Carnival Glass

Carnival Glass – who doesn’t love it?

We here at Wonderland were fortunate to come across a sizeable collection of carnival glass recently, and it caused me to wax nostalgic. When I was a young girl – I couldn’t have been more than 7 or 8 – my parents took we “three little ones”, as the youngest siblings were called, to a Watermelon Festival in Southeastern Iowa. I wonder if that magnificent summertime tradition endures. I certainly hope so. As a youngster I was dazzled by the bright lights and seemingly towering Ferris wheel. I was enticed by one after another “Carnie” barking at us to “Step right up! Try your luck!”

Presently, the family came to one “gyp joint” as we called them back then. It was a dime toss where the object was to pitch a dime so that it would land in or on one of the prizes. And OH! What prizes they were. All the targets were beautiful glass bowls, cups, goblets, or plates in shimmering, iridescent Carnival Glass! 

I was besotted with the colors and beauty of the pieces. If I had been looking at a collection by Louis Comfort Tiffany, I could not have been more dazzled.

I begged Dad to please let me try! My family was never much for risking money on games of chance, and carnival games were all stacked in favor of the house, so it took a little cajoling. Relenting, he finally reached down into his deep farmer pockets and produced the only dime he had with him. Since I was not known to have the best hand-eye coordination at that age, he offered to make the toss for me. I agreed and held my breath.

With no real hope of winning anything for me, Dad gave the coin an off-handed toss and kind of turned to look at me. My eyes were glued to the trajectory of the coin. Clink, clink, clink…it bounced and skittered across several other pieces before coming to rest – in the center of a shallow plate! It was a marvelous, pressed-glass dinner-sized plate with a pattern resembling a large leaf on the underside in a deep marigold color. The top of the plate had the shiny iridescence that denotes the latter-day carnival glass. I was over the moon! Looking back at that day in the bright Iowa sunshine, I can fully appreciate how “The Old Man” in “A Christmas Story” felt when he beheld his “Major Award”.

I still have that beautiful plate, and I still look at it fondly, every time I walk past it. It hangs in a place of honor on my plate wall amid my other treasures, all of which spark joy, and a memory. I think that is the best part of collecting antiques. The joy they spark and the memories they hold.

*For a virtual museum of carnival glass pieces from all the major makers, you may want to visit

Leave a Reply