I get many questions about pricing glass, usually someone with a set that they wish to sell. Patterns with established coterie of collectors tend to have more usable pricing information but uncommon pieces may have no pricing information available. Here are tips to help you think through your pricing approach.
Who Is The Buyer
If you are selling a set – maybe a few place settings and serving pieces in one pattern – ask yourself who would buy this. People who are beginning to enjoy glass may want to pick up several pieces at a time. Those who have been collecting a pattern for a while probably do not need multiple pieces, especially not the more common pieces. You may not know up front which pieces are “common” in a pattern, but as a general rule cups, saucers, plates, creamers and sugars tend to be among the easiest to find.
The other people who will buy a full set will be dealers. Dealers will take full sets but at lower prices to compensate for the time they will hold the glass in inventory.
Why Are They Buying This Glass?
People who buy one or two pieces usually have pieces in the pattern and want to add missing ones, or they are buying a piece or two for gifts or display. Some buyers collect pink glass or cups and saucers or creamers and sugars and look for pretty colors and patterns. These buyers are less predictable but usually appreciate buying individual pieces vs. as a set.
One lady who asked for pricing advice had Fostoria Holly gift ware (not the cut Holly pattern) in dark green glass, a very uncommon color. My thought was that since very few people would have a partial set, that her target buyer would be someone decorating for Christmas who wants quality green glass, not anyone who is trying to fill in a missing piece.
You’ll notice that contemporary crystal is cut or decorated, not etched. People buy older stemware because it is beautiful and different from what they can buy new today. They may get it for themselves or wedding gifts. I find stemware sells both as sets and individually. A family who has Rose Point goblets may want to add the footed iced tea tumblers and buy four at a time, or they may only need a piece or two to have enough to use for dinner.
Stemware that has undistinguished designs, as with many of the simple floral cuts, does not sell well and you probably will not be able to identify what it is. Offer unknown, pedestrian glass as a set, or consider donating it. The stem shown below is a good example of not-very-valuable glass.
Useful Reference Books
It’s wise to borrow a glass book from the library or buy online to identify your pattern and research whether any pieces you have are particularly valuable. I recommend Collector’s Encyclopedia of Depression Glass which you can usually find on Amazon for about $10. Another good book is Elegant Glass: Early, Depression, & Beyond by Randy and Debbie Coe.