Depending on the rarity of the pattern, a single piece can be worth thousands of dollars to the countless "glassies" who scour flea markets, antique stores, eBay or trade among themselves to assemble a complete set. The drive usually begins with the dishes Grandma left behind, and then grows as collectors discover affordable, matching pieces.
"It becomes all-consuming. It doesn't stop with one pattern or color," said Barbara Mauzy who, with her husband, Jim, wrote "Mauzy's Depression Glass" and a companion handbook with price guide that collectors carry around during their scavenging missions (Schiffer, http://www.schifferbooks.com).
"We can then relate to them and say, 'Oh my gosh, that was the bowl Grandma always used for corn, or the meat platter on Sunday.' It's more of an emotional thing. It's infectious."
Depression glass -- a term that describes products made in that era by various companies -- is so hot that it has consistently made the top 20 list of collectibles in recent years. Strictly speaking, Depression glass is totally machine-made. The predominant colors are amber, yellow, pink, green, blue and "crystal," i.e. clear.
Depression-era glass, a wider classification, also includes higher-quality hand-finished or acid-etched product that is sometimes called Elegant glass.
With soaring prices, reproductions are now showing up everywhere, prompting certain collectors to inspect samples with a jeweler's loop.
Mauzy admits this is rather perverse for a product that was of a poor quality to begin with. After all, part of the appeal of Depression glass is in the ridges, straw marks, lopsidedness and poor fit that reflects the economically challenging period in the 1920s to 1940s when it was given away in movie theaters, at gas stations, or as a premium in soap or cereal boxes. Patrons who wanted other pieces could buy them for spare change.
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