Glassware puts glimmer in Schmidt's eye

Staff writer

Donovan Schmidt can talk for hours about Depression era glassware. It is something that caught his interest 25 years ago and continues to inspire his collecting spirit, so much so that he just completed a 1,800-square-foot shed on his rural Goessel yard, part of which will house his new glassware sale cases.

“The new building will also house my old tractors and my ’57 Ford,” he said. “But the main reason we built it is so I can showcase my glassware and a few other antiques for sale.”

Schmidt said he enjoys the buying and selling process with his glassware collection hobby.

“We go to glassware association shows and sales all over the United States,” he said. “I have over 760 sets of Depression-era creamer and sugar sets but I am still searching for all 158 patterns.”

Schmidt shared his glassware knowledge with Lifelong Learning participants this spring in Hillsboro. He also speaks at various conventions and trade shows, including a meeting this Thursday of the Wichita Glass Grazers.

“I’m going to be talking about the Federal Glass Company,” he said. “They were one of several glassware companies that went from handmade products to mass production in the 1930s and turned out 10,000 to 15,000 pieces of glass in a 24-hour period.”

Schmidt is not sure exactly how many Depression-era glass pieces make up his collection, but with 28 companies and 158 different patterns made, he is always on the lookout for more.

A special set of three-tiered glass shelves take center stage in his basement where creamer and sugar bowls in every imaginable shade glimmer in special lighting.

“I can tell without even picking them up if they are original pieces or not,” Schmidt said. “There are a lot of reproductions showing up on the marketplace, and you have to be careful not to get misled.”

Schmidt said the Depression-era glassware he collects was made between 1929 and 1940.

“The economy went bad and people couldn’t afford the fancy glass anymore,” he said. “The factories had to come up with something else or go broke.”

Schmidt said innovative factories developed a mold process by which they heated the glass up to very high temperatures and poured it in molds.

The result was thousands of affordable plates, cups, pitchers, saucers, and creamer and sugar sets.

“Back in those days, you could literally get six glass pitchers in a box for something like $1.75 each; and that is on the high side,” he said. “My mother had a whole set of pink glassware, and that might be what got me started to begin with.”

Schmidt said he was told at two years old he pulled a tablecloth off a table that held his mother’s pink glassware. Much of it broke. But she put the remaining pieces in storage for safekeeping.

“I became interested in refinishing furniture somewhere along the way,” Schmidt said. “When I finished a nice cabinet, I wondered what to put in it, and I remembered my mother’s pink American Sweetheart glass collection.”

Schmidt located the remaining pieces of the collection, and over the next 25 years searched for, purchased, and traded for the remaining pieces.

“I now have the complete set,” he said. “The small pitcher was the hardest to come by. I found one at a trade show last year but the seller wanted $1,200 for it.”

Schmidt was able to negotiate a trade for the pitcher to complete the set.

“I really enjoy the negotiating part of it,” he said. “I love to talk with people about the pieces and share my knowledge.”

Schmidt said he was not sure when he would get his new antique store I in his shed open, but he was willing to talk shop with anyone.

“I specialized in the creamer and sugar sets because there was no way I could collect everything,” he said. “But I find the entire industry just fascinating.”

Schmidt and his wife, Delores, are members of the Wichita Glass Grazers and the National Depression Glass Association. They plan to attend the national glass convention in July in Wellington.

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