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Glass and Jewel:  What Once Was

3/1/2010


Once up on a time, American households regularly set tables and had the family time around meals.  Glass makers and china companies capitalized on this wholesome tradition by flooding the market with the millions of pieces that once graced those everyday tables of yore.  American Fostoria line number 2056 and the Jewel Tea Company both hawked their wares in a contrasting fashion:  Fostoria was sold through fine department stores and Jewel Tea by the traveling salesman.  Sadly, the popularity of collecting line 2056 and Jewel Tea has lessoned like the family dinner around the traditionally set table.


Line 2056 is commonly known as "American Fostoria" that was produced continuously from 1915 until the plant closed in 1986.  The geometric, cube-like all over pattern was unusual, futuristic, and intriguing to the 1915 housewife who desired to show the family and neighbors that she was a "future thinking woman" who was setting a new course. At one time Fostoria was the largest glassware maker in the country that employed over a thousand people who produced more than seven million pieces in over fourteen colors besides the everyday clear.  Since line 2056 was sold in a more upscale environment, it was more commonly used in upper tier society circles.


As appraisers, we see a great deal of the clear American Fostoria with the everyday pieces such as plates, serving dishes, candy and appetizers that all have nominal but no extraordinary value.  Many of these items can be purchased at local malls such as a dinner plate for $14.98 to a water glass for $7.98 each.  However, the early Fostoria pieces and those produced in certain colors such as red, peach, and cobalt blue still command a collector value.  As an example, a cobalt blue footed candy dish can fetch in the right market up to $185.00 or more.  Of course, there were companies that copied the design such as Indiana's Whitehall Company who produced avocado pieces that are mistakenly identified as American Fostoria.  It takes a trained eye to pick the real from the fake.


Likewise, Jewel Tea that featured the "Autumn Leaf" pattern manufactured by the Hall China Company from 1933 until 1976 with the exception of a few pieces that were briefly reintroduced in 1978 and stamped accordingly were also prized tableware at one time. The Autumn Leaf pattern first entered the common man's home by the door to door salesman from the Jewel Tea Company and later as "customer premiums".  The first item was the infamous teapot introduced to educate the American housewife in the proper method of brewing tea and the proper pot in which to brew it.  Other pieces followed as the early interest grew.  Many people mistakenly identify the piece as "Jewel Tea" pattern instead of the correct "Autumn Leaf.  Over 42,000,000 pieces were produced.


Like Fostoria, the commonplace has even less value.  Mixing bowls, serving pieces, coffee cups and saucers are found almost everywhere.  The rarer, pristine pieces are still collected by a shrinking collector market that looks for the unusual.  Again, it takes a trained eye to know the different nuances of the historical changes such as the purported one hundred and sixty different shapes and color combinations of Hall tea pots.


Collecting along with values shift with each generation's interests and demands.  Sadly, as the everyday evening meal with a set table has drifted to passing memories, the clamor to collect those memories in the tangibles of glass and china have also lessoned.  As you search your cabinets, look for the unusual and pristine that the vanishing collector might not have and would like to add to the collection of glass or jewel.






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