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Strong Market for American Brilliant Cut Glass at ACGA Convention

Barbara Kevles | July 24th, 2013


This very rare Quaker City three-piece revolving punch bowl in the Roosevelt pattern, 22" tall x 16" diameter, from  ACGA dealer Elias Bustamante of Atwater, California, sold in the first 30 minutes. The bowl stand and cut collar ring, covering a metal turning mechanism, joining the base to the bowl, carried the same pattern as the bowl. Quaker City introduced the intricate Roosevelt pattern to the Louisiana Purchase Exposition at St. Louis, Missouri, in 1904. The pattern is designed with hobstars from which radiate curved miter cuts and fans that give a spinning pinwheel effect and are connected by vesicas containing hob diamond hexads and bowties of cross-hatching. An extraordinary cluster of the very rare hobstar hexads are cut on the pinwheel’s hobnail. Bustamante got it from a private collection ten years ago. Despite a professionally vacuum-glued crack from the center of the base hub to the rim, the punch bowl retailed at $8000 because of the unusual combination of motifs in one pattern. Without the repair, the dealer could have priced it at $50,000. Photo by Martin A. Folb.


In the first hour of the convention, a Texas collector bought this 1908 signed H.P. Sinclaire & Co. heavy four-quart demijohn (whiskey jug) in the rare Flute design with sterling neck with original lock and two keys. The collector had first sighted it on the ACGA Facebook page. She purchased it as a gift for her husband, who favors the pattern’s simplicity evident in the jug’s smooth, undecorated interlocking panels. Spring Branch, Texas, dealer Franke Moore, who had seen only a couple similar in 20 years, priced the piece at $6500 at the start of the show. The final sale price was undisclosed. Photo by Price Chandler.


The high-end market stays strong for those with a penchant for the exquisite craftsmanship and beauty of silver mounts on glass. Florida collector Paul Borrelli found both in an incredibly lovely 11" tall Hawkes claret jug of unknown pattern in a rich cobalt blue, cut to clear. The Gorham sterling silver flip top, spout, collar, and handle bore the Gorham insignia. Borrelli haggled over the price with dealer Chet Cassel of Newark, Delaware, who gave a small discount for a final price of $15,700. Borrelli said, “Silver mounts have always been prized; it will be a good investment long term.” He had other pieces like it in different colors with the same silver on top, one of which came from the collection of his dad, Ralph Borrelli. Photo by Martin A. Folb.


Dealer Franz Hellwig of Gretna, Louisiana, had this 1904 cover of Scientific American blown up as a poster in his booth. He would use it to explain how American Brilliant cut glass was made. Dated New York, April 30, 1904, the cover shows a man with rolled-up shirt sleeves and apron polishing an immense 25" glass bowl billed as “the largest piece of cut glass in the world.” He was polishing the bowl by pushing it against a revolving wheel that he controlled with his foot. The bowl with its foot measured 24" tall. The bowl and foot before cutting weighed 143 pounds. The bowl was bound for exhibition at the St. Louis World’s Fair.


Rex Andrews snapped up this 11½" rare alexandrite colored pink-to-purple-to-blue compote on a massive round pedestal with a Strawberry Diamond and Fan pattern of an unknown cutting house from an antiques dealer whose consignor didn’t think it matched her bathroom colors. Its notched sawtooth edge rim hovers over four pointed diamonds in vesicas above which rays shoot up like fans. This knockout piece bore a $7500 tag. Photo by Price Chandler.


Collector John Dresely of Winchester, Virginia, had over 30 compartmentalized plastic boxes offering over 500 stoppers for decanters, bottles of perfume, or cologne. They were priced at $5 to $40 or were free, if exchanged for one brought from home. Shapes ranged from the pointed pyramid (also called steeple stopper), to six- or eight-sided columns, mushroom stoppers, multi-sided flat stoppers, and perfume stoppers with bottom dabbers. Photo by Martin A. Folb.


