Federal Glass: Distinctive Depression-Era Collectibles

Published March 31, 2021
vintage Cherry Blossom Federal Glass

Federal glass is both plentiful and highly desirable because of its unique patterns, colors, and sturdy construction. From tea saucers to gravy boats, this company created all manner of dinnerware in a style that's known as Depression glass today. Antique stores are well-known for having large inventories of Depression glass, so chances are high that you'll be able to find a beautiful piece or set near your home; make sure to follow these tips and tricks when you're on the hunt for Federal glass.

Federal Glass Company History

The Federal Glass Company was launched in 1900 in Columbus, Ohio and quickly became a high producing manufacturer of pressed glass using molds that they had acquired from other retailers. By the 1930s, the company was considered the most prolific and popular distributor of Depression glass, a specific type of molded glass that was marketed to be both high quality and low cost. Aside from the staggering variety of tableware that the company manufactured, Federal Glass also produced "institutional" glassware for the hospitality and restaurant industries which could be easily equipped with custom business logos. Despite its massive success in the early 20th century, the company closed in 1979.

Green Paneled Low Sherbet Cups

Identifying Federal Glassware

Unsurprisingly, Federal glassware is seemingly identical to all other Depression glass brands, meaning finding bubbling inside the glass or obvious seams indicates that the pieces in question are probably authentic; however, the most surefire way to determine if a piece belongs to the Federal Glass Company is to look for a unique stamped logo on the bottom of the item. The company's shield logo with a capitalized F inside is well-known among Depression Glass collector communities, and since the company first started using this trademark in 1932, most of their Depression glass pieces come stamped with it.

Federal Glass logo

Popular Federal Glassware Patterns

Another important factor when collecting Federal glass is identifying which pattern the piece has; certain patterns are rarer or more collectible, meaning you want to determine what standard issue pattern the company pressed into your pieces before you try to sell them. That box of colored glass you were going to sell for $15 might actually be worth a couple hundred dollars. Here are some of the Federal Glass Company's most popular patterns:

  • Madrid
  • Colonial Fluted
  • Mayfair
  • Diana
  • Sharon
  • Lovebirds
  • Georgian
  • Parrot
  • Optic Design
  • Raindrops
  • Spoke
  • Rope
  • Bouquet and Lattice
  • Normandie
  • Patrician

Federal Glassware Colors

As is typical with Depression glass, Federal glass comes in a rainbow of colors. The most common colors for depression glass are amber, green, pink, crystal, and pale blue. However, you can find some sets in more unique colors like red, canary yellow, cobalt blue, vintage milk glass, amethyst, and so on which makes them more valuable to collectors, though not necessarily worth more money.

Green Madrid Depression Glass Sherbet

Federal Glass Values

Federal glass makes for perfect vintage items for amateur collectors and collectors who're on a budget. On the whole, individual Federal glass pieces can cost as little as $5 and as much as $45-50, depending on their quality and rarity. Most pieces of Federal glass fall on the affordable side of the antiques market. However, finding complete, or nearly complete, sets of specific patterns in an individual color can be worth a few hundred dollars. For example, a set of four blue Madrid plates is listed for nearly $40 in one auction and a 4-piece set of amber Madrid sherbet cups is listed for nearly $20.

Unique Federal Glass Collectibles

You can actually find some of Federal's Depression Glass patterns in a unique type of glass called uranium glass. During the production process, small percentages of uranium were added to the glass mixture before melting occurred. These trace amounts of uranium glow bright green under UV lights, making them not only very cool to look at but also incredible gifts. Uranium Depression glass is worth a little bit more, on average, than its regular Depression glass counterparts; for instance, one seller has an individual uranium Diana sherbet glass listed for $40.

Uranium Glass fluorescing under Ultraviolet light

Advice for New Collectors

Collecting Depression glass can seem overwhelming because of the sheer number of patterns and brands that you have to choose from. However, a non-stressful way to approach Depression glass collecting is to pick a specific characteristic to start looking for. Here are a few different characteristics you can use to guide your early start into collecting:

  • Color - Pick a specific color, like amber or pink, and collect glassware in those colors.
  • Pattern - Pick a pattern that you enjoy and start collecting pieces that have that pattern, no matter their color.
  • Brand - Choose a brand that you enjoy and collect items that were produced by that company.
  • Item - Select a specific type of kitchenware, like dinner plates or tea cups, and collect only glassware of those types.
Pink Diana Depression Glass Cereal Bowl

Let Federal Glass Find You

Since the Federal Glass Company was so productive during its active years, there's an abundance of vintage pieces that you can find to buy for really cheap. This makes collecting Federal glass really easy because there's a strong likelihood that you won't have to travel or dig online to find pieces to buy. So, start with your local antique stores, consignment shops, and garage sales and look for these aforementioned tell-tale signs of Federal glass to start your burgeoning collection.

Federal Glass: Distinctive Depression-Era Collectibles