Vintage Glass Hunting in Prague

A city centre with a shop selling glass on pretty much every street sounds like heaven for the glass collector. Not so, I wouldn’t give a second glance, let alone house room, to 90% of the cheap trash on offer! Apart from pieces by Moser or similar factories, and pieces sold at the swish Material or Artel, that is. They’re well worth checking out.
If you’re looking, like me, for a quality piece of a vintage nature, then you have to look a bit harder. The tourist ridden Old Town (Praha 1) is a sensible starting point. Unsurprisingly, prices will be higher than anywhere else in the city, but it’s always worth bartering politely with cash – start at around a third less. Most tourist guides recommend Bric à Brac at Tynska 7 – there are two shops, one large and long emporium and one delightfully packed over-sized cupboard. I spotted a few good-ish things here, but prices were at the top end of what I’d want to pay in London. It’s also well worth paying extra attention to condition – browsing tourists can mean fleabites are a plenty…
Much better in my opinion was the Art Deco Galerie on Michalská 21. As well as a superb range of 1920s-50s fashion, the selection and quality of glass is much higher, and there’s more on offer. I made the best purchase of my trip here, but more on that later. I could easily have added another 3 or 4 pieces to my collection, had I the luggage space… Wend your way down from there to ‘SoNa’, the area south of Narodni and west of Wenceslas Square. You’ll find a fair few shops to browse in and, away from the tour buses, prices can be slightly lower. I found the other two things I bought from a great shop up the road from the useful Globe cafe and bookshop. Most antiques shops here close over the weekend, so adding a Friday or Monday to your weekend trip is best. Also look out for ‘Antik’ or ‘Bazar’ signs as ‘Antikvariat’ indicates an antiquarian or secondhand bookshop.
But to find the best selection, at the best prices, you have to head for the market. No, not the tourist tat-filled Havelskà, but those out of the city – the further, the better. I met up with Jindrich, a friend from the Glass Message Board. Generous, friendly, and with a great sense of humour, he kindly offered to drive me to the flea market at Kolbenova, in the ninth district. This was more like it! Hundreds of dealers selling everything from stereos and knuckle-dusters, to ceramics, glass, metalware and cuddly toys. All chucked onto blankets or folding tables (above). Heaven! The best advice is to get here early – very early. Jindrich told me that there are around half a dozen dedicated glass collectors, and a few more dealers, who arrive at around 6.30am. Within an hour, most of the bargains are gone, with many sellers keeping stuff behind for their regulars. But there are still bargains to be had – Jindrich picked up a good bit of Skrdlovice for about £20 that’d go over £100 on eBay, even though we arrived after 9 o’clock. Many dealers also buy in Southern Germany, so you’ll find a fair bit of Fat Lava amongst the 1930s wallmasks, quirky paintings, prints and metalwares. Bring plenty of small notes and bargain like your life depends on it, but expect to pay more than Czechs as you’ll stand out as being a tourist. Prices were certainly much lower when I kept my mouth shut, and stood away from Jindrich as we approached stands – he did the bargaining. One final tip – watch out for the coffee! Jindrich made sure to order me an instant coffee, rather than the popular Czech version, which consists of hot water poured straight onto ground coffee. Although much finally sinks to the bottom, you have to filter the remainder out through your teeth!

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