This exquisite, rare, and amazingly undamaged pair of five-arm Hawkes candelabra, a similar one of which is featured in Jane Shadel Spillman’s The American Cut Glass Industry: T.G. Hawkes and his Competitors, did not find a taker at the booth of Debbie and Saied Hosseini of Upland, California. The 21" tall candelabra, each with a 15" span and of unknown pattern, have five glass arms with bobeches from which hang a total of 80 original prisms. The asking price was $15,000. Photo by Saied Hosseini.


The striking booth of Saied and Debbie Hosseini, who brought the largest array of American Brilliant cut glass to the ACGA Dallas Convention. The Hosseinis didn’t take any chances in transporting their precious wares; they drove 21 hours straight through from Upland, California, with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of product to the convention site. Photo by Martin A. Folb.


Debbie and Saied Hosseini displayed one of the show’s few cut glass oil lamps. Made by the Meriden Flint Glass Company, the 30" tall lamp stood on an ornate gilded 9" square Art Nouveau base covered with carved dolphins above which mermaids, as in a ship’s figurehead, protruded under a bulbous cut glass sphere decorated with an interlocking diamond pattern mirrored on the glass chimney and shade. Priced at $18,000, this decorative lamp of unidentified pattern and with a Meriden signature on the bottom of the metal base attracted a lot of interest but no buyers at the show. Photo by Saied Hosseini.


Unlike most hollow-bottom punch bowls, this dual-purpose 10½" tall bowl signed by Clark possesses a solid base, 5" tall x 8" wide, that can be easily removed and inverted to form the bottom of a shallow flower vase or centerpiece. Its gorgeous Prima Donna pattern, patented in 1909—also known as the Triple Square—features a crenelated rim, resembling notched castle walls, atop a chain of hobstars beneath which lie the stacked triple square cuttings unique to Clark. The stunning punch bowl adorned the booth dealer David Nickerson, shared with another Bustamante son-in-law. An eBay purchase from two and a half years ago, the versatile punch set retailed for $3500. Photo by Dave Nickerson.

Dallas, Texas

The 35th annual American Cut Glass Association’s (ACGA) convention, held in Dallas from July 24 to 27, was the country’s largest and most important dealer showcase of American Brilliant cut glass (dating from 1876 to 1914) of the year. The approximately 1900 examples of American Brilliant period cut glass displayed totaled nearly $3.5 million.

Though two dealers canceled at the last minute for health reasons, the convention attracted the best known of the ACGA’s dealers. Ten veteran dealers set up booths at the 24-hour secured convention site at the Hilton Dallas/Rockwall Lakefront on scenic Lake Ray Hubbard, 22 miles northeast of Dallas, the financial hub of North Texas, and 45 minutes away from the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

The nearly 200 ACGA member turnout from an over 1200-strong membership base slightly exceeded that of the convention in San Diego last year. The high 90-degree Texas temperatures, which felt hotter by midday because of the sun’s heat reflected off the nearby lake, encouraged attendees to stay inside the air-conditioned Hilton where the 2013 convention schedule kept them busy with a workshop on photographing  multifaceted cut glass, an anniversary gala, a “Collectors Night Sale,” a dealers show, and lectures.

Chet Cassel, a dealer and collector of 40 years, lectured on “The Gorham Archives: Silver Mounts On Glass.” Jane Spillman, a prolific author and recently retired curator of American glass at the world-renowned Corning Museum of Glass, talked of the symbiotic relationship of “Corning & White Mills,” home for more than half a century of the Dorflinger Glass Works, which produced exquisite cut-lead crystal that graced many of America’s finest tables, including at the White House. Jason Woody of Woody Auction, Douglass,
Kansas, the country’s premier auction house for cut glass, shared a look “Behind the Scenes.”

Between these activities, members could shop the 500 stoppers, organized in compartmentalized plastic boxes, brought by John Dresely of Winchester, Virginia, to replace missing or ill-fitting stoppers for decanters, bottles of perfume, or cologne. They were priced at $5 to $40 or could be had for free, if one was brought from home to exchange. Shapes included the pointed pyramid (also called a steeple stopper), six- or eight-sided columns, mushroom stoppers, multi-sided flat stoppers, and perfume stoppers with bottom dabbers.

