Carnival Glass – “Poor Man’s Tiffany”


There are many types of antique and vintage glass available in the market today.  Pressed glass (the pattern) has been around since about 1820 and iridescent glass (the finish) since at least 1873 – it was in this year that a wide range of styles and colours were displayed at the World’s Fair in Vienna.  Iridescent glass was produced in both Europe and America.

Favrile, an iridescent art glass developed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, was patented in 1894 and first produced for market in 1896.  In 1901, two disgruntled Tiffany workers left the company, hired two other former employees and started their own company – The Quezal Art Glass Decorating Co.   They made exact, but unmarked, replicas of the Tiffany pieces.  Quezal ceased operations in 1925.

The Fenton Glass Company is credited with creating the first carnival glass in 1907.  Labelled “Venetian Art”, it was an inexpensive rival to the pieces produced by Tiffany.  Many of the pieces were created to complement dinner china – bowls, water pitchers, punch sets, vases and goblets.  Other companies, Northwood and Millersburg to name two, soon joined in the mass-production of this inexpensive product which was sometimes referred to as “poor man’s Tiffany”.  Fenton continued to produce carnival glass until 2011.

Carnival glass was made by pressing molten glass into metal molds to create the base pattern.  After being released from the mold, the glass would still be malleable and the edge could be bent or crimped into ruffles or other edge designs.  The otherwise plain bowl or plate could also be shaped into various forms.  A solution of metallic salts or oxides would be applied to coat the piece and it was then re-fired.  As the liquid evaporated the metals would adhere resulting in a surface that refracted light into a myriad of colours.

Consumers understood that it was inexpensive to produce and that it was not top quality and its value dropped. Eventually, and as the name suggests, it was used as a give-away prize at carnivals and fairs.  It could easily be found in five-and-dimes and was often given away as a promotional piece at movie theaters and grocery stores.

In the mid-1990s, carnival glass experienced a surge in popularity at auction but has since fallen in value due to increased availability and accessibility – perhaps now is a great time to start collecting.

There are about 2,000 patterns and over 60 colours to choose from.  The picture above shows an amethyst, ruffled, spatula-footed bowl in Fenton’s Dragon and Lotus pattern.  It was produced sometime between 1915 and 1920.



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Distributions – Watch Your Language!


As the executor it is your duty to comply with the wishes of the testator as written in the Will.  It is therefore important that you understand what certain terms mean.

The residue of the estate is “all the stuff left over” after the specific bequests (piano to John, trumpet to Jane) have been made and all the bills and estate expenses have been paid.  These assets (or their cash value) are to be distributed according to the terms of the Will. A couple of trip-up legal Latin phrases to keep in mind here are “per stirpes” and “per capita” – they outline who is entitled to what.

In the above example, the residue of Tom’s estate is equal to $90,000.  Tom had three children:  Lana, Scott and Jim.  Lana was the only one of the three alive when he died.  Lana has one child – Dale, Scott had two children – Anne and David, and Jim had one child – Tina.

If the residue is to be distributed “in equal parts per stirpes” each branch of Tom’s family is to receive an equal share.  In this case, the value of the residue ($90,000) is to be divided into three equal parts of $30,000 – one part to each of Lana, Scott and Jim.  BUT since neither Scott nor Jim was living at the time of Tom’s death,* each share will be passed down to the next generation – Anne and David will share Scott’s portion, and Tina will inherit Jim’s entire $30,000.  (*Tom could have amended his Will on the death of each child if this result was not what he had wanted.)

If the distribution is to be “to my issue in equal parts per capita” each person alive (“capita” means “head”) will receive an equal amount without regard to whether they are a child, grandchild or great-grandchild (and yes, any living great-great-grandchildren would be included as “issue”).  So Tom’s $90,000 would be divided into five equal portions of $18,000 each.

In this case, both Lana and Tina would inherit $12,000 less than they would in a per stirpes distribution, Anne and David would each receive an additional $3,000 and Dale, completely left out of the per stirpes distribution would inherit $18,000.

On another note, the phrase “to my children alive at the time of my death” means exactly that.  The children, not any of their issue.  In this case Lana, the only child still living at the time of Tom’s death, would inherit the entire residue of $90,000.

Bottom line:
Executors:  When you are distributing the assets of an estate you must do so in the way the Will says.
Testators: When you are making a Will make sure that your Will says what you actually mean.



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Carte de Visites and Cabinet Cards



The carte de visite (visiting card) is a small, thin albumin print mounted on thick card stock.  These photographs were used both as calling cards and as gifts to family and friends. Popular from the late 1850s to the early 1870s (although still produced in the early 20th century) CDVs were a hit in Europe and North America and the size (2½” x 4″) was standard among countries.

The carte de visite was patented in France by André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri in 1854. His technique of taking 8 portraits on each photographic plate was relatively inexpensive and easy to make. This made portraiture affordable to the middle class.  Royalty and celebrities also sat for these portraits which made them instantly collectible.

