As I mentioned in a previous post What I Found: Shell Jadeite Saucers, I have acquired quite a collection of Jadeite glass over the last 2-3 years. My collecting all started with a knock-off bowl I snagged at Home Goods. Inspired by it’s beautiful color, I had the grand idea of using it as a showpiece for my wedding dessert table. Unfortunately this glassware does not come cheap. So, to amass enough Jadeite glass for my wedding use, I quickly discovered that eBay was my best friend. Through trial and error I purchased some excellent and some not so excellent pieces of Jadeite to add to my collection. Today I’m sharing my best advice and tips for buying Jadeite on eBay, including what to look for and how to get a good price.
JADEITE: A LITTLE BACKGROUND
Jadeite or Jade-ite is a type of glass made of jade-green opaque milk glass. It was most prevalently made in the 1940’s-1950’s and was touted for being both stain and heat resistant. The glassware was originally manufactured for every day use and generally sold at a local grocery or hardware store. It was even sold inside bags of flour as a promotional item to encourage someone to buy a complete set of dishes.
There were three main makers of the glassware during Jadeite’s hay day between the 1940’s and 50’s. These included McKee Glass Company, Jeannette Glass Company and Anchor Hocking who produced Fire King.
Styles and Patterns
Over that span of time, a variety of Jadeite glassware has been produced in an assortment of styles and patterns. The majority of these included pieces you’d use in your kitchen, such as dinnerware, canisters, shakers, bowls, mugs, butter dishes, refrigerator containers and cookware. They also made items that could be used throughout the home, including candy dishes, vases, lamps, flower pots, pitchers, lamps and bathroom items.
The style or pattern of the dishware was dependent on each manufacturer. Vintage Jadeite has a number of styles. Some of the more common styles include:
- Shell – A scalloped edge pattern
- Swirl – Similar to shell, but no scalloped edge
- Jane Ray – A ribbed, sun burst pattern
- Alice – A decorative floral pattern
- Sheaves of Wheat – A pattern with a wheat plant detail
- Charm – A plain square shaped dish
- Restaurant Ware – A simple, no decoration pattern that was usually a thicker glass
Today, Jadeite is growing in popularity. A large part of this is attributed to Martha Stewart and her interest in the glassware. She often featured it on her show, magazines and books. She also worked with glass companies to create her own line of the glassware called Martha by Mail back in the 1990’s. With the vintage glassware being so popular, there have been a variety reproduction and new pieces created in more recent years by various manufactures.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
When buying Jadeite, especially vintage pieces, there are common things I’ll look for to help me identity the pieces and assess their value. These include:
With vintage Jadeite, you will commonly find a maker’s mark on the back or bottom of the glassware. This will indicate which company manufactured the piece and may also give you an idea of the time period of when it was created. Being aware of their maker’s mark can also help you in determining if the piece is truly vintage vs. a reproduction. One thing to note, however, is that many pieces of glassware produced by these makers were not marked, so you may still also need to compare your item against a trusted source to tell if it’s a true original.
Below is a list of the main glass manufacturers and a description of their maker’s mark:
- McKee Glass Company – Marked with “McK” in a small circle
- Jeannette Glass Company – Marked with “J” in a triangle, followed by mold numbers
- Anchor Hocking Fire King – Marked with the Fire King logo which had a variety of styles over the years
As I mentioned, the maker’s mark is a great way to establish the age of your glassware. Jadeite was originally introduced for the first time in large-scale in the 1930’s by McKee, with the majority of the glassware made between 1945 and 1975 by the various glassware companies. Below is a breakdown of the time periods when the glassware was in production for each main maker.
- McKee Glass Company – 1930’s-1940’s
- Jeannette Glass Company – 1932-1940’s
- Anchor Hocking Fire King -1940’s-1970’s (and again in 2000)
Also note, just because a piece of Jadeite isn’t old doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value. Martha Stewart’s line of Jadeite glassware released in the 90’s, Martha by Mail, is still highly valued and sought after. Additionally, in 2000 Fire-King was re-released by Anchor Hocking. All of those pieces can also go for big bucks online.