Of course, the “must see” was the dealers show in a Hilton ballroom. The first two days it was exclusive to ACGA members, but on the last two days, 61 members of the public, willing to pay the small $5 admission fee, were admitted.

Veteran collectors of American Brilliant cut glass expect to see a lot of bling at the dealer showcase. The Hilton obliged and added half a dozen temporary portable electrical receptacles—each equipped to power an entire room—to accommodate the ACGA’s need for 20,000 watts to light up the 6000-square-foot showroom and each dealer’s custom lighting system. Dealer Saied Hosseini, who drove straight through from Upland, California, to Texas with the most product, said, “You need to dazzle the glass with natural or electric light, so the multiple edges will reflect the brilliance of the glass like a diamond.” Some dealers boosted the glitter with strategically placed table mirrors.

On Wednesday, before anyone could scout the dealers show, the 13-member ACGA Ethics and Authenticity Committee shooed everyone out, including the dealers. Then, behind closed doors, the committee vetted the show for fakes, excessive repairs, accuracy of dealer descriptions, or anything that would affect the claimed value.

The vetting of the dealers show started in 1988 after an ACGA dealer sued another for the alleged sale of glass of modern origin fraudulently represented as late Victorian. This lawsuit was previously reported in an article by Ian Berke in the March 1990 issue of Maine Antique Digest.

The lawsuit was presaged by a prophetic warning from Miami attorney and dealer Leonard Pearson at a 1983 ACGA Convention. Pearson said that much colored, cut to colorless glass he’d recently seen was fake. Three years later, Garnett Hall, wife of Wichita, Kansas, dealer and collector Bob Hall, alerted him that certain major pieces purchased from Houston dealer Herbert Wiener, coauthor of the standard Rarities in American Cut Glass, required more cleaning than others in their sizable collection. That observation clicked with Hall, who in showing at recent antiques shows and, examining collections around the country had observed more examples of rare patterns than he previously thought existed.

In October 1986, Hall raised his suspicions with Wiener, who denied selling Hall in-
authentic glass. But in November 1986, Hall got Wiener to sign a promissory note to refund $91,550 in monthly payments in exchange for the questionable pieces. When, after paying over $70,000, Wiener suspended payments, Hall filed a lawsuit in May 1988 in Austin, Texas, against Herbert Wiener and his business, Collector’s House of Antiques, to recover $327,759.50 in actual damages for “breach of contract.” According to the story, that figure could have tripled to nearly $1 million under Texas law, if certain conditions were met. The amount represented the purchase price of pieces that Wiener had warranted were from the American Brilliant period and that Hall had purchased from Wiener over three years and that Hall disputed the authenticity of. Wiener countered with a defamation suit against Hall that alleged his reputation and that of his business had been sullied by his competitor’s suit.

According to Hall’s attorney, Gray Sexton, Hall’s suit alleged the disputed glass was manufactured toward the end of the 20th century rather than in the 19th century. The suit based its allegations on extensive chemical analysis of the glass and the opinions of several experts about whether the cutting was done by a diamond or stone wheel, whether the signatures appeared authentic, and, most important, the results of looking at the glass with a longwave ultraviolet light (black light). Sexton explained, “It’s a fluorescent bulb coated to filter out wavelengths of light, so that old glass appears lime green under a longwave black light.” The alleged fakes fluoresced purplish pink.

In 1988, the black-light vetting of the ACGA Convention dealers show revealed roughly 70 questionable items in three booths; at the ACGA Convention the following year, only two items were suspected of being new. Also in 1989, Hall and Wiener reached a confidential settlement preventing Hall’s extensive pretrial research from being   disseminated.

Today the Ethics and Authenticity Committee uses some of the same criteria pioneered almost a quarter of a century ago. The committee swept the room with a black light and then applied further tests for any doubtful pieces, such as reviewing for smudged cutting house signatures, ­looking for the absence of bottom wear marks, examining the comparative thickness of the blank, and any diamond wheel striations. According to committee chairman Hal Gelfius, a collector for 34 years, the committee rejected an infinitesimal amount of objects from the nearly 2000 displayed by the ten dealers in the show this year. “They can’t be sold at ACGA,” said Gelfius, and added, “They didn’t try to defend them.”

