Rare & Unusual Pyrex

It doesn't take long for the determined Pyrex collector to become reasonably familiar with the Standard and Non-Standard patterns which were offered through the normal retail channels. Every so often, however, a piece will pop up that defies identification or explanation.

Collector guide books published in the past on the subject of Pyrex collecting were not familiar with some of the things taken for granted today. Even as little as five years ago, there were pieces classified as "unknowns" for which concrete information is presently available.

For some pieces found in seemingly unusual colors, the answer lay in how several open stock bowls or limited run specials were marketed. It was not uncommon for both these types of products to be issued in colors opposite those of the same size bowls or casseroles included in alternating-color sets of their patterns.

For others, the explanation was simply a pattern variation marketed through a non-traditional source. Two examples include the Verde Floral and the Orange Butterprint patterns, both having been identified as obtainable via trading stamp redemption programs like S&H Green Stamps.

One interesting example is that of a 400 bowl set known as a "Red & Orange" set. Its colors are alternating solid shades of a burnt orange and a rust red. Examples found as NOS were in plain cartons marked only "400 CRS". The 400 obviously refers to the set model number, but the CRS has been a bit of a puzzle. Since one example was found with a price sticker from the Corning Glass Center retail store, it might be surmised that CRS stands for "Corning Retail Store".

On April 4, 2017, with the assistance of collector and Instagram user "tosasfield3", it was able to be determined that the shades of orange and red, the former having previously been identified as a match to the orange Daisy pattern collection 404, were also a match to the base colors, and in sequence, of the 1974-1976 Flameglo 400 series bowls. Was the CRS set-- by its style of backstamps, necessarily produced 1975-1978-- a product test? Or was it merely a way to dispose of partially finished inventory from a discontinued FlameGlo pattern? We may never know for certain.

For other patterns seen offered as rare and unusual, the answer is sometimes as simple as the pieces having been produced by Pyrex licensees in England or Australia in patterns never distributed in the USA.

It is important to differentiate, however, between the simply "rare" and the "unusual". A piece may be rare but not necessarily unusual, examples being the 1959 promotional "Lucky In Love" casserole or the aforementioned Orange Butterprint. Their provenance can be traced and is documented.

Many of the truly unusual are in the form of pieces whose base or decoration color deviates from the norm. Examples include an Early American Cinderella casserole in turquoise, or a Woodland bowl in green instead of the usual browns. Or a pattern decoration seen on a non-regular production dish shape, like a Turquoise Snowflake oblong casserole. Apparently, there was quite a bit of experimentation going on either at Corning or at the opal ware plant, and many unofficial pieces were produced over the years. Whether these were marketing test pieces, production errors, or just some unauthorized employee lunch-hour creations is unclear, but many have "escaped into the wild" and are sought after by collectors.

The unusual may also take the form of standard patterns in standard colors seen on shapes not offered as part of regular production. Examples include 024 round casseroles in Verde Floral and Spring Blossom Green patterns.

Additionally, extremely rare cases include shapes that were not regular production, such as a divided 033 oblong casserole and a Cinderella bowl smaller than a 441 numbered 440.

Other unusual sightings include:

  • Cloverberry 475 Cinderella casserole in turquoise with gold leaf "cloverberry" pattern
  • "Hex Signs" 475 Cinderella casserole in white with gold leaf pattern and patterned clear lid
  • "Hex Signs" 475 Cinderella casserole in white with turquoise pattern, patterned clear lid and patterned underplate
  • "Sunflower" pattern in orange-yellow on 473 and 503 opal
  • "Sunflower" pattern in white on turquoise 441 and 442
  • "Compass" pattern in white on turquoise 033 oblong casserole
  • 440 series bowls in "Blue Dianthus" pattern in cornflower blue on opal and the reverse
  • "Barcode" 470 series casseroles in colors other than light blue on medium blue
  • Lucky In Love pattern on a Cinderella 475 2-1/2 qt. casserole
  • Verde Floral pattern in blue on 440 series Cinderella bowl
  • Oblong 4-quart casserole in turquoise with white "compass" pattern
  • Friendship pattern on yellow 441, blue 401, or green 402
  • Gooseberry 440 set in all opal with black pattern*
  • Gooseberry Cinderella 440 set in alternating yellow on opal and white on yellow
  • Gooseberry Cinderella 440 set in gold on ivory
  • Butterprint 470 set in opal with pink pattern*
  • 575 Space Saver in turquoise with gold leaf birds pattern
  • Oval casserole in opal with blue and gray "atomic stars" pattern
  • 043 oval casserole in yellow with gold "New Mexico" pattern
  • Starburst 575 Space Saver casserole in black
  • 575 Space Saver casserole in opal with blue clouds and stars pattern
  • Gourmet Cinderella 475 casseroles in black on opal and gold leaf on golden yellow
  • Golden Acorn pattern on ivory Cinderella 480 set
  • Turquoise on white Butterprint 548 Space Saver casserole
  • 035 oblong casserole in sage green with white scroll pattern
  • Snowflake Blue 024 2-quart round casserole
  • Pink Daisy 474 Cinderella casserole
  • Turquoise on opal 053 open baker with 7 large snowflakes per side
Other than * which may have been limited availability, all appear to be non-regular production US made Pyrex.

There are several patterns on rare and unusual pieces which did not appear on any standard production dishes or bowls. As with the promotionals that were not given official names, collectors have found it necessary to make up names for them. Included are monikers like Golden Gate, Golden Thistle, Amoeba, Cloverberry, Gypsy Caravan, Celestial, and Sunflowers.

Perhaps one clue to why and how these kinds of pieces came to exist lies in their propensity to be found in the Northeast US, in and around the environs of Corning, NY and Charleroi, PA, home to the Pyrex opal ware plant. These areas are also-- expectedly-- the prime sources of special company commemorative pieces.

Some collectors have made a mission of seeking out these Pyrex unicorns. At the 54th Annual Seminar On Glass hosted by the Corning Museum Of Glass in October 2015, many unusual and hard to find Pyrex pieces from her collection and those of others were highlighted by author Megan McGrady in her presentation for the Collectors Panel. Many more are featured in her book "The Hot For Pyrex Guide to Rare and Hard to Find Vintage Pyrex":

The Hot for Pyrex Guide to Rare and Hard to Find Vintage Pyrex
by Megan McGrady and Fred Miller, 5th ed. ©2014, paperback 204 pgs.

A selection of unusual vintage Pyrex can also be viewed at the Hot For Pyrex website: www.hotforpyrex.com

At the conclusion of the panel, during the question and answer session, seminar attendee and panelist, retired Corning designer Herb Dann shared some information pertaining to the rare and unusual, essentially confirming that which had been long suspected: Many of the oddities seen were indeed the product of test runs, but samples which should have been destroyed. He added that he had also in recent years himself seen quantities of unusual Pyrex for sale by individuals who said they had been culled from long term storage by family members of former Corning employees.

While most Pyrex enthusiasts are satisifed to acquire and collect the regular standard production and promotional pieces, the unusual and rare still remain objects of mystery and fascination whenever they are encountered.

Pyrex Particulars
"Pyrex Particulars"
The bowls from the "CRS Red & Orange" 400 sets are identical in color to the base colors of the corresponding FlameGlo bowls.