Piece is beautiful but not worth more than $350.
Dear Helaine and Joe:
Throughout my life, my mother told me to save, protect and hold close this vase, which has been passed down through the generations of our family. I have enclosed pictures of my vase in hope you can tell me its value and age. Family history suggests that it is between 150 and 200 years old. Any help would be appreciated.
J.T., Naples, Fla.
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Lots of people who write us want their cherished object to be 100 or even 200 years old, but despite what you may have heard or read, that is not as important as some may suppose. What is really important is that a given object is as old as it is supposed to be — and this piece is.
The next thing we want to comment on is that this is not a vase. It is a very beautiful pitcher, and at one time there was probably a set of matching tumblers. They are evidently gone now, but this is not surprising nor does it detract from the value of the pitcher.
Looking at the photographs, it would be understandable to say that this is a ruby glass opalescent pitcher with a hobnail pattern. This is technically correct, but we believe that the manufacturer of this particular piece was Hobbs, Brockunier and Company of Wheeling, W.Va., and they would have a different nomenclature for this piece altogether.
This design was first made at Hobbs, Brockunier in 1886, which means that the piece belonging to J.T. could be no older than about 124 years and it is probably a tad younger than that — say, circa 1890.
The company first called this design “Nodule,” but “Dew Drop” was the name used for the patent that was granted on June 1, 1886. It is thought that pieces with this design were called “Dew Drop”except for the ones with opalescent coloration — like the piece in today’s question — that were dubbed “Pineapple.”
In addition, Hobbs, Brockunier would have called this piece a “jug” and not a pitcher. Their jugs came in six sizes, but we cannot be sure which size the example in today’s question happens to be because no dimensions were given in the letter. We are assuming (and that is always dangerous) that it is one of the larger sizes.
We have used the term “opalescent” without explaining that this refers to the opal white spots at the end of the hobs. It is believed by some that Hobbs called the color combination of ruby glass with opalescent accents “Richelieu,”but this is not at all certain.
It should be noted that this pattern has been reproduced and the Fenton Art Glass Company of Williamstown, W.Va., did some 20th-century remakes that can be very confusing. We feel that J.T.’s piece is definitely not Fenton because of the polished pontil on the bottom, which is not found on Fenton examples.
When the U.S. Glass Company was formed in 1891, Hobbs became “Factory H,”but they did not last long. It was closed by 1894, and in 1895 the works were sold to Harry Northwood.
This is a very beautiful and hard-to-find piece, but its insurance replacement value is modest and in the $250-$350 range.
(Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson are the authors of “Price It Yourself”(HarperResource, $19.95). Contact them at Treasures in Your Attic, PO Box 18350, Knoxville, TN 37928. Email them at email@example.com.)