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Packaging food in reusable containers is nothing new, and as Jim and I journey through the world of vintage glassware we continually find examples. Jellies, jams, spices, peanut butter, meat products, and more were sold in glassware that featured pry off lids. One would remove the lid, consume the contents, and add a “free” piece of glassware to the cupboard in a marketing ploy developed in the nineteenth century with crockery and pottery containers.
We have been able to document Peanut Butter Glasses, tumblers that were sold with peanut butter inside, from Canada and the United States from about a dozen different companies thus far. The oldest examples predate the Great Depression in shapes that resemble the jars Mother would have used to “put up” her preserves. By utilizing glassware already being manufactured peanut butter producers were able to keep their overhead to a minimum and thus maximize their profit. The size and shape of Peanut Butter Glasses evolved to a straight-sided tumbler usually within a half-inch of five inches in height. This standard-sized glass was used by many manufacturers with only minor variations for different peanut butter companies such as slightly thicker glass on the base, a bead or rim of glass at the top, and so on.
Which glass companies were responsible for producing Peanut Butter Glasses? Largely this remains a mystery. Without a paper label it would be impossible to recognize early Peanut Butter Glasses as they were plain, clear glass. Some newer glasses came from Libbey and Federal, but earlier Peanut Butter Glasses usually had no glass manufacturer’s marking. One must consider how disposal these items were; surely no one anticipated that they’d eventually become valuable collectibles. This article will be focusing on the Boscul brand whose factory and records were destroyed in a fire causing the demise of any valuable historical documentation.
Prior to the late 1920s there was no use of color in the kitchen and Peanut Butter Glasses from this era reflect this; they, too, were colorless. As the use of color in the kitchen evolved and expanded within the kitchen this palette was reflected in the furniture, linens, accoutrements, and glassware. By the 1950s there was a rainbow of colors available for one’s kitchen décor, and Peanut Butter Glasses were produced in an equally vast array of colors.
Boscul Peanut Butter Glasses
This brings us to Boscul Peanut Butter produced by the Wm. S. Scull Company, Inc., Camden, New Jersey, and their incredibly collectible Peanut Butter Glasses from the 1950s. The Wm. S. Scull Company, Inc. distributed tea, coffee, and nut products, peanut butter being among their offerings. As a way to enhance interest in their Boscul product they began packaging peanut butter in lovely floral-decorated tumblers. The first glasses were 5” tall, 2-12/16” in diameter and held eleven ounces of product. For twenty-seven cents the family got creamy peanut butter to eat and a flowered glass to keep. It is important to recognize that twenty-seven cents bought two or three POUNDS of other brands of peanut butter so the Wm. S. Scull Company really depended upon the desire of the homemaker to own the tumblers in order to realize sales and be profitable. These first glasses all featured bright flower graphics that were silk screened onto the glasses. The name of each flower was written in script at the top of the tumbler near the rim.
When the price for an eleven-ounce container of peanut butter increased to twenty-nine cents the Wm. S. Scull Company decision makers knew that something had to be done in order to remain competitive. A new glass was manufactured that measured 5” tall but 2-11/16” in diameter. The reduction of the diameter by 1/16” inch resulted in one ounce less of product within a tumbler. Mother paid twenty-nine cents and still acquired a lovely flowered glass that now contained ten ounces of Boscul Peanut Butter. It is important to recognize that the concept of reducing product while maintaining price is not a new one! Certainly the Wm. S. Scull Company assumed that most shoppers would never notice that they were getting almost ten percent less, and it worked. The new tumblers continued to feature vivid florals with increasingly more complicated artwork. Significantly, all of these smaller glasses bore the name of the flower in small script usually at or near the base of the glass.
How successful was this? Take a look at the numbers. The initial design, the name of a flower in script at the top, featured eighty-four variations of thirty-five different flowers. The smaller-by-one-ounce tumbler with the name of the flower usually at or near the bottom of the glass utilized three hundred sixty-seven variations of one hundred three flowers!
The marketing of the Wm. S. Scull Company’s Boscul Peanut Butter was a success, albeit a limited one. Distribution was primarily to central and south central Pennsylvania and eastern Virginia where even today collectors will find the largest cache of tumblers in antiques stores.
Two additional sizes of Boscul glasses were produced. The iced tea glass is 6-1/4” tall with a diameter of 2-14/16”. Originally it was thought that these were purchased strictly as go-along glasses that never contained peanut butter, but metal lids have been found for these tall glasses that can hold fourteen ounces. The juice glass is 3-3/4” tall with a diameter of 2-3/16”. A juice glass has the ability to hold five ounces of peanut butter, but lids have yet to be found for them, and they have been discovered in gift boxes of eight glasses to a box. It is easy to assume that juice glasses were never available with peanut butter but could be purchased to enhance the usefulness of these lovely tumblers allowing Mother to have three sizes from which to select when setting the table.
As previously mentioned, Peanut Butter Glasses, particularly the slightly smaller, ten-ounce size with the name at or near the bottom, often had flowers and names created with variations, and these variations actually drive the collectibility of Peanut Butter Glasses as most collectors strive to own at least one example of each of the hundreds of glasses that exist. For example, there are six variations of the Primrose which are listed below:
· Primrose name written in gold on an angle, the yellow flowers are small with red centers
· Primrose name is written in yellow, the yellow flowers are larger with white centers
· Primrose name is written in red on an angel, the red flowers are smaller with yellow centers
· Primrose name is written in red, the red flowers are larger with white centers
· Primrose name is written in orange-red, the orange-red flowers are larger with yellow centers
· Primrose name is written in blue, the blue flowers are larger with white centers
Most collectors will want at least one of each of these Primrose tumblers, and although they are valued in the second edition of Peanut Butter Glasses at between $12 and $18 depending upon the glass, collectors have been known to bid emotionally and enthusiastically for a needed tumbler and pay hundreds of dollars for a wanted glass shown with these relatively low values.