When the vetting committee left, the ballroom doors opened wide, and collectors scurried in to snap up the rarest patterns as quickly as they could find them. Several items sold that first day had appeared on the ACGA Facebook page, where, to drum up excitement for the convention, dealers had been allowed to place pictures of prime wares without identifying the source. Several dealers profited from these pre-convention advertisements to members as well as from personal e-mails to previous customers.

In the first 30 minutes, David Moore, who represented his father-in-law, dealer Elias Bustamante of Atwater, California, sold an extremely rare Quaker City three-piece revolving punch bowl in the Roosevelt pattern, 22" tall x 16" diameter, that was promoted on the ACGA Facebook page. The stand and cut collar ring covering a metal turning mechanism and joining the base to the bowl carried the same pattern as the bowl. Quaker City introduced the breathtaking Roosevelt pattern at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri. The pattern consists of hobstars from which radiate curved miter cuts and fans, which give a spinning pinwheel effect, connected by vesicas containing hob diamond hexads and crosshatched bowties. An unusual cluster of the very rare hobstar hexads are cut on the pinwheel’s hobnail. Bustamante got the bowl from a private collection ten years ago. Bustamante said by phone, “I’m eighty-eight; it’s time I give a lot of this stuff away.” Despite a professionally vacuum-glued crack from the center of the base hub to the rim, the punch bowl retailed at $8000 because of the unusual combination of motifs in one pattern. Without the repair, the dealer could have priced it at $50,000. The final sale price was undisclosed.

At the show’s start, dealers Franz and Sue Hellwig of Gretna, Louisiana, sold an 8" bowl in one of the most sought-after and elaborate designs of the Brilliant period, Libbey’s Grand Prize pattern, for $5000 to a previous customer who collects rare patterns. The pattern dazzles the viewer with figure-eight formations of interwoven vesicas surrounded by channels of cane and plain-button hobstars encircling alternating hobstars with flat stars on the hobnail and diamonds with parallel cuttings enclosing a hobstar and scattered fans around the rim. Franz Hellwig purchased this signed Libbey piece as part of a Houston antiques dealer’s collection in July 2013. Hellwig had taken the initiative before the show of e-mailing customers about pieces of interest for their collections.

In the first hour, a Texas collector bought a 1908 signed H.P. Sinclaire & Co. heavy four-quart demijohn (whiskey jug) in the rare Flute design with a ­sterling neck with original lock and two keys. The collector had first sighted it on the ACGA ­Facebook page. She purchased it as a gift for her husband, who favors the pattern’s simplicity, which is evident in the jug’s smooth, undecorated interlocking panels. Spring Branch, Texas, dealer Franke Moore, who had seen only a couple similar in 20 years, priced the piece at $6500 at the start of the show. The final sale price was undisclosed.

Collectors of rare patterns continued to buy in the show’s early hours. A collector looking for something in the very popular swirling Comet design found what he was looking for in the booth by the front door run by Elton and Sherry Linville of Batesville, Indiana. There he discovered an extremely rare matching pair of J. Hoare signed compotes, 12" tall and 7" in diameter, in the Comet pattern, made to celebrate the appearance of Halley’s Comet in 1910. He was attracted by the design in the tops of notched miters tapering in multiple directions into curved fan cuttings that simulated the tail of a comet moving by large, richly cut hobstars above teardrop stems. The tops sat on their original, unrepaired rim bases with the pattern’s typical rayed star. Despite replacing books on built-in library shelves with Brilliant cut glass, the Linvilles have run out of space. Elton Linville said, “If you want to keep buying, you have to keep selling. We think others would enjoy what we’ve found.” The card with the twin compotes asked $1560 for the pair.