When you’re looking to purchase a piece of Jadeite glassware it is always important to inspect it for quality. Vintage Jadeite was originally meant to be an inexpensive, every day glassware, so the quality can really vary per piece. Check out my blog post on what to avoid and watch out for when buying Jadeite glass for more information about buying quality Jadeite glassware.
Type of Item
The type of item you buy will really play into the price of the piece. Some items are much more common, like dinnerware. Then there are the hard to find, more unusual pieces like items with advertising or children’s sets. The more common the item, the more likely you’ll be able to find it at a reasonable price point. To find out more about specific items, patterns or makers, I suggest buying the book Jadeite – An Identification & Price Guide by Joe Keller and David Ross. This will give you a thorough education of tons of different Jadeite pieces and their approximate value.
Different Shades of Green
Because of the number of manufactures, and because Jadeite was made as an inexpensive glass, there can be a wide variety of Jadeite green tones throughout the glassware. Some tones are valued higher then others. If you’re not buying items as a set, you may find that buying a one-off item to complete a set may not be an exact color match. A matched set will always bring a higher value. Personally, I prefer to have a matched set when it comes to like items like shakers, mugs or bowls. I do think, however, that the variety of colors is part of what makes Jadeite unique. I really love the mixture of tones that come with having an assortment of sets and brands.
FUN FACT – Some vintage Jadeite was originally made by adding uranium to the mixing process. If the glassware does contain this, it will glow under a black light. The use of uranium was ended in the 1940’s, so this technique makes is super easy to identify these older pieces. My brother gave me a black light flash light that I love to pull out and test on my pieces. It also makes a fun party trick when you have your friends over.
HOW TO GET A GOOD PRICE
Buy in Lots
One way to get a better deal if buying Jadeite on eBay, is to look for listings that are selling lots. A “lot” is a grouping of multiple of the same or different Jadeite pieces. This could be a set of 4 plates, or a combination of 2 bowls, a shaker and a saucer. Buying pieces individually can add up, especially if you have to pay shipping on each of them. If you’re a new collector, buying in lots works great, because you most likely won’t have many pieces to start with. Buying in lots lets you easily grow your collection while saving money.
Buy Reproduction and New Pieces
If you’re not set on your Jadeite being strictly vintage, buying reproduction or new items is a great route to save some money, especially if you’re planning on using for display or daily use. Do note that some reproductions can cost substantially less than vintage items because of their quality and longevity. There are many new pieces, such as those made by Mosser Glass, that are of a good quality, have a great timeless appeal, and maintain an affordable price point.
Watch, Watch, Watch
The best advice I can give is to not just buy the first thing that pops up on eBay. Add your favorite Jadeite items to your eBay Watch List and use it to compare prices and quality. To start a Watch List, you must be logged into your eBay account. The Watch List lets you track items of your choosing and informs you on when each auction will end. This area is a great spot for comparing pricing and quality of the items you want to buy.
To compare, add similar listings for like items (example: Jane Ray Saucers). I like to track multiple listings of the same item to get the best idea of what the item is worth before I considered purchasing. When an auction ends, you’ll see what the item went for (including shipping) and help you better break down the cost for the piece/s you want. It may take a little extra math and waiting, but tracking listings in this way will help educate you on pricing and allow you to snag items for the best deals.
Collect Common Items if You’re New to Collecting
If you’re planning on starting a collection, begin by collecting common items. These will be more affordable and ease you into the process of buying the glassware and buying online. Buying the less expensive glassware will also help you learn what things to watch and inspect for, so when you’re ready to buy that amazing set of 5 tear drop mixing bowls, you know exactly what you’re getting and what they are worth.
