One of the great thrills of hunting for glass on internet auction website TradeMe is when you buy something you don't know what it is, but you have a hunch, and it turns out to be something quite special.
Of course, there are also those occasions when the hunch proves to be wrong, and the piece turns out to be nothing, or something of no interest that I can't identify. Which is why I have a box of motley pieces ready to be donated to the Opp Shop...
But here's one of the success stories.
A chunky art glass goblet, the trader said, with GBC 1979 engraved on the base. No other clues as to its origin or the identity of the maker. The auction was set for bidding to start at $20, with no reserve price.
I racked my brains to think who GBC might be, but to no avail. There was a photo, which had hints of NZ glass - Keith Mahy seemed a possibility, but he clearly wasn't 'GBC'. The photo wasn't as clear as this one, which I took once the piece arrived, but it was good enough to encourage me to bid. So I did. There was no interest from anyone else, so my opening bid of $20 was successful.
Garry Nash has always been helpful in my NZ glass research (as indeed have others), and he was involved in the glass scene in 1979, so I thought I'd send him an email to ask what he thought. A few days later I happened to be in Auckland so I called in to Nash Glass to see if Garry had any thoughts about it. Talking about it with Garry Nash and his colleague Claire Bell, Claire said ‘that could be a J, what is John Croucher’s middle name?’ Garry said at once ‘Barry, John Barry Croucher’.
Which made for a really exciting possibility. Once the piece arrived and I could handle it, I could confirm that it indeed it had JBC 1979 on the base, as you can see in the photo on the right.
I sent the photos off to John Croucher, who replied, saying:
'Yep you have a very early Croucher. We had just started blowing full time then. Amazing that people bought enough of that stuff that we could keep on doing it!'
So I am thrilled to be able to add this to my collection. I have several early Crouchers, but this is one of the earliest, and certainly the earliest signed one. The glass is very similar to that used in the decanter I have blogged about before, that was bought at Sunbeam in 1979 but is not signed. (See 'An Early Piece of Sunbeam Glass?' from May 2007). John was unable to be certain which of the early Sunbeams had made the decanter, identifying Danny Keighly, Ken Cooke and himself as possibilities, though he didn't think he had made it. But with the signature, there can be no doubt who made this goblet.
Just to round out the story, here are two other early pieces signed by John that I have bought on TradeMe, though I paid quite bit more than $20, since the vendors knew what they were.
The vase at left is signed 'J Croucher 1982' and the 'Hot Lips' sculpture at right is signed 'J Croucher 83'.