Posted 6 years ago
As a collector of salt shakers and condiment sets, it’s only a natural to be interested in their bigger brother, the sugar shaker. Also known as sugar sifters and muffineers, they were produced in many types of glass of the Victorian period as well as produced by most all glass manufacturers of the period. Sugar shakers often will have matching salt and pepper shakers, however there seems to be a much larger variety of salt and pepper shakers in terms of types of glass, shapes, and decoration.
When one is considering collecting sugar shakers, keep in mind that there are reproductions. One of the most common reproductions out there are in the Nine Panel mould and one must be aware that there are old and new items in this pattern. Old pieces in the nine panel mould tend to be thinner and have a finely chipped, rough top edge which was a result of the manufacturing process. However, certain sugar shakers that are old may have had a ground top edge. Always remember, knowledge is power, one must obtain books on the subject, handle as much glass as possible, as well as speaking with experienced collectors and dealers. Please remember, knowing what you are looking at will hopefully prevent you from buying the wrong items. Unfortunately, there are no new books on the subject but Heacock’s book on Syrups, Sugar Shakers, & Cruets is recommended as well as selected sections in other art glass books that are out there.
I don’t believe that sugar shakers were used nearly as much as salt and pepper shakers and condition shows that. Most sugar shakers are in very good shape for their age and the sugar they dispensed, is not corrosive like salt. Tops are usually in good shape and the damage, if found, is typically dents and maybe some rust, which in both cases can be fixed and cleaned up on the common tin or nickel plated lids. Most tops on American produced sugar shakers is a screw on single piece tin or nickel plated top in a few different shapes. Fancier shakers, typically produced by Mt Washington and Monroe have fancy embossed two piece tops or even Pronged tops, and some that may complete the shape of the shaker such as the Mt Washington Fig. Other sugar shakers that may have had two piece tops would be Phoenix Barrel shaped sugar shakers, once believed to have been produced by Hobbs. These sugar shakers have been produced in many types of glass and decorations, some quite unusual. They can make quite a display when you acquire a group of them.
At times you may find a sugar shaker without a top, don’t let a missing top discourage you (in most cases) from buying a nice sugar shaker. Tops are pretty much generic, however there may be slight size variations, when it comes to typical one piece tops. They can be very plain to somewhat fancy tops with a spiral design in them. However, some sugar shakers typically produced by Mt Washington in which the top is part of the form in which the shaker represents. This would typically be Figs, Eggs, and Chick Heads. Mt Washington Tomatoes do have a fancy two piece top and that is the top that should be on it when found, even though it’s really not part of the form of the piece it represents. Tops do show up from time to time, and when found at a reasonable price, buy them!
Some foreign makers also produced sugar shakers. English and Bohemian makers produced pieces and are often misidentified as to who exactly made them. Most foreign makers in my experience had friction fit two piece tops usually domed in shape, but not always.
A nice collection of sugar shakers makes a pretty impressive display. Opalescent, decorated, cased glass, and other art glass shakers can be found. All makers have made sugar shakers and like with anything else, some are fairly common and some are quite rare! Pictured is a representation of most levels of shakers in quality and rarity.
As you can see many sugar shakers, in design, were in shapes and sizes that would rather be awkward to use. So, to me, they would be more decorative rather than a practical item to use. I find that these very types of unusual shaped pieces are most attractive and often found in the best shape simply because they were not used.
I personally like to add sugar shakers to my collection of salt shakers because of their relation. It’s always fun to pair up both salt and sugar shakers in patterns that were produced in both shapes. I’m not aware of any silverplate holders that house both salt & pepper shakers as well as a sugar shaker, I have seen sugar shakers in holders with a salt and pepper but not too sure if that spot was actually for a sugar shaker, however I may be wrong. I have seen though a holder that an Mt Washington Egg sugar shaker fit into that represents a half broken egg.
With the turn of the 19th to the 20th centuries, sugar shakers began to disappear and fell into glass making history.
I often think, what sugar shaker can I say in my personal favorite? The answer is that I don’t have any particular one. There are so many that are interesting in their own way and are so unusual. I guess that is what may keep a collector going, that one finds so many that are interesting and beautiful. As mentioned before, there are so many types of glass and shapes that sugar shakers can be found in.
One can build a nice collection if interested in collecting sugar shakers. On line, and major antique shows would be the best outlet to buy quality sugar shakers. Like with all glass, examine the piece carefully especially under the top for damage. Fine rim chipping is not an issue as many pieces do possess this as a part of the making process for many. Larger chips and hairlines however may be an issue, especially if they extend below the screw on top.
My personal collection consists of 100+ sugar shakers and all pictured in this article are from my collection.