Of all the varied Depression glass colors, cobalt blue has a consistently loyal following among glassware fans. The color is captivating, demand remains steady, and the prices of some pieces can be quite high.
Popular Depression Glass Patterns
Although several companies made Depression glass in this color, two of the most popular patterns with collectors are Moderntone and Royal Lace, both produced by Hazel Atlas Glass Company. Hazel Atlas went as far as to name its rendition of this captivating glass "Ritz Blue."
The simple bands decorating the outer edges of Moderntone pieces please those who prefer a clean design with a slight Art Deco flair. This pattern offered collectors an easy-to-find alternative for many years, but now it's not nearly as plentiful. Many Moderntone collectors look to online shops specializing in glass these days as well as shows specializing in glass, where dealers focusing on Depression-era patterns congregate. These shows aren't as plentiful as in years past, but faithful glass collectors still make the pilgrimage.
Cobalt blue Royal Lace lives up to its name with an ultra frilly pattern and prices fit for a king in many instances. Although a collector can probably still start and complete a set of these dishes, they should plan on spending years searching for pieces and thousands of dollars in the process. Of course, collecting a hard-to-find pattern makes the thrill of the chase all that much more exciting, so it’s not all bad.
Another Depression-era Hazel Atlas product is the “Ships” or "Sportsman's Series" line of glassware. These pieces are decorated with white decals featuring sailboats, skiers, Spanish dancers, and even fish. These were primarily cocktail and occasional sets rather than complete dinnerware patterns, although you may run across a Moderntone plate with a sailboat decal occasionally.
The Price of Collecting Cobalt Blue
Most cobalt blue Depression glass pieces aren’t found for a dime a dozen anymore. This includes the popular Depression patterns mentioned above, as well as lesser known patterns such as Aurora.
Cobalt blue kitchenware, made by both Hocking Glass Co. and Hazel Atlas, has long been popular with collectors. It's hard to find cobalt blue mixing bowls, refrigerator dishes, and canisters in antique shops today, and when you do they usually will not be reasonably priced. Collectors fare a little better shopping online, but still pay a premium for the rarer pieces like canisters and measuring cups.
Moderately priced vintage selections in cobalt blue vary widely in variety and in price. You can still find a single Chevron milk pitcher or violin-shaped bottle in this color for well under 30 dollars. Authentic Shirley Temple pieces from the Depression era can still be found for under 50 dollars apiece. Cereal bowls bearing lovable film star's likenesses are the hardest to find in excellent condition, but there are still plenty of milk pitchers available on the secondary market.
Not all cobalt blue glass choices cost such a pretty penny to own, however. You can pick up miniature vases for a few dollars each and vintage bottles that once held liquid medicines and ointments in a range of shapes for a little more. And remember, many brands of chic water and wine are being distributed in cobalt blue bottles today. Save a few of these after you've emptied the contents and you'll have an attractive trash-to-treasure collection to display on a window sill in no time flat.
Cobalt Blue Reproductions
Consider provenance when contemplating reproductions. If you own a piece from your great-grandmother handed down in the family over several generations, it's probably the real thing. But if you're shopping for cobalt blue items now, watch for reproductions everywhere. Reproduction cobalt glass meant to mimic old Depression glass is usually of fairly poor quality and can have a slightly greasy feel to it in comparison to old pieces.
Shirley Temple pieces have been extensively reproduced, too. The white decals are usually too bright and new-looking on these pieces. It should be easy to distinguish when comparing old and new side by side, but the new decals are harder to distinguish in photos when shopping online. Also, be aware that the original Shirley Temple pieces are a child-sized mug, cereal bowl, and milk pitcher. All other cobalt blue Shirley Temple items are reproductions.
Other reproductions in cobalt blue include eye wash cups, water decanter sets, and miniature children's dishes in Depression glass patterns that were never produced in small sizes originally. A number of Depression glass pieces like the Hocking’s Mayfair cookie jar and Miss America butter dish have been reproduced in cobalt blue, too. These shouldn’t confuse collectors, however, because the original patterns were never made in this color. Consult The Collector’s Encyclopedia of Depression Glass by Gene Florence (now out of print but available through used book dealers) for more information.
Also, be aware that many gift and craft shops carry newer cobalt blue glass that might be confused with older pieces once they reach the secondary market. There's nothing wrong with making up a collection of these if you find them to be attractive. Pyrex even made a line of blue ovenware that looks super mixed with older pieces on a table. Just make sure you know what you’re buying, and realize that there are many fledgling antique dealers out there who may know even less than you do about collectible glass hawking them as old finds.