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Tips for the Beginning Milk Glass Collector

What we hope to provide is practical guidance to help the beginner avoid making costly blunders, as well as tips on what to collect, where to find it, and whom to trust. Other suggestions will relate to matters such as how to store, display, maintain, record, and otherwise look after your pieces as you embark on building your collection.

At This Site

This site includes useful information in the following sections:

You may also try Searching our site.

But the best way to learn about Milk Glass is to become a member.  Benefits include a subscription to the Opaque News newsletter, and includes admission to our conventions where you can learn through lectures and presentations, displays of unique pieces of glass, the auction of hundreds of pieces of milk glass, tables of milk glass for sale, and most of all, through meeting and interacting with other members.


Some Tips

Here are a few Tips volunteered by some of our members who are long-time collectors.

  • At least once a year, check the value of your collection and be sure your insurance coverage is adequate.
  • Come to the annual conventions if you possibly can. Meet and talk to other members, because collectively, there is a vast body of knowledge in the Society and you should take advantage of it.
  • Any pieces which you now have or may buy that still retain some of their old paint - even if it is only a trace - should be left as is. Paint not only helps to date the item, but often adds a dimensional beauty.
  • It is wise to carry a few telephone numbers of persons whose knowledge and opinion you respect and trust. You never know when you may see something you have questions about before deciding to make a purchase.
  • Buy the best you can afford. It is better to buy one good piece than three mediocre ones.
  • Use price guides only as that - a guide. Your geographical area, your own personal collecting interests, and of course your wallet are really the major factors that determine whether "the price is right" for you.

Gems

  • From time to time, we assemble some gems of wisdom from the long-time milk glass collectors to pass along to those who are beginners. Here are a few more which may be helpful to you if you are just starting out.
  • "Don't place too much reliance on price guides, as for many reasons they can be misleading. Go, instead, for books that will inform you of objects, categories, makers, history. You will educate yourself so that you will become your own best guide as to the rarity and value of pieces." Betty Giddens
  • "When possible, attend the NMGCS annual convention. Mingle with other collectors, make friends, ask questions, compare experiences, look at pictures of pieces in other collections. Pick their brains! There is a wealth of knowledge there for you to take advantage of!" Helen & George Storey
  • "You can sometimes acquire a great piece of milk glass in a round about way. See if there is a local historical society or an antique study group in your area, and join it. Granted it may not be focused on milk glass, but you will find that most collectors will keep in mind what others collect and will let you know when they see some milk glass you might like to buy. The part of this, of course, is that they themselves will not be competing with you for the same piece." Faye Crider
  • "Beginners are often cautioned to beware of 'marriages,' where a cover made by one manufacturer and a base by another are joined in a union that was never meant to be. One should be aware, however, of the difference between such 'marriages of convenience' made accidentally (or intentionally) through the years as opposed to factory originated correct combinations which might seem 'wrong' only because they are rare variants." Mary Ferson
  • "As Is". Now there are two words that will always stir up a debate among collectors and dealers. Many collectors will only have pieces that are in pristine condition. Others will seek out "as is" pieces because they are generally available at greatly reduced prices. And then there is that group in between who will buy an "as is" piece, but only one that is very hard to find or scarce. The debate among collectors usually boils down to two points. If you strive only for the finest quality pieces, you might face a slower expansion of your collection. Or, if you make select purchases of "as is" pieces you will expand your collection with a chance to possibly upgrade at a later date. As with most issues, it comes down to personal choice." John & Kathy Vosevich

Old Paint

One long time collector who disagrees with some of the advice we gave about whether one should retain or remove remnants of old paint on our milk glass pieces. Mary DeKalb, of Joplin Missouri, writes as follows:

"After reading the March issue of Opaque News, I decided to send in my thoughts on Milk Glass collecting. As a collector for more than 15 years and a charter member of the NMGCS, milk glass is still intriguing to me. As to why I collect, I enjoy the unique look of the patterns, shapes, and variety of pieces available, of which I have several hundred in white only.

"One suggestion that I differ with is in the "Tips" for beginners which states the old paint should be left as is. I have twenty-seven small plates mounted along the upper edge near the ceiling of my kitchen. I thought traces of old paint detracted from the beauty of these plates. Since I collect basically for enjoyment, I found I liked the plates better after the old bits of paint had been removed. The clean look seemed to enhance the pattern and the raised designs became more distinct. As for the presence of paint to indicate their age, I know they are old with or without paint. Pleasing one's self is one reason for collecting."

Whether to remove or not remove the painted decorations may continue to be debated by our members, but I think we can all agree wholeheartedly with Mrs. DeKalb's last sentence - just suit yourself.


Glass Terminology and Pronunciation

This may sound like trifling matters, perhaps, but sometimes puzzling for some beginners.

  • Which is the correct spelling "mould" or "mold"?
    Both spellings are accepted. In general, American usage omits the "u" in this word, but there is little consistency. British usage always favors - indeed, favours - preserving the "u" in words of a similar kind, such as colour, humour, and sad to say, even dolour."
  • "the glass is fire polished"
    This expression refers to an added step in the production of better quality pieces. It relates to the practice of reheating the object after pressing, a process that removes or smoothes the mould marks as well as giving glass its gloss.
  • "pouring metal into the mould"
    Encountering this phrase for the first time in reading a description of how pressed glass is made, one might wonder how "metal" poured into a metal mould emerges as glass! The term "metal" in this context simply means "molten glass."

Speaking of which, the proper amount of molten glass taken from the furnace, rolled on a rod, and poured into the mould, either to be blown or pressed, is called a "parison."  Now, I'd be the first to admit this is a perfectly useless bit of trivia, but what the hey.... you never know when you might be asked the question and Presto! you move instantly from beginner to expert!


How do you pronounce ----- ?

Pronunciation is a very contentious matter because it varies from country to country, state to state, and even from person to person. Therefore, what is a "correct" pronunciation is simply what is the most commonly heard one. Regarding milk glass terminology and well-known names, the following may be of particular concern or interest to beginners:

BELKNAP - Pronounce it BELL-nap. The "k" is silent, ignore it. The problem here is our general tendency to pay attention to spelling which is not always a guide to pronunciation. For example, although the "t" in "often" is silent, some people insist on saying OFT-en. Curiously, those same people don't mind overlooking the "t" in "soften."

MILLARD - here, there seem to be two pronunciations heard about equally. The most common is Mil-ARD, but MELL-erd is also heard. I think it's a toss up between the two.

PORTIEUX - We Americans have trouble pronouncing some French words that contain sounds that are simply not part of our native speech patterns, especially certain vowels. At best, we can only approximate them. Portieux is stressed on the last syllable - Por-TIEUX. To pronounce it, insert a slight "y" glide after the "t," ignore the "x," and complete the last vowel sound ("eu") by rounding the lips for "o" and pronounce "a." It isn't easy, and we generally settle for a rough approximation.

VALLERYSTHAL - In the French catalogs, we see the name printed with an accent mark above the second syllable [VALLERYSTHAL] indicating a very slight secondary stress, but the main accent falls on the last syllable. American speakers tend to accent the first syllable instead, as they do, for example, with the girl's name MAA-ree which the French pronounce MA-REE. So the French pronunciation is not VAL-er-ee-stall, as is commonly heard in this country, but Val-EH-ree-STAHL, with the first three syllables running rapidly off your tongue. By the same token, the French do their share of mutilating English names too. I once attended a lecture by a French professor discussing the novels of Charles Dickens, and I cringed every time she pronounced his name Sharl De-KANS.