lines of American Art Pottery, twentieth century glassware, Art Deco, and Art Nouveau categories. If you have a question about antiques or collectibles, you can e-mail him at BUDD3420@comcast.net. An answer to your question may appear in a subsequent column.