Q: I have seen several covered compotes in the U.S. Coin pattern at prices in the $300 to $500 range. The example seen in the enclosed photographs has been in my family for a long time and is in the Columbian Coin pattern. How do I determine if it is authentic?
A: The Central Glass Co. of Wheeling, W.Va., was founded in 1863 by disaffected workers from another Wheeling glass company. The factory was located in an old pork packing plant and distillery.
The company was successful until a fire destroyed the factory in 1888. It was quickly rebuilt, however, and began producing glass — pattern glass, barware and the like. They made a variety of pressed glass patterns, such as Cord and Tassel and Rope and Thumbprint, that only an aficionado of American pressed pattern glass would know.
Their three most famous patterns are Log Cabin, U.S. Coin (originally called “Silver Age”) and Columbian Coin, which is indeed the pattern on the covered compote in today’s question. The story really starts with the U.S. Coin pattern, which originated in 1891 with images of United States coins that are dated 1892.
There is a romantic legend that the pattern was inspired by a Central Glass Co. salesman seeing embedded coins in a barroom floor somewhere in the American West. We think this is a bunch of hooey, but the story does persist. There is another story that actual U.S. silver coins were used to make the design. This tale is reinforced by the Treasury Department shutting down production of the pattern after only a few months on the grounds of counterfeiting.
The Silver Age or U.S. Coin molds were ordered destroyed, and Central Glass — which was now part of the U.S. Glass conglomerate as their “Factory O” — decided to modify its design and tie it in with the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The new coin designs featured images of Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci and the Spanish and American coats of arms.
The coins for Columbian Coin may be clear glass or frosted. They may also be found stained with ruby or amber coating. The occasional example in milk glass can be found. Examples in colors other than these are reproductions that date to the mid-20th century, mostly mid-1960s and later.
The pictures you sent us of your Columbian Coin covered compote appear to show that the stem supporting the covered bowl is hollow. That would be correct for an authentic original example of this type of pattern glass. It should also be noted that on old pieces, the eagle in the American coat of arms coin should not have a banner over its head.
The last example of an authentic Columbian Coin covered compote we could find sold at auction one year ago for $90 at an auction house noted for selling American pattern glass.
Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson have written a number of books on antiques. Do you have an item you’d like to know more about? Contact them at Joe Rosson, 2504 Seymour Ave., Knoxville, TN 37917, or e-mail them at treasuresknology.net. If you’d like your question to be considered for their column, please include a high-resolution photo of the subject, which must be in focus, with your inquiry.