WILLIAMSTOWN-Collectors from across the world are expected to descend on Southeast Ohio July 26 when the last remaining pieces of the Fenton Art Glass Museum are auctioned off to the public.
The last of three auctions will see 585 of the finest pieces of Fenton Art Glass go to the highest bidders in what auction officials say will be a sort of grand finale for Fenton fans and dealers.
World-renowned Fenton Art Glass stopped traditional production of its famed pieces in 2011. Though it still separately operates a gift shop, it will end another chapter in its history in Dexter City with an almost all-day auction as bidders congregate to claim historical vases and other iconic decor.
“It’s one of those ‘saving the best for last’ deals, and there is excitement for it all over the country,” said auctioneer Randy Clark, whose company, Randy Clark and Associates, has coordinated the three auctions held throughout spring and summer. “People will be bidding all day, in person and over the phone, and I see it lasting somewhere around seven hours.”
The Williamstown-based company’s museum closed its doors in December in the face of a steady decline of the company’s profits that has threatened its closure several times.
In January, Fenton officials said the company was still attempting to focus on jewelry bead production and its gift shop, where Fenton products are on the market for heavy discounts.
“It’s the demise of the factory, and there’s really no other way to keep it open,” Clark said.
The Fenton Art Glass Museum itself was opened in the 1970s with the help of Fenton historian Jim Measell.
“There’s going to be some competition for some rare items,” Measell said. “And since this is the final one, the museum is now empty.”
Measell said bidders can expect to see stretch glass pieces from the 1920s and 1930s, along with many mosaics and hanging vine and heart design pieces, and a wide range of different colors and historical items from the second half of the 20th century, too.
“When you hit the ’60s there was a lot of hand-painted items, and into the last few decades there are limited edition items that are very rare,” Measell said.
When the company chose to close the museum in late 2013, Measell said it became crucial to sell its contents.
“When we got to the point when the factory couldn’t be operational, we decided to close the museum,” he said. “We just didn’t have the traffic and tours we’d normally get anymore.”
Measell still works at the factory, and said the auctions were designed for separate sales opportunities to sell out the museum’s contents, and are not reflective of any other financial changes with the company.
“The gift shop is still open and the bead making continues,” he said. “I believe they’ve been showing up at some arts and craft shows and stores at places like Twisted Sisters. Those things haven’t really changed since winter.”
Randy Fenton, president of Fenton Gift Shop, was not available for comment Monday, but in a January interview said the company was just focused on dwindling down its supply, noting that sometime in the near future the business could completely close its doors.
Of the 585 pieces that Clark will auction off at the company’s Dexter City gallery, some are predicted to sell at top price to excited Fenton dealers and fans across the world.
Sandusky-area resident Lynn Davis was shopping at Fenton Gift Shop Monday afternoon with her husband, Gene.
“We’re actually down here just to look at this,” she said. “I did not know about any auctions, but I can see that being of big interest, because we love it.”
A red, 20-and-a half-inch-tall vase made offhand in the 1920s for company founder Frank L. Fenton is one of the many one-of-a-kind pieces included in the auction.
“I expect it to go for $20,000 to $25,000,” Clark said. “Most of these items are originals that would have been made first for Frank’s approval for design and quality that he kept, so there are none quite like them.”
Clark said at the other two auctions held in April and June, buyers from as far away as Japan showed up to place bids.
“There’s a lot of interest in Fenton because it is really known everywhere,” he said. “It will be really exciting to see who shows up.”
For the Fentons, the auctions are still a bittersweet reality for the face of the company, which was founded more than 100 years ago and have seen a declining interest in the older, traditional pieces in a modern market.
The auction will begin at Clark’s Dexter City Auction Gallery at 11 a.m. July 26. Interested bidders can view the items live for preview in the three days leading up to the auction, and can view the items in detail at randyclarkauctions.com.