|An enormous amount of depression glass is bought and sold on the eBay.com website. If you query their search engine for "depression glass" you will find thousands of items in the auction and "Buy It Now" listings. With a little patience you can find almost any depression glass item there - from inexpensive saucers to extremely rare pieces selling for $1000 or more.
I have purchased hundreds of depression glass items on eBay. The result has been many great deals and a number of disappointments. I learned a lot. The information below summarizes what I have learned and the advice that I can pass on to others who buy depression glass on eBay.
Condition, Condition, Condition
People who collect antiques usually learn that the condition of an item makes a huge difference in its value. Buying online is very different from buying in a store. In a store you can pick up a piece, view it from different angles and run your finger along the edge of the glass to detect tiny chips that your eye might not see.
On eBay you must rely on the condition description provided by the seller. An honorable seller will carefully describe any flaws or damage that exists in the item. Sometimes they will provide close-up photos of minor or major flaws. Beware of a seller who gives a skimpy description. Here is an example:
"Green Royal Lace depression glass butter dish
manufactured by the Hazel Atlas Company. A
wonderful green dish with a delicate floral pattern.
That description said nothing about the condition of the glass. If the condition is excellent the seller should be bragging about it. If there are flaws the seller should disclose them. Unfortunately, some sellers either neglect to write a detailed condition description or know that the piece is not perfect and skip explaining the flaws.
If you are really interested in that $295 butter dish don't buy it or place a bid on it until you click the "Ask Seller a Question" link and ask the seller for a detailed condition description. I always ask if there are any "chips, scratches, flea bites, cracks or any other damage or imperfection". I also ask the seller to "carefully feel all of the edges for chips or roughness." If you only collect pieces in absolutely undamaged condition tell the seller that clearly in your message. It is better to wait for the seller to reply than it is to buy an item without a condition description.
I write to the seller to confirm the condition every time I purchase a piece of significant value.
Authentic & Properly Identified
Identifying a piece of depression glass is usually easy. However, some patterns can be confusing and some sellers are inexperienced at glass identification. I have viewed thousands of depression glass items on eBay and other websites and have seen many that were misidentified based upon the photograph displayed with the description.
You should also know that some sellers use the term "depression glass" for any glass item that looks old or unusual. Other sellers use the term hoping to enhance value. Watch out for descriptions that state:
"this looks like a Royal Lace bowl" or "beautiful
depression glass pitcher"
That bowl might not be Royal Lace and the pitcher is probably not depression glass. If the seller was confident that the pitcher was authentic depression glass he would have known the name of the pattern.
Knowledge is the best protection for your wallet. If you are spending good money on an item be prepared to confirm the authenticity yourself. If you are unfamiliar with depression glass patterns a good book on depression glass identification is a valuable investment. The best books have hundreds of photos and illustrations to better prepare you for collecting. If you are willing to spend $150 on a pitcher but fail to spend $20 educating yourself there is a good chance you are not spending wisely.
Another problem is reproductions - many depression glass pieces have been reproduced. Know your glass and carefully watch for the words "reproduction" or "reissue" or "copy" or any other word that might hint that the piece is not authentic.
I once bought a depression glass cookie jar and as soon as I opened the box I could tell it was a reproduction - not authentic as described in the auction. I was lucky that a complaint to the seller yielded a full refund and reimbursement of shipping. The seller thought he would trick me by using a photo of an authentic cookie jar in the eBay auction. The reproduction cookie jars were a much deeper green and I would have easily avoided that purchase if the proper photo was displayed in the auction. If I didn't know that the reproduction cookie jars were a deeper green with bubble-ridden glass I would have paid $80 for a fake.
Seller's Reputation / Feedback
Buying from reputable sellers is one of the best ways to avoid problems. Every eBay member has an opportunity to give feedback to buyers and sellers after every transaction. It is easy to check a seller's feedback score - their feedback score is a number immediately to the right of their seller name on every auction and eBay store item. Click on the number for more details. I avoid any seller who has more than a couple percent negatives.
I have also have better results buying from sellers who specialize in glass. They usually identify correctly and describe accurately. When you find a good seller the eBay website has a way for you to add that seller to a "Favorite Sellers" list. Take advantage of that.
Seller's Return Policy
Most experienced sellers on eBay have a return policy posted with every one of their auctions and store items. The best sellers clearly explain how to make a return, who pays that postage, and if a restocking fee will be charged. You should read the return policy before bidding to be sure that you agree with it. I have seen many sellers who state "All items are accurately described. No returns accepted." You can decide if you want to do business with sellers who refuse to accept returns. I have decided not to buy from them.
Shipping and Handling
Shipping and handling costs can be expensive when you are mailing glass objects. A dozen thick glass dinner plates will be very heavy. So, carefully read the seller's shipping information to know what you will pay. Some sellers charge a low price for the item and then hit the buyer with inflated shipping fees. If the seller does not give clear information about shipping costs ask before bidding.
It's also a good idea to check the location of the seller. My husband once thought he got a great deal on a Royal Lace pitcher. Then, after winning the auction he discovered that the seller was in Australia - and we live in the United States! The shipping cost a small fortune and he learned an important lesson - always check the location of the seller.
Buyer Protection and Escrow
Most sellers on eBay accept PayPal as a form of payment. PayPal has a "Buyer Protection Plan" that allows you to dispute a transaction if you do not receive the merchandise or if you receive the merchandise and it is significantly different from the description on eBay. If you encounter a problem with a transaction that can not be resolved with the seller you can make a claim at the PayPal resolution center. Someone from PayPal will decide how the transaction should be settled. There is no extra charge for the Buyer Protection Plan if you pay for your purchase through PayPal and meet a few additional requirements.
For items of significant value you might want to examine the merchandise before making payment. You can do that using the services of Escrow.com. Ask the seller if he/she is willing to do the transaction through Escrow. Then, after the auction is closed, send your money to Escrow.com. They will hold the money while the seller sends you the merchandise. After you receive the merchandise and examine it you can instruct Escrow to release payment to the seller. The Royal Lace nut bowl pictured to the right was purchased with an Escrow.com transaction. There are minor fees involved with using Escrow. These can be paid by the buyer, the seller or shared equally.
The Post Office and most package delivery services offer insurance against loss and damage. Depression glass is fragile and some sellers are inexperienced at packing for long-distance shipment. If you have concerns about your package being lost or the item being damaged during shipment paying extra for postal insurance can be a good idea.
Saved Search Emails
I have saved the best tip for last. If you want to buy a rare depression glass item or one that is infrequently offered for sale on eBay, you can save a lot of time with "Saved Search Emails". For example: If you are watching for a green royal lace pitcher you can search for that item with the eBay search engine and click the "Save this Search" link at the top of the search results. Then check the "Email me when new items match my search." box and click "save". With that setting in place eBay will send you an email message when a new item matching your search is listed. It's like having someone watching the auctions for your favorite items to be listed.
Green Depression Glass Cream Soup Bowl. See my Pricelist
Pink royal lace depression glass berry bowl
Top view of a Royal Lace nut bowl, the rarest piece of Royal Lace depression glass by the Hazel Atlas Company. Visit my Royal Lace Pricelist to see more photos of pink, blue, green, amethyst and crystal depression glass.
Depression Glass Cookie Jar