Word of the Week: Goofus Glass

This strange term is equaled only by the strangeness of the item itself. The history is not very well known, and there are many theories as to where the actual expression came from. But it doesn’t really matter, because Goofus glass is cool.

Goofus glass was made of pressed glass that was decorated with an unfired paint.

This was a giant 19" platter that we recently sold. The center was definitely all painted at one point, and it's possible around the edges was too.

Pretty simple, right? So, where does it get complicated?

Well, here’s the thing. This was considered a precursor to carnival glass or (depending on your source) as a cheaper method in answer to carnival glass. It was often given out at fairs as prizes because it was glitzy, but also incredibly cheap to make. The problem, however, was that the “cold” paint (meaning the color wasn’t fired into the glass like carnival glass) flaked off too easily. Some say that someone “goofed” up thinking that this would work or that manufacturer’s were trying to “goof” buyers into thinking it was carnival glass.

The history is notoriously undocumented, but it really matters very little. Why?

Because Goofus glass is cool.

(Whoa. Déjà vu.)

Here's a closeup of the center. You can see that some of the paint is missing.

I like Goofus glass because the paint is on the underside of the piece, which allows the top to be smooth and clean. The colors are generally red and gold, and are really quite classy looking. It’s also extremely difficult to find a piece that doesn’t have some or most of its paint already chipped away. If you’ve got a piece of Goofus glass that is fairly intact, you could have a pretty valuable item in your hands.

If you’re selling Goofus glass, be aware that not only is the glass fragile, but the paint is too. Take care that you don’t wipe it away when you’re trying to clean or dust it.

Here's the underside of the platter. As you can see, it's red here and this is where the paint was applied. Be careful when cleaning it off, because it flakes really easily!


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