Corning Ware collectibles: Glass expert explains why there may be money in your kitchen cabinets

Baby boomers, did you hang on to those wedding gifts of CorningWare that were so prized by new brides of the 1970s?

If so, you're in luck. They are in hot demand by collectors right now, says Dean Six. And the rarer the floral pattern, the higher the value.

"One piece of CorningWare, in a pattern not widely produced, sold on eBay recently for $7,000," Six says in a telephone interview. "It was a 1970s product that fizzled."

photo Lacy glass is early pressed glass made from 1830 to 1860. It is dubbed "lacy" because the pieces usually display an all-over pattern reminiscent of a doily, such as these pieces from the All Boston and Sandwich Co. that are part of the Houston Museum's collection. The large bowl shows a beehive pattern and the saucer, at left, a heart pattern. The sleigh-shaped salt dish is an extremely rare piece of glass from 1835, according to museum manager Amy Autenreith.

Six is a nationally known glass expert who will be featured during the Houston Museum's 40th annual antiques show and sale, which opens Friday in Stratton Hall. He divides his time between serving as director of the Museum of American Glass in West Virginia for two weeks a month and working for the world's largest supplier of china, crystal and flatware, Replacements LTD in Greensboro, N.C., the other two.

ABOUT DEAN SIX Antiques dealer specializing in glass since opening his first shop in 1971. Owner of several small West Virginia businesses focusing on living history, 1981 to present. Private law practice, 1983-1988. Executive director, Museum of American Glass in West Virginia since 1996. Publications and special projects manager, Replacements LTD, 1998-present. Source: Houston Museum of Decorative Arts

At the Houston event, Six will give two talks on glassware collections - vintage and what's trending - as well as written identifications of glass pieces brought in by visitors. He stressed that he does not give appraisals but makes an effort to give enough information that owners can research value on their own.

"Having someone of his stature in the glass world certainly is a feather in our cap," says Amy Autenreith, Houston manager. "His expertise and his knowledge elevates this show. I've heard Dean speak and he is a lot of fun to listen to."

Collectors searching estate sales, yard sales and eBay for CorningWare is a result of the current Mid-Century Modern trend, says Six. Mid-Century Modern pieces are those made after World War II, "beginning in 1946 to the closing of the Vietnam War."

photo CorningWare from the 1970s decorated in floral patterns is a hot collectible right now, says Dean Six, because baby boomers are searching for pieces they remember from their youth. Patterns that had short runs are the most collectible because they are rare finds. From the top are Cornflower, the first pattern issued and an easy one to find; Wildflower, made from 1977-84; and Floral Bouquet, made 1971-75.

It includes glassware and furnishings found in the 1960s living rooms in which boomers grew up: big picture windows, low Swedish sofas without arms on the ends, the kidney bean-shaped coffee table, oversized ashtrays that were often amoeba shaped, oversized floor vases.

"Collecting is often what you remember, which is why this is big now because baby boomers are buying back what they grew up with. Boomers are decorating with these pieces in their homes," he says.

Six realized the value of collecting glass when he was 9 years old. A co-worker of his dad offered him $15 for a Coca-Cola bottle he had picked up and planned to redeem at the grocery for 3 cents.

"I immediately realized that all bottles were not created equal," he jokes.

RARE CORNINGWARE CorningWare originated in 1958 in Corning, N.Y. The glass cookware was shopped to homemakers as "oven-to-table service" that could even be used directly on the stovetop. The first pattern was cornflower blue - petite blue posies on a solid white background - which was produced for 30 years. "Vintage CorningWare" is considered to be pieces made prior to 1999, when the brand was sold to World Kitchens. Patterns produced in limited runs, and therefore harder to find, draw the highest prices in today's market. A quick check of eBay reveals that most CorningWare pieces are priced between $5 to $60, however a Spice of Life 3/4-quart round casserole with lid is valued at $107. Patterns considered rare include: Black Starburst (percolator only), 1959-1963. Blue Heather, 1976-77. Butterscotch, 1969. Nature's Bounty, 1971, a limited-edition gift line. Platinum Filigree, 1966-68, a limited-edition gift line. Renaissance, 1970, a limited-edition gift line. Medallion, 1972-74, an olive green, stenciled design that was a Shell Oil Co. promotional piece and never sold in stores. Source: CorningWare collector sites

He rejected the co-worker's cash and says he still has that Coke bottle. It launched a collection that now numbers more than 9,000 pieces, including his collection of glass marbles displayed in gallon jugs.

When asked his approach to glass collecting and his advice to novices, he shared three pointers. They may shatter some glass collectors' long-held notions.

1. Collect what appeals to you, not for an investment.

"If I had bought what people told me to invest in 20 years ago, I'd have found they were wrong. To predict a future trend is difficult, because it only takes one Martha Stewart episode where something we would not have thought would be interesting suddenly becomes extremely collectible."

photo This cobalt blue salt dish, circa 1830-1840, is from the Houston Museum's collection of glass and china.

2. Individuals should find the glass that appeals to them first, then choose a book about that glass to teach them more. Traditional handbooks may not cover everyone's field of interest.

"The biggest glass collectibles in the country are the insulators off telephone and telegraph poles. Now they are made of plastic, no longer made of glass. Glass insulators come in an amazing array of colors, and they are everywhere. Every place had telephone, railroad and telegraph lines. Put them outside on a pole in the backyard, which is how collectors display their collections."

3. Know the difference in china and glass. Most people don't understand the difference.

"In this kind of collectible market, there is mud and there is sand. All great things begin with mud or sand.

"Silica sand is melted to 2,400 degrees, turned into a liquid and shaped while hot. That becomes glass. Mud is the basis for all ceramics. Start with slurry, shape it while it's cold and then you heat it up to become a solid. That becomes porcelain and ceramics."

Contact Susan Pierce at or 423-757-6284.