I absolutely love the thrill of finding something of value at the thrift store. It’s an addicting feeling, especially when you know that you might be able to resell a piece for a profit. One area of the thrift store that could have some hidden gems is the glassware aisle. It can be overwhelming to know what types of glassware are valuable, so I put together this quick little guide to help you spot something that might be worth more than what you paid.
How do you know if glassware from the thrift store is valuable? There are a few key factors that it’s important to look for when shopping for valuable glassware at the thrift store. Feel the weight of the item as higher quality glass is usually heavier. Look for markings embossed in the glass which might indicate a brand or manufacturer. Look at the glass through light to check if it’s cloudy or produces a rainbow prism. Lastly, familiarize yourself with some of the more popular types of valuable glassware.
What To Look For When You Are At The Thrift Store
When browsing through the glassware aisle at the thrift store or an estate sale, there are a few key tips to keep in mind if you are trying to spot something that has value.
- Feel the weight of the item
- Look at the quality of the glass
- Look for seams, bubbles and flaws
- Search for markings or numbers
Types of Valuable Glass And How To Identify Them
There are many different types of valuable and antique glassware. I will touch on some of the most popular ones that you may spot at the thrift store. While this might not be a fool-proof guide, hopefully it will give you a little bit of knowledge as to what to look for as you head into your next thrifting trip.
Crystal is one of the more common forms of glassware that has potential to be valuable because it is made up of lead oxide and is more labor intensive to make than regular glass. It is helpful to know a few facts about crystal so that you can quickly identify it while you are at the thrift store.
how to tell crystal from regular glass:
Look for a rainbow prism
When light is passed through a fine piece of crystal, it should form a rainbow prism. Hold the piece of glassware up to the light to look for these rainbows.
Do the tap test
Tap the piece of glassware. If it produces a reverberated ringing sound, then chances are it is crystal. In contrast, if you hear a dull sound then it may be regular glass.
Compare it’s weight
Crystal has a higher lead content than conventional glass, so it tends to be heavier. Try comparing the piece of suspected crystal to a similar sized piece of glass to determine if it is heavier.
Crystal is thinner than glass
Another factor to consider when trying to determine if the glassware in question is crystal is to observe how thin it is. Crystal glass can be worked to be thinner in the production process, but is still sturdy due to the lead content. Regular glass tends to be thicker around the rim.
How clear is it?
Typically, crystal will be extremely clear. Because of the lead content, there should not be any bubbles or cloudiness.
Depression glass is clear glassware that oftentimes has a color or hue to it. It gets it’s name because it was inexpensive glass that was popular during the great depression. Even though it isn’t the highest quality glass, it can be valuable because it has become a popular collector’s item. Here are a few ways to identify depression glass at the thrift store.
Look for pink, blue and green glassware
Pink, green and blue are the most valuable colors of depression glass. Pink tends to be the most valuable because it is more rare. Yellow and amber colored depression glass is more common and therefore less valuable.
Look for small bubbles or seams
True depression glass oftentimes will have tiny bubbles throughout the glass. You might also find seams in the glass since it was mass produced. Replicas usually will not have these bubbles.
How thin is it?
Depression glass is fairly thin because it is lower quality than other kinds of glass.
Many types of depression glass will have intricate patterns pressed into the surface of the glass.
Milk glass is one of my favorite types of glass to find at the thrift store. It is pretty easy to find milk glass at the thrift store because of it’s popularity. However, not all milk glass is not as valuable as others.
Milk glass refers to white glassware and sometimes it can be transluscent. You can typically find pieces such as vases, candleholders, drinkware, serving bowls and plates.
How transluscent is it?
Newer milk glass is almost opaque and will be more bright white. This type of milk glass was made after 1960. It is not as valuable as older milk glass, but it is still a collector’s item and can hold some value.
Older milk glass is more transluscent and even can produce a rainbow prism if held up to the light. This type of milk glass can hold more value.
Look for larger milk glass pieces
Larger pieces like serving dishes, footed bowls and large vases are more valuable than smaller pieces. Once you start looking for milk glass at the thrift store, you will become familiar with the pieces that are most common.
Jadeite glassware is similar to milk glass but it has a mint green hue. Jadeite is a popular collector’s item, so it could be valuable if you happen to find some when you are thrifting!
Check the density
Read jadeite is heavy and dense. A reproduction might be lighter weight or even made from plastic
Check for markings
Jadeite was most commonly made from 2 different companies: “McKee” or “Fire-King”. Look for embossed markings that say “Fire-King” or “McK” to see if it’s the real thing. Not all real pieces will have these markings.
It might glow in the dark!
Yes, you read that correctly! Some older pieces of Jadeite actually glow in the dark when placed under a black light. Obviously you can’t test this in the thrift store unless you are really hardcore and bring a black light in with you!
Vintage glass bottles have the potential to hold value, but there are a few things that you should keep an eye out for when you spot a glass bottle on the shelf at the thrift store.
Pontil marks are small circular marks or scars oftentimes at the bottom of a glass bottle. These marks are an indication that the bottle was hand blown. If the pieces does not have a pontil mark, it was most likely made with a mold.
How sharp are the images?
Earlier pieces will have sharper mold lines, images and designs. If the designs are more smooth and rounded then it may be a newer piece or a reproduction.
Look for numbers or labels embossed in the bottle
Oftentimes vintage glass bottles will have numbers, labels or words embossed into the side or bottom.
Look at the seams
If the glass bottle has seams on the sides that stretch all the way up the length of the bottle, then that is a good indication that it was mass produced with a mold and was made after 1900.
Where To Find Valuable Glassware
Most thrift stores will have a section dedicated to glassware. This is the best spot to head to when you are on the hunt for something valuable. That being said, it’s always good to browse the all of the home decor sections at the thrift store. Oftentimes milk glass can be found along with vases and candleholders. Sometimes glassware is placed with the decorative figurines or even in the seasonal section.
You can also hunt for glassware at Estate sales and antique stores. However, most of these stores have been appropriately priced by someone knowledgeable about vintage items, so you will be paying a premium price.
Good luck on your thrifting journey! For more tips on thrifting, check out this post: