Well, it’s official. The diagnosis is in, and there’s no use denying it.
It came from an expert.
“We call it ‘The Sickness’ ” she said, just like that. It was matter of fact, and I could tell she’d seen quite a bit of it.
She was a large woman, perched in a wheelchair, barely moving. At first I thought she had taken a dislike to me, because she didn’t turn her head to look at me when I asked my question. But then something happened.
I caught something, like a scent, and moved towards it. It nearly glowed, and I knew right away what I’d smelled. It was pretty enough to eat.
There it sat, my jewel. Or at least, sister to the one I had at home. A new acquisition I’d pondered for days before making it my own, though I’d known all along I would. I also knew it for a good buy at 15.00. But I’d had only my intuition going for me.
It’s called Custard Glass, and this one had a silver crest double crimped all along its lip. A beautiful Fenton bowl, circa 1950’s, unmarked. I nearly went blind when I saw it. More like tunnel vision really, because I could see the bowl, just nothing else.
Finally, I turned to her, with a question on my face. She told me all about it. I took another look at her, this unmoving person in the chair, her voice gaining animation and body, and then I saw; her eyes were sparkling and growing larger and wider; her being seemed to dart around me, dancing with her words. Showing off the bowls’ best side, telling its’ story, giving up its’ secrets. Relishing each word. And now laughing.
“Yeah, we call it ‘The Sickness’, and my friend, you have it.
There’s not much you can do about it. But if I can give you just one bit of advice, it’s this; collect what you love.”
Not that I was holding out for a second opinion, but later in the afternoon one came, unbidden, by someone equally astute at spotting these things. His wife took one look at me and started asking questions; “What do you like?”
I tried to downplay my interest, and especially my knowledge, what little I have amassed in my short run at learning. Their terrier walked over display cases and lay down near me, as if in sympathy, settling his chin on my arm. He’d seen a lot of shows. And a lot of Glass-Sick people, no doubt.
“You know quite a bit more than you think you do” the woman said. I knew better, but took the compliment. It’s all relative.
Collectors, I’m finding, are a different breed. Dealers are too, if they’re truly collectors at heart. They love to talk about their passion, and freely give helpful feedback on any and everything related to the subject at hand. There doesn’t seem to be a competitive flavor to these exchanges. It’s almost as though they overflow with the need to talk about what they know, and they don’t guard their knowledge.
She offered up several bits of information about my area of affliction, lifting a few mysteries for me. I was most grateful. And then her husband turned to me and said, “If there’s one really good piece of advice I can give you, it’s collect what you love.”
The market comes and goes. Things go in and out of vogue. The economy sucks, and peoples disposable incomes aren’t allowing for luxury items. “Glass”, is one of those items. The collection of choice suddenly becomes something that’s hot, and just as quickly and mysteriously, goes cold. Glass breaks, chips and cracks, and then is worthless. It takes up space, and as a collection item as opposed to a utilitarian one, it’s relatively useless except as a thing of beauty. Ebay has pretty much destroyed the value of collectable glass. People are financially desperate and virtually dumping collections of all kinds for cash, any cash. The value of collectables gets further driven down.
None of this bodes well for an aspiring collector short of funds.
My palms sweat as I look at a huge blue stretch glass vase over his shoulder. One that my new friends point out, you’d never put flowers in. I learn that vases are hard to sell. Both of these things strike me funny.
I move on and see Black Amethyst Depression glass, Fostoria American glass, Jadite pitchers and juicers, Purple Sun Glass lanterns and doorknobs by the dozens; all manner of Opaque and Milk Glass, Opalescent pieces, Carnival, pressed, blown, cut, etched, and by more names than I knew.
Everyone is closing up, covering their displays. I head for the front door and the lady at the desk reminds me to take my return pass “So I can come back tomorrow”. How did she know? And I drive home, thinking of my Custard Glass bowl. I picture its dimple, a production flaw. Its perfect imperfection, its individual beauty. Its globe like shape. Its color, which seems to morph depending on the light; now a creamy vanilla, now almost green. I learned today that it will indeed glow, or display phosphorescence, under black light. Like Vaseline glass, it was made with Uranium Dioxide.
And I think of how it came to me: a collector who would rather say, “Glass isn’t my expertise. I don’t know too much about this one, but here’s what’s probably true”, than try to tell you how much more he knows than you. Who’d rather just say “It’s a pretty good piece of glass; I’ll ask 15.00” than twist every dollar he can from your empty pocket when you have “The Sickness” and are struck blind by a piece of beautiful glass for the first time. And who’d be bothered to tell me to be careful, but most of all, to collect what I love.
I guess there’s no cure, and only one treatment.
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