Though the booth of dealer Ed Sawicki of Dunellen, New Jersey, who was attending the ACGA Convention for the first time, was located at the back of the showroom, Sawicki said, “The position really didn’t matter. The show was small enough  so everyone gets seen.” He showed a 2½" tall x 10" wide signed Taylor Brothers & Company bowl in the scarce iconic Bellevue pattern, which sold itself. The collector liked the circular pattern and condition of the bowl, priced at $1250. In this sought-after pattern, large hobstars enclosed by a round chain of smaller hobstars repeat around the bowl. A distinctive fine crosshatch that Taylor Brothers referred to as their “Colonial Edge” outlines the bowl’s scalloped edge. Sawicki had bought an entire 30-piece Brilliant cut glass collection from a Dallas antiques dealer the Saturday before the convention, but this wasn’t one of them.

One of the most expensive pieces sold at the ACGA Convention did not surpass the highest price paid to date for American Brilliant cut glass. That record was set at the Woody Auction in St. Charles, Missouri, on March 2. California dealer Saied Hosseini bid against a doctor for a true rarity. As reported by Fred Coveler in the ACGA’s publication The Hobstar in the April 2013 issue, the prize was “a 16" tall, turquoise cut-to-clear claret jug with an embossed Gorham sterling silver spout with a hinged eagle’s beak lid and pattern cut handle in a modified Russian,zipper and pillar swirl motif…attributed to J. Hoare & Co.” Hosseini won this rarity with a final record-setting $75,000 bid.

The top dollar paid during the convention occurred in a private sale. Collectors Suzanne and Gray Sexton, the attorney for the ACGA and a collector for 40 years, finalized their purchase of a 15" diameter, signed, and trademarked Hawkes serving platter, pictured on page 241 in an 11½" diameter version in Rarities in American Cut Glass by Herbert Wiener and Freda Lipkowitz, which retailed for $35,000/38,000. Suzanne Sexton said, “We didn’t have a great panel piece in our collection.” It previously was owned by New York collector and dealer Harry Kraut. Dealer Chet Cassel of Newark, Delaware, had sold it for him to a Pittsburgh developer. When the developer passed away, Cassel sold it for his wife to a Florida collector, now 89 and downsizing. In the exceedingly rare Panel pattern, no fewer than 28 narrow, evenly spaced clear cut channels create panels of increasingly larger hobstars radiating out from a center hobstar like a big sunburst. The Sextons cleared a place and set up a plate rack in an enclosed wooden cabinet for their new addition before the convention. It arrived by FedEx, the only shipping company allowed by their insurance.

Besides looking for scarce patterns, collectors who specialize in particular cutting houses roamed the floor on the lookout for additions to their holdings. In the first seven minutes of the show, a Kelly & Steinman collector spotted a commanding bulbous-top 18" high vase by the small, limited-production house in the booth of dealer Ed Sawicki. It had not appeared on the ACGA’s Facebookpage. Sawicki remembered, “She came in, saw it, knew from the Raleigh pattern it was Kelly and Steinman, inspected it, and bought it.” The tag read $3250.

Author Jane Spillman, who recently retired from the Corning Museum of Glass, purchased a souvenir of a cutting house very dear to her. Spillman said, “When I was working at the museum it wasn’t proper to collect. But since I’m retired, I can.” She chose a plain 2½" tall, $10 punch cup in the Monarch pattern by John Hoare & Company. Hoare had come to Corning in 1868 and rented space from the Corning Flint Glass Works factory. Hoare died in 1896, but his firm continued till about 1920. Spillman said, “It’s nice to take home a souvenir from Corning.”

The high-end market stays strong for those with a penchant for the exquisite craftsmanship and beauty of silver mounts on glass or color cut to clear. Florida collector Paul Borrelli found both in an incredibly lovely 11" tall Hawkes claret jug of unknown pattern in a rich cobalt blue cut to clear. The sterling silver flip top, spout, collar, and handle bore the Gorham insignia. Borrelli haggled over the price with dealer Chet Cassel, who gave a small discount for a final  sale price of $15,700. Borrelli said, “Silver mounts have always been prized; it will be a good investment long term.” He had other pieces like it in different colors with the same silver on top, one of which came from the important collection of his dad, Ralph Borrelli.

The Collectors Night Sale took place on the second day of the convention, Thursday, July 25. According to Collectors Night Sale first-time chairman Mike Callahan of Tulsa, Oklahoma, the 18 collectors who signed up for 22 6' long tables had a limit of 20 pieces per table. The evening of the sale, the doors stayed closed until the 13-person Ethics and Authenticity Committee had vetted the entire show. Though no pieces were rejected, according to committee chairman Hal Gelfius, 20 cards had to be revised. Gelfius said, “There were sale cards using ‘attributed to’ for the cutting house. It either is or it isn’t. In addition, some cards misidentified either the pattern or the maker.” When these minor issues were pointed out, the collector changed the sale card. Collector John Dresely of Winchester, Virginia, was one of those required to change a stem’s sale card. Dresely said, “I thought the pattern was Dorflinger Renaissance, and they told me it wasn’t, so I learned something.” As a result, he substituted another card without the Dorflinger attribution.

Dealers with booths also shopped the Collectors Night Sale. Rex Andrews, who together with his wife, Janet, runs Andrews Antiques in Rushville, Illinois, picked up a squat 6¼" tall cider pitcher of unknown pattern and cutting house for $150 from collector Ginger Taylor of Farmington, Missouri, and an oversized paperback titled Brilliant Cut Glass Catalogs: Pitkin & Brooks, Higgins & Seiter, Burley & Tyrrell, Meriden from Rob and Val Smith of Leawood, Kansas, who deserve a national honor for recovering and publishing product trade catalogs, factory documents, trade advertisement aggregations, and research notes from the American Brilliant era over many years.

Dealer Franke Moore also found something to buy from a New York collector—a flared sterling rim vase in the Sunburst pattern by Pitkin and Brooks tagged for $895. Asked if he would sell it at the convention, Moore quipped, “Not here.”

Known as a collector of storied cut glass, Los Angeles, California, collector Martin Folb rented two tables for the Collectors Night Sale. Folb owns a 9'2" Liberty floor lamp in the Lorraine and Loretta patterns made for the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair that octogenarian dealer Elias Bustamante considers “one of the crown pieces of cut glass—and I’ve seen thousands of pieces and shapes of cut glass in my lifetime.” Folb also owns the the punch set that John Jacob Astor IV purchased as a wedding present for his second wife, who, after surviving the sinking of the Titanic (which Astor did not), refused to accept the gift.

The set consists of a 26-quart capacity bowl in Hawkes’s Chrysanthemum pattern, rimmed with seven pounds of Gorham sterling, 18 matching punch cups, and a sterling silver ladle with the head of Bacchus. Folb’s table merchandise more than met expectations. A premier  offering was one of two known unusually tall (24") Libbey trumpet vases in the Ellsmere pattern with an early Libbey saber signature. The pattern was featured at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. The vase had a 32-point hobstar on a scalloped base and a graceful 9" flared rim. Featured on the cover of the 1990 April Hobstar, the piece previously was owned by the wealthy lifelong collector Minnie Figi of Monroe, Wisconsin. The vase was bought from her estate by a collector, whose collection was sold at Woody Auction, where Folb submitted the winning bid by phone three days after 9/11. Though Folb’s table bore a sign reading, “All prices are subject to polite discussion,” no takers appeared for the $18,000 trumpet vase or other high-end items on his tables that night.

The last day of the ACGA Convention turned into a busy day in the dealer showroom. Dealer Dave Nickerson of Atwater, California, another Bustamante son-in-law, said, “We did about a third of our sales on Saturday for the whole show.” Notably, a couple of hours after Kurt Reed’s talk on “Dorflinger’s Engraving Dept., Fact or Fiction?,” a Texas couple who’d shown interest on the first day in Nickerson’s rare corset-shaped 10" high Dorflinger vase in the Monclova pattern with an unusually bulbous top came and bought it. “I think the lecture made them buy it,” said Nickerson, “and they didn’t think they found anything they wanted more.” The vase retailed for $995, but Nickerson discounted it to $850. “I’ve known them a while; I was happy to give them a discount.”

Rare patterns, hard-to-find shapes, and discounts sparked last-day convention sales of dealers to other dealers.

Another dealer took away for resale a scarce pair of three-arm candelabra in the Brazilian pattern, 18" tall with a 12" span, bearing the Hawkes cloverleaf trademark and stamp, from Franz Hellwig’s booth. Few of these have survived because of their fragility and limited production as the result of an expensive price tag. This pair had all the original 4½" prisms hanging from every bobeche. It was purchased at Woody Auction in 2012; Hellwig reduced the card price of $6500 to $6000 for a fellow dealer.

Fairly close to the end of the show, Ed Sawicki picked up a Pairpoint solid vaseline-colored console bowl used as a centerpiece on a sideboard or dining room table at a discounted price from dealer Rex Andrews and two matching candle holders, the same color and pattern, from Elton and Sherry Linville. The candle holders were in the Old Colony pattern by Pairpoint. Sawicki will market this attractive set for a tidy profit at $1750. Sawicki said, “I may not be the only one who came up with the idea, but I am the only one who acted on it.” (Since the show, Sawicki has sold the set to a vaseline collector who was thrilled to have it.)

Decanter collector John Dresely managed to find one piece on Saturday—a Hawkes decanter in the Brazilian pattern with a Gorham embossed sterling top marked $1385. Dresely admitted, “It wasn’t cut rate, but Chet Cassel gave me a deal I couldn’t dare refuse.”

Dealers’ tallies for the convention had varying results. The majority reported sales exceeded their expectations or were better than last year, which some credited to a good economy in Texas. A few felt sales were average or as good as could be expected given the economy.

Attendance at the ACGA Convention illustrated a problem plaguing not only Brilliant period cut glass but many other fields of antiques. All in all, including late registrants, 191 ACGA members, evenly divided between men and women, plus 61 members of the public, attended the ACGA 35th annual convention, which was advertised in this publication and a few similar ones but not  in the Dallas or Fort Worth daily newspapers.

While attendance surpassed that of the ACGA Convention in San Diego a year ago, it represented only 15% of the over 1200 ACGA membership. Moreover, the typical convention attendee was in the 60’s or 70’s age group. Yearly, the organization loses members. The day this reporter came to the ACGA Convention, the wheelchairs outnumbered the strollers. Attendee Jason Woody, who inherited the auction business from his father, said he was delighted to find another man in his 40’s at the convention.

The dealer active for the second-longest period of time in the ACGA, Chet Cassel, attributes the dwindling ACGA membership to the impact of Internet marketing. Cassel said, “The field depends on an aging customer base, which is shrinking because there is no venue for developing new customers.” According to Cassel, in the past, American Brilliant cut glass was marketed through shops and antiques shows where young people who were antiquing had a chance to talk to a dealer and get educated. Cassel said, “They could interact with dealers and develop an appreciation for  the art form. Now the local antiques shops and shows are disappearing, which doesn’t lead to new clientele.” He lamented, “Everything is sold through the Internet.” Moreover, dealer committee chair Franke Moore said, “Young people today don’t like to join organizations. They prefer to do it themselves and go on the Internet to buy.”

The ACGA has started to counter its declining membership aggressively. Members volunteer for talks in their communities, and membership brochures are given out at antiques shows. In the past, membership mailers have been sent to subscribers of antiques magazines to increase devotees to this lost art form. Five new members signed up at the 35th convention.

In the meantime, demand for American Brilliant period cut glass is up. Woody Auction increased the number of auctions for Brilliant period cut glass from three a year to five last year, as collections became available. The auction house instituted Internet bidding after 2001 to accommodate an ever-expanding customer base. Dealer Rex Andrews said, “The market seems to be picking up all year. Auction prices are up: that’s always a guideline.”

Suzanne Sexton, chair of the 2014 ACGA Convention, to be held late July through early August in 2014, has begun appointing committee chairs for the return of the ACGA Convention to New Orleans after an absence of 25 years. For more information see the ACGA’s Web site (www.cutglass.org).


Originally published in the November 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest

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