How to Collect Carnival Glass

Carnival glass is glass that has been pressed and given an iridized surface treatment that makes it sparkle with a luster similar to the rainbows produced by oil in a puddle. It is starting to become very collectible again after its initial popularity at the beginning of the twentieth century. The processes used to produce it are harmful to human health and can no longer be replicated in the way they were once done, so the pieces that remain are thus going to increase in value. If you'd like to start what will be an increasingly valuable collection over time, here is how to begin.


  1. Image titled Carnival Glass Indian Head Toothpick Holder
    Learn how to check the colour. The colour is an important part of carnival glass and affects the appearance of your collection as a whole. Start by looking through the base of the glass to identify the colour accurately. Ensure that the lighting is strong so that you get a real view of the colour. Common colours are marigold, amethyst, green, and blue. Less common colours include peach opalescent and aqua opalescent. There are also many other possible colours including lavender, smoke, ice blue, ice green, lime, black amethyst, amber, moonstone, green and yellow (Vaseline), and many variations on shades and colours.
    • Do you want to collect any colour or would you rather concentrate on a few colour types? Perhaps rare colours are your preference, or a colour that fits in with your home décor theme.
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    Decide what sorts of shapes you'll collect. There is a huge variety of shapes to choose from. When collecting, you might like to confine your collection to certain styles, or to figurines, crockery, etc. Here are some of the possible shapes:
    • Bowls, plates, tumblers, pitchers, and vases
    • Beads, hat pins, brooches, buttons, purses, jewelry, and beaded dresses
    • Lamps
    • Swan salts, money boxes, powder bowls, soda or whisky bottles, toothpick holders, cuspidors (spittoon, snuff, tobacco), perfume atomizers, etc.
    • Special event/commemorative items
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    Choose the patterns you'd like to collect. Patterns can form an important part of your collection too. With over 500 distinct patterns on carnival glass, there is a lot to choose from. Patterns include geometric shapes, flora, and fauna.
    • Flower patterns often focused on pansies, roses, iris, tulips, thistles, waratahs, and poppies
    • Fruit shapes included apples, pears, peaches, berries, cherries, and strawberries
    • Animal shapes included lions, horses, fish, bears, kangaroos and other Australian native animals.
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    Consider whether you'll add modern carnival glass to your collection. Modern glass cannot replicate the iridescence of the old carnival glass. This is due to the reality that the chemicals used are now considered health dangers. Modern day carnival glass can be discerned from the older glass by an experienced collector and still has its place in a collection if wished. The only downside to this is that there isn't very much of modern carnival glass to collect.
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    Look for your carnival glass pieces. There is a range of places where you can shop for antique carnival glass:
    • Look at online auction sites. They will have many choices available. Be sure to check shipping costs and liability for breakage in transit.
    • Visit antique stores. Find out which ones specialise in carnival glass by looking online, phoning, or asking when you visit antique stores.
    • Attend live auctions where quality vintage goods are sold. There will often be carnival glass pieces; call the auction house ahead to find out what it has on offer, or to find out when they think they'll have carnival glass to auction.
    • Ask around family and friends. You never know what they've got stored in their attics. And once they start seeing your collection, undoubtedly they'll remember whether they have a piece or two to spare you.
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    Decide where to display your carnival glass collection. Obviously glass is fragile, so you'll need to set aside a suitable place to display it that is safe and unlikely to be in the way. A cabinet with glass doors is an ideal display piece, or perhaps along shelving of a bookcase or attached to a wall. If you live in an area prone to earthquakes, attach the pieces to the shelving using art or poster tack.
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    Join carnival glass clubs. Meet other collectors and share stories, tips, and ideas with one another. You will also have the opportunity to make trades and to learn a lot about your collection.
    • Find out whether there are ways to display some of your favourite pieces from your collection so that you can share the joy of collecting with others.


  • Carnival glass was first made in 1907 in America. It was also the last type of glass to be mass produced by hand. It became a collectible straight away, with its popularity remaining until around 1918 in the USA. However, it became popular in Europe, South America, and countries like Australia and Canada during the 1920s. A renewed interest in the 1950s saw the glass manufactured again for a short time.
  • While the United States started the manufacturing, carnival glass was made far and wide, including in Australia, Czechoslovakia, Mexico, India, Argentina, Germany, Sweden, Finland, and England.

Things You'll Need

  • Display space
  • Internet access for online auctions

Sources and Citations

  • Dick Jamieson, Poor Man's Tiffany, pp.34-36, Carter's Antiques and Collectables, (2000) – research source

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Categories: Art & Antiques