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What Makes a Swig Swanky?

From Swanky Swigs to Promotional Character Glasses


What Makes a Swig Swanky?

Texas Centennial Swanky Swigs

- Pamela Wiggins
Sometimes things sit in our kitchen cabinets for so long, they gradually age into collectibles. If you have a few colorful character glasses stuck way back in one of your cubbies, it's time to get them out and look them over.

Back When Swigs Were Really Swanky

The predecessor to today's character glasses actually came on the scene during the Depression-era. Collectors call these little glasses "swanky swigs" referring to swanky decals featuring colorful flowers, stars, animals, and even Texas Centennial themes, decorating them.

These juice-sized tumblers originally held Kraft cheese products and were premiums distributed over many years. Occasionally collectors will run across a swanky swig with an original lid bearing the Kraft name still intact or, even more rarely, with the cheese product still in the jar.

Older glasses with a similar look originally held other types of products, and these are sometimes referred to as swanky swigs as well but not usually by collecting purists. Swankies distributed by Kraft measure 4 ½” in height, while other similar glasses can vary in size.

Finding Swanky Swigs Today

Lots of swanky swigs are still around, since juice glasses tended to get less use than other sizes of tumblers dating back as far as the Depression-era. Many of them are still in great shape, but running across a few with faded decals or discoloration from washing and wear isn’t out of the question.

Lots of Swanky Swigs can still be found for $10 or less, with the Texas Centennial examples usually selling for more. Relatively inexpensive and fun to discover and display, these older decorated tumblers will continue to increase in value as we move further into the 21st century. However, many of the swanky swig's descendants already command a hefty price.

The Value of Swanky Descendents

Six scenes from the popular Howdy Doody Show held the first spot on a Welch's jelly jar back in 1953. These jars now sell for $75 or more each in excellent condition. And a limited-release prototype Howdy Doody jar can be worth a whopping $800 to the right individual.

Another Welch's set important to collectors features the original Flintstones characters. These particular glasses can run in the $75 range, too. The Archies, Disney characters, Winnie-the-Pooh, Tom and Jerry, Dr. Seuss and the Muppets have all had their cartoon likeness decaled on Welch's jelly glass jars over the years.

All these characters find importance by appealing to children, and as those children mature into adults the nostalgia factor seems to intensify that importance. All those grown-up kids begin collecting their long, lost pals.

Pepsi, McDonald's and Coca-Cola have issued some of the most popular character glasses. Many of these can be found for $10 or less, but some rare examples sell for $100 or more in the right market. Back in the '70s, superheroes such as Superman and Aquaman found their way into homes through Pepsi promotions. Some Pepsi character glasses can be worth thousands if you happen to own just the right one.

McDonald's offered the Camp Snoopy collection a little later, but these glasses aren't worth nearly as much at about $2 apiece. Other fast food tumblers in the low-end price range are Arby's BC Ice Age, Hardee's Smurfs, McDonald's Muppet Capers, and Pizza Hut's Flintstones Kids.

Learning More About Promotional Glasses

For those wanting to learn more, a lot more, about this hobby, Collector Glass News (see link below) contains a wealth of online information. Here you'll find articles on specific types of glasses, suggested books on the topic, a message board, and current character glass auctions including some rare examples.

Really enthusiastic glass collectors should consider joining the Promotional Glass Collectors Association (linked below), publishers of Collector Glass News. This group provides those who love cartoon, character, advertising and sports drinking glasses a place to come together including several meetings a year where collectors can get together to swap glasses and share rare finds.

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