In our work as move managers, we see some vintage items that are extra cool because they have a quality and charm that has stood the test of time. To honor those vintage standouts, we introduce our Hall of Fame.
The Fostoria Glass Company was founded in West Virginia in the late 1800s. Producers of elegant glass, they made both pressed and blown glassware until the company shuttered it's doors in 1983.
Although the company produced lots of patterns, many of which are still collected because of the fine quality, the star of the Fostoria show is the American pattern. It holds the title "glassware pattern in longest continuous production" (1915 to 1983). With a pedigree like that, it has earned it's place as the first entry into our entirely subjective Hall of Fame.
Fostoria was one of the first glass companies that figured out they could sell more pieces if they made more forms and if they advertised those pieces in the ladies magazines of the day. They were the first to produce entire dinnerware sets with massive numbers of accompanying table and decor completers. American was certainly the Fostoria's anchor in that department.
Why has Fostoria American has remained popular all these years?
- It's durable and beautiful and sparkly and fun.
- It mixes and matches with every occasion, from backyard shindig to holiday buffet.
- It comes in every form you can imagine and a few that never even occurred to you as being something you might need (oyster cocktail, ketchup bottle, tobacco humidor, molasses can, sweet pea vase).
- It was made in at least 16 colors including the first and the best, the crystal.
- It was made for more than the dining table. There are pieces for the living room, bath, desk and vanity as well.
- Because of the quantity produced, collecting American is the good kind of vintage sporting challenge where you will definitely score with a fair degree of reliability. (The high point of its collectibility was probably the 1950s, so as the baby boomers are downsizing, more and more American is becoming available.)
Prices for Fostoria American are determined by the same thing as all vintage items, desirability + condition + availability. Using Ebay as a barometer, there are 5800+ active listings for American. The most expensive pieces are things like the crushed fruit jar with cover, hairpin box and sugar cube jar with tongs; quirky pieces that were not made in vast quantities. The least expensive are single pieces like glasses, cream pitchers, open sugar bowls and for some reason footed sherbets (which are really cool and are hardly ever used for sherbet!).
Anything as popular as American would certainly have its share of copycats, the most notable being Jeanette Glass Cube and Indiana Glass Whitehall. Antiques or Not has a blog post with tips for identifying the true American from the fictional ones.
The simplest but not particularly scientific way to identify American is to hold it up to the light. It has a distinctly crisp bluish clear tint. Cube and Whitehall tend to be a little on the yellow tint side.
Using Fostoria American
Fostoria American is a nice durable glassware that blends well with everything from your Ikea plates to vintage mix and match shabby china. Because it is made in so many shapes, you can make family meals more fun by serving carrot sticks in a sherbet cup and kelp smoothies in a sparkly crystal iced tea glass.
Care is easy, it can go in the dishwasher. Like all glassware, we suggest hand washing so the glass doesn't etch, but we're kind of snobby that way!
Vintage catalog image of Fostoria American pieces (via Pinterest user Paul Sand)