Damage to Shot Glasses
The pre-pro glasses that we collect are at least 80 years old and in many cases much older.  They were never intended to be wrapped in tissue and placed in storage for 100 years until their value had appreciated - they were mean to be used a couple of times and thrown away.  Given the fragility of the glass from which they were made, it's surprising that any have made into the twenty-first century in pristine condition. Thus, while many pre-pro glasses can be found in 'mint' condition, it's much more likely that they will have some form of damage.  Which raises the question of how much damage affects their desirability and value.




Cracked: The worst kind of damage that a glass can sustain is a crack.  Not only are cracks ugly, they tend to get worse with handling.  As a  collecting colleague likes to say, such glasses should be taken out into the back yard and put on the fence post.  There are exceptions - a crack in the base of an otherwise mint glass can be hidden and the damage tends to be stable.  I have at least one such glass on display in my own collection.

This elaborately-etched 'Braunschweiger Mumme' glass from Boston, MA. has an ugly crack that runs clear through its base.  Had it been in the body of the glass it would have been fatal but in this case the glass still displays well.

Faded: The other kind of damage that strips the value from a glass is wear to a label.  With repeated handling and washing, labels get thinner and thinner and eventually fade to the point where they can still be seen when held up to the light but they vanish when the glass is put on display.   If you live in a glass-poor region of the country, it's tempting to buy whatever comes your way, even if badly faded.  It's probably better to resist the urge, however, because you're always going regret having bought it and it may well put an end to your desire to collect pre-pro glasses.


In mint condition, this 'Drink National Guard' glass from Chicago, IL, sells for over $100, but the  one above has a label that has become faded through repeated washing is practically worthless.


Scuffed: Glasses that have been mistreated by being thrown in a drawer with other odds and ends, or that have been tossed into a box of junk do not suffer the insult gladly.  Their labels become scratched and scuffed.  Light and localized scuffing is tolerated as an almost inevitable consequence of profound age, but glasses with badly damaged labels are almost as worthless as those with a faded one.

An otherwise attractive 'Belle of Canton' glass is marred by having being mistreated over the years.  Not only is there staining and rim damage, the label is scuffed and tattered. 

Purpled:  Glass manufactured prior to 1917 contained manganese, which was added to neutralize the colors produced by impurities.   The result was a very clear and pristine glass.  Unfortunately, prolonged exposure to UV rays (i.e. sunlight) causes manganese to oxidize and take on an amethyst color.  Thus, one common way of displaying glasses is to sit them in  a window ledge but after they've been basking for ten or twenty years they gradually assume a purple hue.  The intensity of the purpling is related to the amount of manganese in the glass and the extent of UV exposure, and one can encounter glasses with just a hint of color and some that are the color of grape juice.  Bottle collectors generally treasure amethyst 'desert glass' but shot-glass collectors have mixed feelings.  While the purple tint makes a glass more interesting, it also makes the label less distinct.  
      Bottom line is that a hint of amethyst is good, whereas a deep purple hue is not.

The beautiful old 'Fort Nelson' glass above has a healthy sun tan, as can be seen in the amethyst hue of the base.  The label is still clearly defined and hence there is no loss of value.  By contrast, the 'Parkwood Club' below it should have covered up a little earlier because the label is becoming difficult to read.

Rim damagePre-pro glasses are made of such thin glass that damage to their exposed rims is almost inevitable.  Such damage can range from mild to severe and the continuum is commonly described in terms of "rim roughness", "nicked", "flea bitten", "dinged", "bruised", "flaked" or "pieces missing from the rim".  The latter description is usually a sign of trouble.  "Rim roughness" is usually negligible damage, "dinged" may have more serious connotations, a "bruise" describes a half moon of internal damage to the glass caused by impact with a sharp object, and may ultimately lead to a flake.  

       Most of this damage can be removed by grinding the rim down by a few fractions of an inch, followed by polishing.  This should be left to the hands of someone who is skilled in glass work.  While such repairs are common and tolerated in some areas of the collecting community, it's dishonest to bill such glasses as being mint.  They're not and they shouldn't command the price of a pristine glass

Sick:  Glass is such a hard, resilient material that it comes as a surprise to some that it's actually a delicate crystal lattice with various additives and impurities trapped in the mesh.  This lattice can erode and the contents leach out.  Such damage is most commonly seen in bottles that have been buried for prolonged periods, during which time the glass has been modified by the materials with which it has been in contact.  Shot glasses can show a similar pattern of damage.  On first sight, they may simply appear dirty but then mild soap and water treatment fails to have any affect.  Some of these glasses actually contain stubborn mineral deposits and can be cleaned using more specialist methods (see cleaning and care), but others resist any attempt to be restored.  Unfortunately, putting such glasses under a microscope reveals them to be covered in a myriad of minute depressions - erosions - that catch the light and give rise to the cloudy appearance of the glass.  This kind of damage is not reversible, although it can be masked by a applying a thin coating of mineral oil or similar substance. 


Sadly, this otherwise mint 'Rothschild's No. 6' glass from NY has been badly damaged by prolonged contact with a foreign material It was probably dug out of an old privvy.  

last updated: October 16, 2009                  

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