It is interesting to note that when the first edition of Peanut Butter Glasses was published in 1997 most of the glasses were shown with values of $3-5. I’ve also seen a glass sell for more than $2,000 on eBay!
Christmas Peanut Butter Glasses
Much of the discussion regarding Peanut Butter Glasses revolves around flowers, but there are other styles, and the Christmas glasses highlight some of the interesting variations.
We’ll start with the one flower says “Merry Christmas” more than any other, the Poinsettia, and then continue with some of the other interesting and valuable Christmas tumblers. There are two different Poinsettias with the name at the top, ten different Poinsettias with the name at or near the bottom, and two different juice-sized Poinsettias. For collectors, that means fourteen Poinsettias need to be found. Flowers are shown in red, white, and yellow. Most of the red designs are relatively easy to locate, but the white and yellow Poinsettias are difficult to find and of higher value. For someone setting a festive Christmas table, there are options: the table can be set using the same Poinsettia throughout, or the table can be set with a different glass for each person. Decorating? Red glass Christmas balls in white Poinsettia tumblers look terrific.
There are other plants that have significance at Christmastime. What would holiday flower arrangements be without sprigs of Holly? There are six different standard-sized glasses and one juice glass with Holly. Five of the 5” tall glasses feature Holly branches that horizontally or diagonally wrap around the glass, and one has vertical branches. Variations include the number of branches and whether or not the red berries are solid red. Holly tumblers are valued at $12 each, but the hard-to-find juice tumbler is worth as much as four standard-sized glasses. The other important Christmas flora is Mistletoe, and there are two versions of this in the 5” size. The Mistletoe is shown with three narrow branches and with two spread out branches. The latter is the more elusive Mistletoe Peanut Butter Glass.
What is Christmas without Santa Claus? There are five standard-sized tumblers featuring Santa in six variations, and there is one extremely rare and incredibly valuable juice glass with Santa Claus. St. Nick is pictured standing with toys at his feet in cherry red and in burgundy. Although the graphic is identical on both tumblers, collectors recognize the two colors as two specifically unique glasses that need to be acquired. These are the most common of the Santa Claus tumblers and are valued at $30 each. This is a higher value than listed in my second edition of Peanut Butter Glasses (c.2002) as for the most part Peanut Butter Glasses continue to increase in value at a steady pace. The other Santa Claus glasses are as follows: St. Nick with a finger to his lips, Santa with a sack of toys in a green chimney, and St. Nick’s heads. This last tumbler, St. Nick’s heads, is the rarest of the 5” tall Santa Claus tumblers. In more that fifteen years of selling these glasses, and in handling thousands and thousands of Peanut Butter Glasses, Jim and I have only had two Santa Claus juice glasses. The value is listed as rare, $100+ and would most likely sell for hundreds of dollars if offered in an auction format. If you are putting out milk and cookies for Santa, there is nothing more fun than a Peanut Butter Glass with the Jolly Old Elf himself for this task.
Another difficult-to-find tumbler is the candle. It is quite unique as it is the only Peanut Butter Glass with an inanimate object. When Jim and I decided to assemble sets of 5” tall (standard) Christmas Peanut Butter Glasses for each of our four children we were surprised how challenging it was to locate candles.
eBay and Peanut Butter Glasses
What would a discussion of a popular collectible be without recognizing the influence of eBay? In conjunction with writing this article I did an end of auction search and determined that there were 495 Peanut Butter Glass auctions that had been run during the thirty day period which I examined. Among these auctions there were thirteen Christmas glasses: three Poinsettias, five Holly, one Mistletoe, and four Santas.
Also sold during this period of time was one Snowberry tumbler which has a dark green branch and white berries. If we were to add an additional tumbler to what is considered Christmas-themed, the Snowberry would be it.
Care of Peanut Butter Glasses
Like most vintage glassware, Peanut Butter Glasses need to be washed by hand. The silk screen colors will not tolerate the harshness of a dishwasher. They will also fade if exposed to chlorine, so avoid contact with bleach.
It is easy to tell a Peanut Butter Glass that has been washed in an automatic dishwasher even a few times because the inside of the glass begins to develop streaks. How the paint wears is inconsistent. Sometimes one time in a dishwasher is all that is necessary to destroy the colors on a tumbler, and other times it takes multiple exposures to show deterioration.
Glasses that are streaked or faded have little or no value.
Indulge me for a moment as I get personal regarding Peanut Butter Glasses as these tumblers represent a great deal of firsts. My first book, published in 1997, was Peanut Butter Glasses, my first television appearance was on “Home Matters” and dealt with Peanut Butter Glasses, my first invitation to present a seminar was to a club of promotional glass collectors and the topic was Peanut Butter Glasses, my first writing for a periodical was on Peanut Butter Glasses, and Christmas Peanut Butter Glasses were featured in “Country Living Magazine” several Decembers ago. These tumblers are usable and beautiful, and they have created many exciting opportunities for me. No wonder I love them!