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Personal Effects, Dec. 4

Question: Hi Jerry, We got this at an auction a few months ago. We know that it’s milk glass but what is it? Is it asparagus or is it logs with a ribbon? What is the use of it? A shot glass? It’s about 2 inches high. It’s in good condition with no chips. No marks either. Help us solve this mystery!! Thanks.

Answer: Well, you have a milk glass match holder. I guess if you’re needy enough, you could use it as a shot glass, but it really is a match holder though.

I can see both of your ideas on what this shape is, if you kind of squint your eyes and hold your head just right. If you look closely, you’ll see that it’s actually cigars tied with a ribbon. Pointed on one end and flat on the other.

You can also see that is has some texture to mimic the wrapper of a cigar. This might also make it easier to strike a match on too.

cigar matcholder

It was once common for cigars to be sold in bulk with a silk band holding them together. These ribbon bands are actually collectible in their own right, but that is another article.

This was likely once part of a smoker set. There might have been an ashtray or a box that could have accompanied this match holder. It is what’s called a novelty piece. Meaning it was something that was fun or lighthearted. You would have bought this piece in a gift shop or a five and dime store.

You can find all kinds of these novelty pieces in milk glass. Themes you might find are kittens with cups, a monkey pulling cart, suitcases, books and on and on. There was no end to the Victorian imagination. Novelty match holders make a fascinating collection.

I can tell from the quality of the molding and the color of the milk glass that this piece is going to date to the 1890s to the early 1910s. I tried to find it in a couple of milk glass and match holder reference books but never could find this example. It could have been made by any number of American glass companies.

Match holders are collectible, things that are cigar-related are very collectible, and let’s face it, love it or hate it, milk glass has come back into vogue.

All of these attributes only add to its appeal and value. Not a great value mind you, I’d expect this to be priced at about $20 in a nice antiques store. Thanks for sharing it. Mystery solved.