Swirled Glass with Odd Name Remains Fun for Collectors
Lots of big names in West Virginia glass are known all over the world, including Central, Hobbs Brockunier, Northwood, Ritchie and Sweeney. There are other art glass companies that are linked with the Mountain State. One that is especially fun is Akro Agate.
Akro Agate is an odd name for a type of American glass that has been coveted by collectors since the 1970s. It’s features a beautiful, creamy swirled look and began with marbles.
Made in Clarksburg, W.Va., from 1914 until 1951, Akro Agate collectibles include children’s dishes, powder jars, candlesticks and ashtrays and the popular swirled marbles, solid colored marbles and accessories.
The name Akro came about when the glass business started as a sideline for two industrious shoe merchants, operating out of a Main Street shop in Akron at the turn of the 20th century. The duo named Gilbert Marsh and Dr. George T. Rankin patented the name “Akro Agate” in 1911.
They added a third marble craftsman, Horace C. Hill, to complete their management team and after a few years in Akron, they moved the operation to Clarksburg. (Visit akroagate.com for more.)
The move was based upon the abundance of sand and gas in Clarksburg, necessary for the glass making process, according to collectors Roger and Claudia Hardy, who authored the definitive book on Akro Agate in 1992, “The Complete Line of the Akro Agate Company.”
Not everyone is interested in marbles but even someone who isn’t a marble fan, will discover that Akro Agate items have real eye appeal. Color is the key and there is a wide variety of glass collectibles including vases, dishes, novelties and even lamps.
Collectors know that items might be common in one color, but rare in another. For example, the Colonial Lady powder jar shown in today’s column is valued according to color. The one in today’s column is a lovely shade of light blue. But if it were a darker, royal blue it would be worth several hundred dollars more than it is valued today and if you found an orange one, which is very rare, the value would increase much more.
Powder boxes are popular items in the Akro Agate world and the other signature design is the Scotty Dog box. A cute little Scotty dog sits atop a cushioned imprinted glass base that also shows images of Scotties. Charming to look at, the color range once again, determines value. A rare two-tone one may be the most unusual.
My favorite jar is the Mexicali jar shown in today’s column, complete with a Mexican hat. Originally created as a container for men’s shaving soap, the container was designed so that when it was empty, it could store cigarettes. These were made for the Pickwick Cosmetic Corporation.
Akro Agate’s line of ashtrays also is beautiful. Solid colors, swirled, ashtrays with match slots, smoker sets for parties, coin embedded ashtrays, shell designs, even a 1935 Popeye hard rubber figure holding an ashtray design demonstrates just how vast their ashtray inventory was.
Akro Agate games and marbles are another topic all together. One set of Chinese Checkers, complete with box, is shown in today’s column. Complete sets are hard to find. It’s easy to understand, since toys have a way of disappearing, breaking or getting worn out as they are played with. Marble games were so popular in the middle of the 20th century that Akro Agate made hundreds of different sets.
Popeye appears in the marble world of Akro Agate stating “I Yam Wat I Yam, I Yam a Marble Shooter, ARF” on one rare boxed game set. If you were lucky enough to have this set, in the original box, with 15 marbles and marble bag, it could be worth hundreds of dollars, depending on condition.
After all, avid collectors know marbles by name, with each marble having a particular color, diameter and design. Oxblood, moonies, corkscrews, sparklers, onyx, glassies and aggies are just some of the marbles out there.
The trademark for Akro Agate is an image of a crow flying through a letter A with a marble in each claw — but not all items were marked. “Shoot straight as the crow flies,” was the
For comments or suggestions on local treasures to be featured in Antique of the Week, Maureen Zambito can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing in care of this newspaper.