Nonetheless, I bought the snail. I popped it onto my mantle and promptly forgot all about it. I never imagined it might be worth something.
Interestingly, I discovered the origins of my snail purely by chance. Last week, I was reading an old novel by Carol Shields - Small Ceremonies. It was published ages ago, but I was completely unaware of it before I picked up my copy at the Parkdale Salvation Army. And in the book (which is quite good, by the way) is a reference to a "Steuben glass snail." As soon as I read that phrase, I wondered about my own snail, and I set about Googling.
Apparently, genuine Steuben glass ornamentals are worth quite a chunk of change. The Steuben Snail first appeared in about 1949 and was designed by either George Thompson or David Hills (there is conflicting information in the old Steuben catalogues as to the designer). The snail is approx. 3.5" long and I've seen ones like mine priced at $300 online.
Crazy, right? $300 for a silly little glass snail?
Silly, maybe, but true.
Alas, the downside is that I'm not sure mine is authentic. My wee snail is unsigned. Here's what the signature is supposed to look like. The pics are from the Mallaries website. Mine is unmarked.
While the Steuben's I've seen online have antennae with rounded, bulbous tips, my snail's antennae taper to a point. I'm no expert, but I'm guessing that might signal a fake.
Still, I'm happy to know my fake has a bit of a history, a bit of pedigree, even if it's only a copy. And since it only cost $2.99, I'd still say I got a deal. Thanks Goodwill.