In This Article
Antique milk glass is a popular collectible from the late 1800s through the 1980s. Beginner collectors gravitate to milk glass because it’s beautiful, relatively easy to find, and very affordable. Milk glass value ranges from next to nothing to a few hundred dollars for a quality piece or set.
If you want to know more about milk glass prices or determine the value of milk glass in your collection, let this price guide serve as a starting point. We will also explain how to tell the difference between milk glass and other materials like porcelain.
What Is Milk Glass?
Milk glass is a type of opaque glass that is typically white in color, and it gets its name from its resemblance to milk. After the Industrial Revolution, companies created milk glass as an inexpensive alternative to fine china. The opaque white glass is thicker and less costly to produce than porcelain.
Milk glass has been produced since the 16th century, with its popularity peaking in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Europe and America. Its distinctive white color comes from adding various substances to the glass mixture, such as tin oxide or bone ash. These materials prevent the glass from becoming transparent and give it a milky appearance.
How to Identify Milk Glass
Milk glass was initially used for utilitarian purposes like lighting fixtures, door knobs, tableware, and vases. During the Victorian era, it was often embellished with intricate and colorful designs, like hand-painted enamel floral patterns. The opaque glass was also incorporated into more elaborate centerpieces, mantel displays, and other decorative objects. Some milk glass qualities include:
- Milk glass is primarily white. However, milk glass comes in other colors too. Common colors include soft jade, pale pink, powder blue, and black.
- Vintage milk glass is opaque. The transparency of the glass is the main difference between milk glass and other collectible glassware (like depression glass or carnival glass).
- Companies produced milk glass from the late 1800s through the 1980s. However, milk glass wasn’t popular this entire time. The collectible went out of favor in the 1930s for decades. Be aware that there are companies producing reproductions today.
- White dinnerware and dishes are usually not considered milk glass. Milk glass items tend to be one-off items like vases, salt shakers, or candy dishes. Large sets of milk glass dishes were uncommon. Manufacturers made most dish sets out of porcelain or ceramic instead of glass (with the exception of Corningware, Pyrex, and Correlle).
Porcelain vs. Milk Glass
While both porcelain and milk glass can have a white, smooth, and glossy appearance, there are several ways to differentiate between the two:
- Porcelain is more translucent than milk glass, which is usually opaque.
- Porcelain has a finer and smoother texture than milk glass, which may have a slight grainy feel.
- Porcelain is more fragile and delicate than milk glass, which is relatively sturdy and can withstand more wear and tear.
- The sound produced when tapping a piece of porcelain is higher and sharper than when tapping milk glass, which produces a duller sound.
- Porcelain is typically decorated with intricate hand-painted designs, while milk glass may have raised patterns or embossed motifs.
By examining these characteristics, collectors and enthusiasts can easily distinguish between porcelain and milk glass and make informed purchasing decisions.
Milk Glass Value
The milk glass market fluctuates based on demand. However, these items were mass-produced and are not unusually rare. As such, milk glass items are easy to find at garage sales, flea markets, and antique malls. The value of milk glass ranges from $5 to $65 for a single piece.
Some milk glass pieces might fetch dramatically more, but this value depends on several factors. Consider the following characteristics when assessing a piece of milk glass:
- Age. Early milk glass examples from the late 1800s and early 1900s are considerably rarer than milk glass from the 1960s.
- Quality. Be aware that companies are producing milk glass today. Look at the color and texture to determine if a piece is old. Old milk glass tends to be smoother than new, rough milk glass. Also, try to find the manufacturer if possible. For example, Avon produced large quantities of vintage milk glass that were not worth much money.
- Condition. Avoid pieces with apparent chips or cracks. Staining and worn detailing in decorative enamel or paint can lower the value.
- Design. Some Victorian designs or milk glass examples with decorative enamel can sell for more money. When the farmhouse style regained popularity, some simpler, streamlined pieces were worth more money. Designs vary depending on the era.
There are several common milk glass manufacturers. These companies have produced milk glass on a large scale with varying qualities and values.
- Atterbury & Company
- Bryce Brothers
- Gillinder & Sons
- New England Glass Company