Dear Helaine and Joe:
Enclosed is a picture of a plate my grandmother gave me. She said every Christmas she and her sisters exchanged gifts, and this was one of them. They couldn't spend more than 25 cents on their gifts. Is there any information you can give me on my dish?
Dear D. L.:
Of course in this day and time, 25 cents will not even purchase a pack of gum, but back in the early 20th century, a quarter had a lot more buying power.
We wish D. L. had seen fit to tell us the size of the piece, but the photo of it standing up in a corner cupboard and not fitting under the first shelf gives us something of an idea about its overall diameter, which is probably in the 10 1/2- to 12-inch range. The piece itself appears to be in good condition. The red and gold paint is in above average condition.
Many people snicker at the name of this glass and call it "goofy glass," but the real name is goofus glass. The derivation of the name is somewhat murky, but it has been suggested that the public felt the glass companies were trying to "goof us" because the paint on these pieces tended to wear off very easily and make the piece rather unsightly.
By definition, this is a mechanically pressed product that is decorated with cold - or unfired on - colors, primarily red and gold. But other colors such as green, bronze, purple, pink and blue can be found on rare occasions. Goofus glass was a product of the early 20th century that was made by a number of glass factories, especially Indiana Glass, the Dugan-Diamond Company and the Northwood Glass Company.
Some people refer to the glass as being the first carnival glass. It predates by a few years the iridescent product, first introduced around 1908 by the Fenton Glass Company, that is now commonly known as carnival glass. And like the iridescent product, goofus glass was often used as prizes at carnivals, fairs and other such venues.
A huge variety of patterns was used in the making of goofus glass. These include jeweled hearts, strawberries, carnations, peaches, thistles, oak leaves and acorns, grapes, pinecones, butterflies, iris, a depiction of the Last Supper, apples, poppies, sailing vessels (galleons) and the Statue of Liberty. The number of shapes available is also extensive, with everything from chop plates to compotes, bonbons, trays and pickle jars being found with some regularity.
Goofus glass was not expensive when it was new. and we are not surprised D. L.'s grandmother could purchase something like this for a quarter (or even a bit less). When it was new, it would have been bright, shiny and quite impressive to a young girl. I have no idea what one of D. L.'s female relatives might have done with it as a young girl, but it would have made something of a Christmastime splash.
As for current value, there are collectors interested in goofus glass, but it does not fetch much money on the current market and D. L. should value piece in the $45 to $60 range. But, of course, the sentimental value is much higher, as it should be.
Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson have written a number of books on antiques. Do you have an item you'd like to know more about? Contact them at Joe Rosson, 2504 Seymour Ave., Knoxville, TN 37917, or email them at email@example.com. If you'd like your question to be considered for their column, please include a high-resolution photo of the subject, which must be in focus, with your inquiry.