Michigan Depression Glass Show attracts enthusiasts

Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News

The first weekend in November marks the annual Michigan Depression Glass Society show and sale, considered one of the best shows of its type in the nation. Held at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center in Dearborn, it attracts vendors and enthusiasts from across the country and includes a variety of displays designed to inform and excite both novice and experienced collectors — including this year’s 20-foot-long “glass garden” packed not only with vintage floral-themed glassware but also glass animals, including squirrels, rabbits and frogs.

“Antique Trader Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide” defines Depression glass as “colorful glassware collectors generally associated with mass-produced glassware found in pink, yellow, crystal or green in the years surrounding the Great Depression.” Pieces, it explained, were often given away in boxes of soap or at “dish nights” at movie theaters, bright spots during a dark time. Patterns ranged from art deco-inspired to geometrics and florals. We recently caught up with the group’s president, Jonathan Fuhrman, to tell us more about Depression glass and why it has captured his imagination.

What do you collect and why?

Depression glass — vintage American-made glassware from the 1920s-1940s. I inherited my grandmother’s collection of pink dishes in the Cherry Blossom pattern. I remembered her serving lunch off these when I was a kid.

How long have you been collecting this?

Since 1999 when I attended my first Depression glass show.

Where do you shop?

Antique shops, thrift stores, consignment shops, flea markets, estate sales and of course my favorite place is a glass show!

What’s the best deal you’ve found? What’s the most you’ve spent?

I found a pitcher at a garage sale in Dearborn for $5. Since it wasn’t a pattern I collected, I resold it for $250 and used the profits to buy something in one of my patterns. My biggest splurge was buying a hard-to-find vase in the Candlelight pattern by the Cambridge Glass Company. I spent around $350 to get it.

What’s your “Holy Grail” piece? Why?

Dinner plates in the Candlelight pattern by Cambridge. I only have two so far, but I have a service for 12 in this pattern, so I need 10 more. During this era, crystal was fashionable to use for a luncheon, but china was considered more proper for dinner service, though it was of course accented with crystal stemware. Because of this, dinner plates in “elegant” glassware patterns can be challenging to find. You’ll probably see 500 lunch plates to every dinner plate out there.

Is there a local collectors club for this?

Yes! I’m a member of the Michigan Depression Glass Society, which meets monthly in Livonia. The club has over 200 members. Meetings consist of a buy/sell time, table setting presentation, and educational themed program. The club also hosts one of the country’s largest glass shows with 24 dealers from across the country the first full weekend of November each year in Dearborn. You can visit MichiganDepressionGlass.com for more information.

One thing you wish people knew about collecting this?

There is something for every budget and every style. You can buy an elaborate candelabra for a stately dinner table at the holidays, or just some colorful but inexpensive plates and bowls to dress up carryout Chinese food when you have some friends over on Friday night.

Attention collectors

Interested in having your collection featured in an upcoming column? Trash or Treasure is seeking local antiques enthusiasts to be featured with their treasures in occasional upcoming columns. Please send an email to trashortreasure @aol.com with what you collect and why along with a photo of you with a few favorite items from your collection. If you are chosen for the column, we will be in touch with additional questions.