Latest News, WVPA Sharing

Smiles, sadness at Fenton Art Glass sale


The Parkersburg News and Sentinel

WILLIAMSTOWN, W.Va. — Although many of the participants at Fenton Art Glass events over the weekend in Williamstown and Marietta were saddened over the news the old Fenton Art Glass factory will be torn down, many people still came out to find unique pieces at sales and auctions held in the area.

Walter Voshel and Ann Stull of Marietta look at pieces of Fenton Art Glass on Sunday at Williamstown Elementary School during the annual Fenton glass sale. People came with pieces to sell while others were looking to buy as a number of Fenton-related events are being held throughout the area.
(Photo by Brett Dunlap)

The annual Fenton glass sale ran from last Wednesday through today. The sale is scheduled to run today from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at Williamstown Elementary School, 418 Williams Ave., Williamstown.

The National Fenton Glass Society (NFGS) convention was held at the Marietta Quality Inn from Saturday through today, while the Fenton Art Glass Collectors of America (FAGCA) convention will be Tuesday through Thursday at First Baptist Church of Williamstown, 431 Highland Ave., Williamstown.

“We do it every year,” said Bill Cottenmyre of Springfield, Ohio, who is one of the organizers for the glass sale.

The sale is always the last weekend in July. This year had 10 dealers selling various pieces of Fenton glass. They saw hundreds of people throughout the sale with around 300 on Thursday alone, he said.

 “Some people came here five or six times in one day,” Cottenmyre said. “People were always putting things out and we are always buying from each other.”

Different pieces that no one has seen before usually draws a lot of attention.

“If we see something no one has seen before, everyone is after that piece,”Cottenmyre said.

The value of Fenton pieces has seen a decline in value in recent years, but is starting to increase again. For a while, a glass pitcher once worth around $1,000 could only be sold for around $500. This year, sales were 30-40 percent better than last year, but it is no where near what it was back in the 1990s.

The sale saw a number of local people coming in and looking around with a few with Fenton items they want to sell, Cottenmyre said.

Many people in the younger generation are not interested in collecting or selling Fenton glassware. Other glassware has seen a significant drop in value.

“With Fenton, the colors are so vibrant,” Cottenmyre said. “They speak to people.

“Fenton made so many items.”

Many people will collect a certain type of piece, whether it is a certain animal or color.

“My wife (Brenda) and I collected everything, we didn’t care,” Cottenmyre said.

The Cottenmyres have been collecting Fenton pieces since the early 1980s.

“We are just a bunch of nuts who like glass,” he said. “It is like collecting anything.

“With Fenton you will see something every day you haven’t seen before. That is the joy.”

The sale has featured dealers from Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Nebraska and Florida. One group had people huddled around their table as they unpacked with a number of items going as soon as they were unveiled. Cottenmyre estimated those people sold 70 percent of what they brought within the first hour.

Other people were selling pieces at the Quality Inn in Marietta, Mrs. Cottenmyre said.

For over a week, Fenton glass is showcased by different groups in the area, she said, adding it brings a lot of people into the area.

Cottenmyre bought five different pieces at the show and had already resold them. He is always on the lookout for things people are unaware of what they have that he can get cheaply and resell it at a profit.

“I get a thrill out of the hunt, the capture and the release,” he said. “I go shopping three times a week.”

The joy is in the hunt for different items, getting them and being able to sell them for more than they bought them for, Cottenmyre said. He has bought a specific piece for $700 and sold it for $4,800 at other sales.

“There is no greater high than that,” he said with a laugh. “We have a ball.”

Ann Stull, of Marietta, worked at Fenton Gift Shop for 37 years and loves the pieces.

“I love the glass,” she said. “I was looking for glass.”

Many of the dealers at the sale were people she sold pieces to over the years.

“A lot of the people here I waited on while I was at the gift shop,” Stull said. “It is like a reunion for me.”

Having bought a lot of the newer pieces while at the gift shop, Stull is now looking for the older pieces.

“There is a quality to it,” she said. “It is the art and craftsmanship that draws people to it.”

The NFGS held its 27th annual convention over the weekend in the area. A consignment auction was held Sunday at Williamstown High School which had 171 people registered from all over the United States as well as two from Japan.

The auction was open to the public and anyone could come in and buy Fenton pieces. Pieces were going for $5-$500, said NFGS President Les Rowe.

Many collectors have responded to how personable the Fenton Family was in taking time to talk with collectors.

“They made a lot of pieces and it is all over the United States and in other countries,” Rowe said. “There is a wide draw for it.”

Now with the plant being torn down, people are more nostalgic for it. Many collectors want to come back and get a brick from the plant to have, Rowe said.

“My wife and I have been collecting for 30 years and to see (the plant) disappear makes you sad,” he said.

For many at the show and auction, there was a sadness in the fact the old Fenton plant is being torn down to make way for a new Williamstown Elementary School to be built.

Walter Voshel, of Marietta, had worked at Fenton for almost 20 years, between 1961 and 1980, and now collects different pieces to buy and sell. He already has a lot of pieces and is always looking for more to sell.

He said the sadness comes more from the memories of all of the people who worked there and how the plant was an important part of the community.

“Everyone is sad,” Voshel said. “It was really the people who worked there.

“There was a camaraderie among the workforce. It was a wonderful place to work.”

Stull said it was bittersweet. For many people throughout the area, it was something to say they worked for Fenton. She visited the plant when she was in school and never believed she would one day work there.

However, the property will have an important use going into the future.

“I think the founders, Frank and Bill Fenton, would be very happy to know that a school will be there,” Stull said. “They were so supportive of the local schools, Williamstown especially.”

The founders were very community-minded people and a school fits in with how they viewed the Williamstown area, Rowe said.

“I think that would have made them smile,” he said.

See more from The Parkersburg News and Sentinel


Comments are closed.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

And get our latest content in your inbox

Invalid email address