Fenton auction expected to draw worldwide bids

WILLIAMSTOWN – Collectors from across the world are expected for an auction of the last remaining pieces of the Fenton Art Glass Museum at11 a.m. July 26 at the Dexter City Auction Gallery, 130 Jefferson St., Dexter City.

The last of three auctions will include 585 pieces of Fenton Art Glass go to the highest bidders in what organizers say will be a grand finale for Fenton fans and dealers.

Fenton Art Glass stopped traditional production in 2011. Though it still separately operates a gift shop, it will end another chapter in its history in Dexter City with an all-day auction as buyers bid on historical vases and other iconic decor.

The auction will begin at 11 a.m. July 26 Clark’s Dexter City Auction Gallery. 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.

“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 of Randy Clark and Associates, which has organized three Fenton auctions. “People will be bidding all day, in person and over the phone, and I see it lasting somewhere around seven hours.”

The Fenton museum closed 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 focusing 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 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, 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.

“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 closed 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 the museum 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 unavailable for comment, but in a January interview said the company was focused on dwindling down its supply, noting in the near future the business could completely close.

Of the 585 pieces Clark will auction 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, 20.5 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.”