Young shares passion for Vaseline glass

Young shares passion for Vaseline glass
Dave Mast

Matt Young got into carnival glass collecting because of his grandmother, who willed him her collection.


While many might conjure up visions of healing diaper rash, removing make-up or moisturizing dry skin when the word Vaseline is mentioned, for Matt Young of Loudonville, the thoughts turn to glass.

Young was the keynote speaker at the annual Millersburg Glass Association business meeting that took place Friday, Oct. 8 at Comfort Suites in Berlin after the first half of the annual Millersburg Glass Auction.

While many people interested in the world of carnival glass know Millersburg Glass is one of the most coveted name brands in the collecting world, with rare and unique pieces that shine brightly with the iridescent look John Fenton perfected in the early 1900s, Young has become well-versed in one particular type of Millersburg Glass, that being the Vaseline pieces, which are among the rarest and most highly sought-after pieces of glass in the world.

Vaseline glass is a distinctive glass created with uranium, which gives it the glowing appeal that makes it look like the Vaseline product after which it was named. One of the main characteristics for Vaseline glass is it can be seen under a black light, giving off an almost eerie yet spectacular glow.

Young became an admirer of Vaseline glass years ago when his grandmother got him interested in the glass through her collection, and since then he has researched, purchased and collected Vaseline glass to the point where he has become somewhat of an expert on the topic.

“When you collect one facet of some sort of antique, your knowledge and appreciation kind of spills over into other aspects of that same category,” Young said. “Naturally, when I found out Millersburg had Vaseline pieces, I was gung ho to learn everything I could about it because it was made right in our own backyard.”

Young said when he began his research, there was not one particular source he could go to that explained the whole story of Millersburg’s Vaseline glass. Throughout the pandemic this past year, he sold out on discovering every bit of information he could get his fingers on that dealt with Millersburg Vaseline glass.

His own knowledge of how they made Vaseline glass, combined with the many other resources he sought, gave him insight into the Vaseline glass industry and in Millersburg Vaseline glass in particular.

He then created a pamphlet discussing the many unique aspects of Vaseline glass.

Young said he bought a house at the height of the atomic era when uranium was all the talk. He said that connected him to all things uranium, and he quickly began to explore this glass that was made using uranium to give it its glow.

“When I found out that there were antiques out there that contained uranium, it immediately caught my attention,” Young said. “I collect hard and heavy when I get into something, so I went all sorts of crazy on collecting Vaseline glass, just because of the uranium content and its connection to that era.”

That a revered glass company made Vaseline glass so close to his home made him want to invest in exploring the style even more.

When his grandmother passed away, Young inherited her collection, and he has been deeply involved in the hobby since, especially in the Vaseline side of it. He said after inheriting his grandmother’s collection, he quickly became a member of the Millersburg Glass Association. At the time he inherited his grandmother’s collection, he had little knowledge as to what kind of glass he had and the value it held, so he turned to long-time MGA member Randy Jones for some advice on what he now possessed.

During that time, which took place less than two years ago, Young told Jones if the association ever needed someone to speak on Vaseline, he would be glad to do so.

Jones took him up on that proposal when the two were at a glass auction in New York this March. It was then Jones asked him to speak, and Young prepared to give his first official seminar on Vaseline glass.

He used Jones’ collection of rare and expensive glass as examples of some of the fine Vaseline glass available and discussed its properties and how they made glass with uranium in it. He said while there is uranium in the glass, the levels used are not high enough to be harmful.

Young, who carries a black light with him wherever he goes, loves talking Vaseline glass with anyone who will listen. He said it is always enjoyable to go to an antique store, use his black light and wait for people to ask what he is doing.

“I’m shining my black light everywhere, and people come up and ask me what I’m doing, and that always kicks off a fun discussion,” Young said.

Young said sharing about the hobby and this specific portion of glass collecting is always one of the best parts about collecting glass. He said being able to impart his specific knowledge to a group he knows holds the same joy of collecting carnival glass is always a thrill.

He said the MGA members have all been welcoming and gracious with imparting their wisdom in areas of collecting he isn’t so aware of, and sharing his knowledge of Vaseline glass is a way of returning the favor. Here are a few facts about Vaseline glass:

—The term Vaseline glass was coined around 1938 in a Fenton art glass catalog.

—Vaseline glass was made by using uranium oxide.

—There are more colors in the uranium glass spectrum, but that which shines yellow under a black light is considered to be Vaseline glass.

—The EPA has deemed radioactive antiques safe to be around.

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