Back in the 1930s, in fact into the 1970s, it was common for stores to offer Green Stamps. The idea was you got stamps for free with each purchase, and with enough stamps you could purchase all sorts of stuff. I remember my Mom setting up a card table to paste her stamps into books so she could get my Dad a birthday present. (We had five kids so Mom got a lot of S&H Green Stamps!)
Maybe you have shopped at a grocery store that was running a promotion for dinnerware or pots and pans, towels, sets of stuff. Kroger sometimes runs dinnerware promotions. The place settings are inexpensive, one per week, and you can buy extra pieces too.
Depression glass was just like that. Grocery stores, movie theaters, gas stations all gave the stuff away as promotions. Money was tight and promotions were a way for thrifty families to get their dishes. Stores loved the idea because the glass didn’t cost them much and drew customers back to complete their sets.
If you like depression glass then you have to overlook the small flaws that result from mass production in the 1930s. Depression glass had to be inexpensive to work as a premium, which meant there was little quality control and zero hand work. Glass was mass produced and shipped in mass.
As a result the glass we love today is full of small flaws. The Doric and Pansy ultramarine bowl here has little waves on the edge, nothing terribly noticeable but it’s an imperfection.
Other patterns have more noticeable flaws, rough extra glass on the seams, lots of bubbles, mold marks, straw marks. Straw marks are small lines, grooves or wrinkles in the glass. Most of the small imperfections don’t bother me; I think of them as part of the charm, something that adds character. If the little flaws bother you then you might consider choosing patterns or pieces that are less prone to flaws.
Indiana Glass made some lovely patterns that tend to have rough seams. Lorain is one of the prettiest but the rims on plates will feel a little rough.
Some of my favorite patterns, Cameo and Georgian, Mayfair, Florentine, American Sweetheart, Block Optic, seem to be relatively free of problems. These are still depression glass and you’ll find straw marks, bubbles, the occasional rough seam, but by and large the quality seems a notch better. Maybe the only reason they seem better is because I like them so!
If you prefer finely made glass that was partially hand made then consider the elegant glass patterns from Fostoria, Heisey, Cambridge, others. These companies sold “good glass”, the sort that people would buy from expensive department or jewelry stores. The glass was inspected for flaws and most of the time problem pieces were rejected. The companies prided themselves on their workmanship and didn’t tolerate defects.
If you are like me, then enjoy depression glass for what it is, a peek into a bygone era with its own charm and beauty. Remember, those small flaws are marks of character.