During the 1860s, CDVs became the standard medium for photos of Civil War soldiers. Albums for collecting and displaying cards became common in Victorian homes.

The popularity of the carte de visite began to wane in 1866 when the larger (4″ x 5½”) cabinet card was introduced. The cabinet card was popular until the 1920s when amateur photographers were able to have their own photographs printed directly onto postcards. These affordable photos quickly made traditional cabinet cards obsolete.

Are they valuable?  Like anything vintage or antique value is determined by a number of factors such as age, condition and scarcity.  CDVs are not rare items – they were produced by the millions in the 19th century. Autographed CDVs of prominent people are generally the most valuable. In 2015, a signed carte de visite of Abraham Lincoln sold for $49,913USD.

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What is a Letter of Wishes?


Occasionally, an executor will find an envelope with the Will.  What may be inside is what is often referred to as a “Letter of Wishes” (other names include “Memorandum to the Trustee” or “Memorandum to a Will”).  Inside are the thoughts of the testator – on almost any matter – that have been written as a guide for the executor.

There are two types of these Letters of Wishes: one that is actually incorporated by reference into the Will – the document (letter) must already exist at the time the Will is signed and must also be clearly identifiable; or one that has been left with the Will, previously sent to the executor, or has to be searched for.

The first type (incorporated into the Will) forms part of the Will itself and, as such, the instructions are legally binding upon the executor.  It cannot be changed without going through the same formal process needed to amend a Will.

The second type (stand-alone letter) while not legally binding on the executor should be thought of as being morally-binding.  This non-binding Letter of Wishes can be changed at any time for any reason without any formality and, because it is not part of the Will itself – it is a private document between the testator and the executor.

The instructions in a Letter of Wishes can cover many topics:

Funeral/burial/memorial wishes – Although actually the responsibility of the executor these arrangements are often made by the family.  If, however, the deceased had specific wishes or believed that the family would not honour them, a Letter of Wishes can outline what was wanted by the deceased.  This can be particularly useful regarding religious or spiritual matters particularly if there is a possible conflict of ideas.

Reasons for including or not including – Beneficiaries (expectant or unexpected) may be surprised by what may or may not have been left to them.  The executor can explain quietly and privately the reason or reasons in the testator’s own words.

Instructions for the distribution of sentimental items or other assets – Our “stuff” is ever changing.  We often buy and discard on a regular basis.  If a list of belongings were incorporated into a Will – either in the body itself or by reference to an asset list – not only could it take pages to name every item and beneficiary but any change to the list would have to be formally executed.  The advantage of a non-binding Letter of Wishes outlining who should get what is that it can easily be updated or changed in any manner at any time.

Wills are formally written using specific legal language whereas a Letter of Wishes is written in plain English (or any other language).  A personal message to your family or beneficiaries can also be included in a Letter of Wishes although talking to your loved ones during your lifetime is best.  As with the Will itself, a Letter of Wishes should be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that it is up-to-date.


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Common Types of Wood Found in Estate Furniture


Almost any type of wood can be used to build furniture.  Each type of wood has its own colour and grain characteristics and can be stained or painted to suit the piece.

The wood of a piece of furniture may not always be easy to identify.  The natural colour of the wood has most likely been changed by the original finish, later refinishing efforts and always by time (humidity and light particularly).  The choice of wood for a particular piece is also influenced by popularity and availability (time and geographic location) and economic status of the buyer.  Here are a few of the more common woods that you may find in an estate.

HARDWOODS – come from slow-growing deciduous trees that produce a dense wood.  These are usually more expensive than softwoods.

Ash – natural colour is a light brown.  Ash has a straight grain and can be easily bent into curved pieces.

Birch – natural colour ranges from off-white to pale yellow.  Birch does not stain easily so is often painted.

Cherry – natural red-brown colour darkens with age and exposure to light.  One of the more expensive woods.

Mahogany – brown to dark reddish-brown colour with straight grain.  Expensive and often used as a veneer.

Maple – light brown with straight grain but grain variations include bird’s-eye, curly and wavy patterns.

Oak – either red oak or white oak – has a distinct grain pattern.  Oak darkens with age and is extremely durable.

Teak – has a natural oil which makes it weather-resistant.  Used for both interior and exterior furniture.

Walnut – chocolate brown with fairly straight grain.  Susceptible to damage by direct sunlight

SOFWOODS come from fast-growing coniferous trees.  Softwoods are usually lighter in colour than hardwoods and are easily scratched and damaged.

Pine – lightweight and inexpensive.  Can be either stained or painted.

Cedar – red cedar has a straight grain and is used to line closets and chests because its aroma repels insects.  Often used for outdoor furniture.


Burl – a beautifully figured wood grain due to abnormal growth caused by damage to a living tree.  Although the tree remains relatively healthy the often visible deformed lump contains complex grain patterns of swirls.  Because these are naturally-occurring and not overly common (“expensive”) the burled wood can often be found as a veneer.

