White Carnival Glass History, Identification & Patterns

Updated February 4, 2022
Antique Fenton Fenton’s Flowers White Carnival Glass Nut Bowl

White carnival glass is a beautiful, iridescent glass that runs the gamut from almost clear to frosty white. It is somewhat rare and will only become more valuable over time.

What Is Carnival Glass?

Carnival glass is a molded glass that comes in a variety of colors, including white. It gets the name "carnival glass" from the practice of using it as prizes at carnivals. Because it was so inexpensive, companies also used it as incentives for their customers to buy their products. Carnivals and incentives weren't the only venue, however. Homemakers bought the beautiful glassware at local shops as well.

It was popular because it resembled an expensive blown glass made by Tiffany. The glass was made into numerous items, from candy dishes to pitchers. Although most carnival glass was made prior to 1931, it is still made by some companies using the same molds. This makes it difficult for the new collector to identify antique glass from new creations.

How to Identify White Carnival Glass

Antique Dugan White Beaded Basket Carnival Glass Basket

White carnival glass can be slightly frosty to almost completely white. It will have the same iridescent shimmer that is common to all carnival glass. It should not be confused with white slag glass, which is marbled and does not have the telltale iridescence.

White Carnival Glass vs. Milk Glass

Both carnival glass and milk glass come in white, but there is a distinction between the two. Many collectors also distinguish between white carnival glass and opaque milk glass that has an iridescent shimmer as two separate categories of collectible glass. If the glass is iridescent, it is usually considered carnival glass. If it's simply opaque, it's milk glass.

Spotting Fakes

While there are some fakes on the market that have been created with the intent to fool collectors, most newer carnival glass was made by the same company, in the same molds, as the original and intended as a reissue. It is important that any collector get a good guide to identifying Carnival glass such as A Field Guide to Carnival Glass, by David Doty.

Most Collectible Carnival Glass Patterns

Antique Dugan Roundup Ice White Carnival Glass Ice Cream Bowl

Not all companies made the white glass. Northwood is believed to have made the highest quality white carnival, as well as making the largest quantity. Fenton, Dugan, U.S. Glass, and Imperial also made carnival glass in the beautiful frosty white.

While all carnival glass is collectible; some patterns and manufacturers are more so than others. Northwood created some of the most popular patterns amongst collectors.

Grape and Cable

Grape and Cable is a popular pattern. It was so popular during the time it was manufactured that there are several variations. The design consists of four small leaves around a center circle surrounded by four large leaves and four clusters of grapes. A large band may replace the cable in some versions; this variation is rare today and eagerly sought after by collectors.

Fenton also made the Grape and Cable pattern. The only shapes used by Fenton were bowls and plates, so anything else will be Northwood.

Fenton Flowers

Fenton Flowers is a pattern by Fenton, used for footed bowls. It has many small flowers on the outside and comes in a variety of colors, including white.

Peacock at the Fountain

Northwood made this popular pattern in water sets, pitchers, and tumblers. The single peacock generally faces left towards the fountain. Dugan made the same pattern, but normally only in blue. You can identify the more valuable Northwood by the N logo on the bottom.

White Carnival Glass Value

Antique Dugan Petal & Fan White Carnival Glass Large Bowl

Almost all carnival glass is valuable, but because white is a fairly rare color, some examples can be worth a lot. For instance, a white carnival glass punchbowl set in the rare Northwood Acorn Burrs pattern sold for more than $1,000 on eBay, despite some condition issues. A white carnival glass vase in the Northwood Tree Trunk style also sold for over $500. However, small, less ornate pieces tend to sell in the $30 to $50 range.

There are several factors that can affect the value of white carnival glass, including the following:

  • Condition - Glass in great condition is always worth more. Chips, cracks, scratches, and discoloration can decrease value.
  • Rarity - Rare and unique patterns are worth the most, as are pieces that were made in limited quantities.
  • Size - Large pieces are usually worth more than smaller pieces, all other factors being equal.

Where to Buy Carnival Glass

In addition to the normal places that you might think of to buy white carnival glass, such as antique stores and flea markets, there are shops on the internet that specialize in this unique glassware.

All Antique Glass

All Antique Glass carries several types of carnival glass including white. The images and descriptions are excellent to help you know exactly what you are getting.

Michiana Antique Mall

Michiana Antique Mall is located just south of Niles, Michigan. It has over 80 different dealers that specialize in antiques of all types and 27,000 square feet of shopping. You can also purchase items from their online inventory. Items have a brief description and a good quality image.

Replacements Ltd.

Replacements Ltd. is a glass and china replacement service, and if you know the pattern and manufacturer of the item you are looking for, there is a good chance you can find it in their inventory.

Carnival Glass

Carnival Glass specializes in only carnival glass of all colors. The owner is affiliated with numerous collectors' clubs and organizations. He also is interested in buying carnival glass from collectors.

Ruby Lane

Ruby Lane is a large online antique mall that carries white carnival glass, as well as almost everything else. You can search for the glass throughout the site or concentrate on a specific shop.

Enjoying White Carnival Glass

White carnival glass looks best when displayed against a rich, dark background where the color can really pop. Like all carnival, it should be handled with care, washed with a mild soap, and air dried away from extreme temperature changes. White carnival glass is a beautiful collectible that you will enjoy for the rest of your life.

White Carnival Glass History, Identification & Patterns