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antiques and collectibles by anita gold

Q: Could you provide me with any information regarding a glass butter mold with a cow design, and tell me what it could be worth?

A: Most of the butter molds manufactured in the 19th century were made of wood. The few that were made of glass were patented pieces manufactured in the last third of the century. Such examples are clear pressed or molded glass and are of the plunger type, consisting of a cylindrical cup-shaped glass piece and an inner round glass tamp attached to a wooden handle, that would move up and down through a hole at the top of the outer cylinder.

The most attractive feature of such glass butter molds is their designs that were incised or pressed into the glass tamp. When butter was packed into the glass cylinder and pushed out with the wooden plunger handle attached to the tamp, the butter was embossed with the mold's design.

Some glass butter molds, were designed with a star motif, others had a fleur-de-lis, and still others (which are the most popular and sought-after examples) are designed with a figure of a standing cow. However, reproductions with the cow motif were made, and therefore can easily fool the unwary unless one knows how to spot an original.

Some genuine glass butter molds with the standing cow motif are embossed with the words "Bomer Pat. Apld. For" around the sides of the outer cylinder. Others that are authentic are embossed or marked with a patent date. Such examples are genuine, and although there are other genuine examples with the cow motif that are not marked with the name or patent date, their authenticity is questionable.

If you come across a glass butter mold with the cow design, and have difficulty distinguishing whether it's an original or a reproduction, here are some handy tips that'll help you decide:

On some reproductions, the glass has a bit of a greenish tinge or tint, and when help up to the light shows flaws and bubbles and has wavy and uneven surfaces to appear old-looking. (Genuine examples are of clear glass with no tinted color.) Also on some of the reproductions, the bottom edge of the outer cylinder is not perfectly round, and on some copies a somewhat pleated or scalloped area can be felt when the finger is run around the inside of the mold. (When you do the same thing to a genuine example, it should feel smooth.)

The tops of some reproductions (when looking straight down on the mold's cup-shaped part) look pitted, to appear old. A good clue is the wooden plunger handle (attached to the tamp), which on a genuine example is topped off by a nicely turned and rounded mushroom-shaped finial that's stained a honey-brown or butternut color.

The handle on a reproduced example is of crude workmanship and of unfinished wood, and has a flat knob at the top. Then, too, the outer cylinder on some of the reproductions is somewhat shorter (measuring 2-7/8 inches high, while the originals are taller measuring 3-inches high). The value of a glass butter mold with a cow design, depends on its condition and markings. Original old examples in good condition with no cracks or chips in the glass, can command as much as $100 or $200 because of their scarcity. The nice thing about glass butter molds is that they can still be used and are easily cleaned afterwards, as most collectors do not particularly care to use old wooden types.

Opinions solely are those of the writer. Write Anita Gold, P.O. Box 597401, Chicago, IL 60659. Enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope with a copy of this column and the name of the paper in which it appears for a reply.