Do Your Research and Compare Against Trusted Sources
You may not be able to tell if something is a true vintage piece or a reproduction or new if you’re just starting to collect, but vintage, reproduction and new items all come with varying price tags. If you’re considering buying a piece of glassware, compare the look, maker’s mark, size and style against a trusted source. My favorite source, as I mentioned earlier, is Jadeite – An Identification & Price Guide. This gives a great break down of tons of vintage Jadeite glassware along with a value. They have come out with multiple volumes that show updated pricing. I find that some of the books pricing doesn’t always match up with what I find online, but it’s definitely a good comparison for the overall look of many pieces. The book even has some reproduction items listed in the the back, which is a great reference and can help you distinguish the visual differences between glass pieces.
Online there may be vendors that are selling reproduction pieces but claiming they are truly vintage. Often they just don’t have much background in Jadeite and don’t know the differences themselves and sometimes they are just out to dupe you. This is where you could start overpaying for items. Always do your research, ask questions, compare photos and compare prices on similar pieces.
If you find Jadeite at a antique or thrift store, I also advise doing at least some basic research. Check out what the same or similar items are selling for on eBay or Etsy on your phone to make sure you aren’t overpaying for the item.
Decide How Much an Item is Worth to You Before You Buy Online
Before you buy, you’ll want to decide how much an item is worth to you. This goes along with doing your research. On eBay you are able to put in your max bid for the item you want to purchase. When you do this, eBay will bid the lowest amount to put you above the highest bid (assuming your highest bid was above any other max bidder). It will keep doing this up to your max bid amount.
I’ve learned that even if a price is listed low to start out with, it can start skyrocketing right at the very last few seconds of the auction. You might have thought you could get that $5 bowl for $15, but then it turns out someone else was willing to pay $35. If you really want something and it’s of good quality, do your research and ask yourself how much you’d be willing to spend max on it (including shipping) before the very end of the auction. This can save you from driving the price up, overpaying for an item, and some much unwanted buyers remorse.
Always Factor in the Shipping Cost
If you’re buying online, always factor in the shipping cost into your total price. The shipping prices can vary from piece to piece. Sure, the glassware is inexpensive, but then you notice the $50 you’ll have to pay after you win the auction just to ship it to you. I always factor this into the total price that I’m willing to pay for a piece.
I can’t tell you how many times I didn’t ask questions when I started collecting. I thought I could see well enough from the pictures or the seller described something detailed enough, so I just didn’t ask. Sometimes it was too close to the end of the auction or maybe it was cheap enough that I didn’t care to ask. That said, you should always ask questions to clarify what you’re buying and it’s quality. Be straight forward and ask if there are any cracks, chips, fleabites, stains, roughness, or any other items you should be aware of. If they mention damage in their description, but don’t show any damage in their photos, try requesting that they send you a more detailed photo. Understand what you are getting into before you buy or you’ll be left with some disappointment when you get it in the mail.
If you’re new to eBay, you’ll quickly learn you’ll want to bid close to the end of the auction. I know there are programs you can use to actually do this for you if you can’t physically do it yourself (some auctions will end in the wee hours in the morning). If you bid early on in the auction, this could just cause to drive the price of your item up. Putting bids on an item also often motivates other people to start bidding. Save your bid for the end to help keep the cost down and make the item look less enticing to others.
PERSONAL TIP – I like to submit my bid seconds before the auction ends. I’ll bid anywhere between 05-15 seconds until the end of the auction, leaving a very limited window for other Bidders to get in.
Learn about the Seller
For buying online it’s also a good idea to do a little investigation work on the seller to make sure they are reputable. Check out their feedback and how many items they have sold in the past to get an idea of how it will be doing business with them
If you bought something off of eBay and it was described incorrectly, point it out. Let the seller know about the issues, send them a photo and see what your options are. If the issues are small enough where I’ve wanted to still keep an item, I’ve gotten the seller to refund me part of the purchase price. Sometimes it’s not worth the money to send it back, so getting a partial refund is a good option. If it’s got major damage, see what their return policy is and if you can send it back.
With these tips you’ll now know what to be on the lookout for when buying Jadeite on eBay and how to get it for the best price. Any other helpful tips you have when buying Jadeite on eBay? I’d love to hear them!