Dear Helaine and Joe: Enclosed is a picture of a pitcher I inherited from my grandmother. It was given to her as a Christmas present by my father in 1906. There are no markings. I would appreciate knowing the type of glass, the maker, the pattern name and the approximate value. — D.C., Lakewood, Colo.
Dear D.C.: As a general rule, we really dislike looking up carnival glass patterns because it can take hours of staring at pattern books before the design being investigated finally turns up. This time, however, we lucked out.
The name of this pattern is "Apple Tree" (also known as "Banded Crab Apple" and Fenton pattern 1561), and thankfully, it came up very quickly in our alphabetical search. This particular pattern was made by the Fenton Art Glass Co. of Williamstown, W. Va., and before the 1930s this design could only be found on water sets (i.e., pitchers and tumblers) that were made primarily in shades of marigold, cobalt blue or white.
As anyone who has recently watched shop-at-home television knows, the Fenton Art Glass Co. is still very much in business today and was founded by brothers Frank and John Fenton in Martins Ferry, Ohio, in 1905. Initially, the company only decorated glass "blanks" made by other companies, but almost immediately there were plans to open a manufacturing facility in Williamstown.
This new plant did not open until January 1907, and unfortunately this means that D.C.'s grandmother could not have received her "Apple Tree" pitcher in December 1906. In fact, the first mention of Fenton's new carnival glass — which the company reportedly called "Irdill" — appeared in a trade publication in October 1907. It is thought that "Apple Tree" was first made in 1912.
But all this talk about dates is really just an unimportant quibble, and we want to make it perfectly clear that this is an old pitcher that was probably given as a Christmas gift just a few years after the time that is now remembered. This in no way affects the monetary value or the nostalgic importance of this lovely piece as a family heirloom.
The dollar value of carnival glass depends on the rarity of the pattern, the color of the base glass, the form or shape of the item in question and the condition. In this case, the "Apple Tree" vase that was made in the 1930s is the rarest and most valuable form and is valued at around $2,000 in cobalt blue.
The pitcher belonging to D.C. is in the marigold color, which is an attractive orange/gold color that is frequently seen in carnival glass. The insurance replacement value of this piece in this color is between $350 and $400; in white it would have been about $50 more and in cobalt blue about $150 more.
Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson are the authors of Treasures in Your Attic (HarperCollins, $18). Questions can by mailed to them at P.O. Box 12208, Knoxville, TN 37912-0208.