Veneer – a slim layer (less than 1/8″ or 3mm) of wood glued to a core of a less expensive wood.  Veneer is not necessarily a synonym for “cheap” although the quality of furniture ranges greatly.  Veneers are susceptible to environmental damage (moisture and dryness) and can be difficult to repair.

These are just of few of the possibilities for which wood you have.  When valuing high-quality and antique furniture for your Estate Information Return or for equalization of distribution it’s best to get a proper appraisal from a professional experienced with furniture.  If you choose to store furniture ensure that the location is environmentally controlled, i.e., not in a garage, attic or other outside storage.


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Not Just for the Elderly or Terminally Ill: Power of Attorney for Personal Care


A couple of weeks ago, after a heavy snowfall, a normally busy street was closed to traffic.  Two cars had collided head-on and both drivers were air-lifted to hospital – one with life-threatening injuries.  The18-year-old involved spent his Christmas in a medically-induced coma.  (Source)

This tragic situation raises many questions, unrelated to the accident itself, such as:

  • If this was your child would you know what he or she would want, how they would wish to be cared for?
  • If this was you who would speak for you if you were unable to communicate?

The best way to ensure that your wishes would be met is through a Power of Attorney for Personal Care (“PoA‑PC”).

When properly executed, this document gives the person, or persons, of your choice the legal authority to speak on your behalf with regard to all medical and healthcare matters – from housing and hygiene to end-of-life decisions – and only takes effect when you cannot speak for yourself for whatever reason.

There are two parts to a PoA‑PC – the appointment of a specific person or persons to make personal care decisions for you should you be unable to (your “attorney”), and the directive which sets out your preferences for personal care and medical treatment (some call this a “living Will”).

“Unable to” doesn’t necessarily mean that you are afflicted with some form of dementia but, rather, that you cannot communicate your wishes.  This may be due to one of several reasons:

  1. Alzheimer’s, dementia or other neurological problem,
  2. an inability to communicate due to a language barrier, or
  3. due to the effect of a medical treatment (fogginess due to drugs, etc.)

Anyone 16 years of age of over can make a PoA-PC and, likewise, anyone 16 years of age of over can be your attorney for your PoA-PC.

Your attorney should be someone who lives nearby so can be there for you at a moment’s notice and be someone you can confide in about your wishes.  You can change your attorney at any time – you are not locked in should you change your mind.

Although a PoA-PC is best be prepared by your lawyer, information and the form can be downloaded from the Ministry of the Attorney General ( if you’re in a pinch.

Keep in mind that a Power of Attorney for Personal Care does not give your attorney the ability to handle any financial matters (paying rent, mortgage, bills or the like).  You will need a Continuing Power of Attorney for Property for these matters.  The person you choose for your Attorney for Property may be the same or different from your Attorney for Personal Care (but must be 18 years or older for Property).

For this year, make it a resolution to not only look after yourself but to look after those around you.  Do you, your parents, friends or kids have Powers of Attorney for Personal Care?  If not, please do look into it for yourself, find and speak with your chosen attorney.  Talk to those you care about so that they can do this too.  And also, may you and yours have a wonderful, healthy and safe 2017. Happy New Year!

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Is This a Crystal Glass or a Glass Glass?


Clear glass is made by melting together sand (which contains silica), soda ash and limestone at a very high heat (1700°C). What we call “crystal” is simply a type of glass that has lead oxide added to the molten glass (24% is optimum, although content levels can range from 10% to 33% by weight). Other mineral oxides are added to create different colours of glass or crystal.

There are six quick ways of determining what you have – thickness, sound, weight, clarity, cut and light refraction.

Thickness – crystal wine glasses can have a very thin rim.

Sound – carefully tap the glass. Crystal has a high “ping” sound, glass does not.

Weight – if you compare two glasses of the same size, the crystal glass will have a more solid feel and will also be heavier.

Clarity – the higher the lead content the greater the clarity.

Cut – the cuts are smoother than those in glass which have a “sharpness” to them.

Light Refraction – if you hold it up to the light, crystal will sparkle and act as a prism.

Two cautions when dealing with crystal decanters and glassware:

Lead Contamination – DO NOT STORE food (jam, cheese) or liquid (wine, whisky) in crystal jars and decanters as lead can and will leach into the food or liquid. Use crystal only for short periods of time. Health Canada tests have shown that the amount of lead consumed from a crystal glass during a meal is safe. Lead concentrations of up to 20 ppm (100 times the allowable level) have been found in wines kept for weeks in crystal decanters. Soak your decanter in vinegar for 24 hours before using.

Dishwasher – wash your crystal by hand after using. If you can’t wash the glasses immediately, ensure that you rinse out any residue. Do not wash crystal in the dishwasher as the high temperature and abrasive nature of dishwasher detergents can damage your crystal and increase the release of lead.

Lead-free crystal items, which use barium oxide instead of lead, are available but are not considered to be true crystal.

No matter what you have, whether crystal or glass, do enjoy it!

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