In the world of handcrafted colored glass, Fenton Art Glass stands in a class by itself. Maybe you’ve found Carnival glass or milk glass collectibles at a local estate sale. If so, you have firsthand knowledge of how beautiful Fenton Art Glass pieces can be..
If you’re intrigued by Fenton Art Glass, you’ve come to the right place. We’re covering everything about these phenomenal pieces. In this post, you’ll learn how Fenton Art Glass started, and we’ll discuss its various styles and patterns. Plus, you’ll find out how to identify authentic Fenton glassware products (including Carnival glass) and view several examples of Fenton glass values. Finally, you’ll learn how you can add this beautiful glassware to a place of honor in your home.
History of Fenton Art Glass
Fenton Art Glass was in business for over 100 years. During that time, it created decorative and functional glassware pieces using only traditional methods. In its era, it was the largest United States-based manufacturer of colorful glass collectibles.
The companies claim to fame was its stunning glass colors. In particular, glass chemist Jacob Rosenthal developed the rich-looking chocolate glass and golden agate glass hues. Amethyst, aqua, ruby red, and topaz Fenton glassware also drew collectors’ attention over the years. In addition to its blown and pressed glassware, Fenton added unique decorative elements to its glass. Many glass collectibles display intricate hand-painted motifs.
Fenton Art Glass Opens for Business in 1905
Fenton Art began as a glassware painting business in 1905. Skilled Fenton painters created intricate patterns on existing glass “blanks” produced by other glassmaking companies. After a few years, the Ohio-based company decided to start making its own line of glass. So it moved its operations to West Virginia, which was abundant with glassmaking materials.
In 1908, Fenton Glass Art boldly introduced its popular Carnival glass line. The glassware was striking. It featured an iridescent finish inspired by fine Tiffany and Steuben iridescent glass. In fact, Carnival iridescent glass received the nickname “Poor Man’s Tiffany” glass. However, this mildly derogatory name didn’t discourage families from purchasing the colorful glassware.
Fenton Ceases All Manufacturing Operations in 2011
After 100 years in business, Fenton Art Glass shuttered its glass making plant in 2011. Afterward, another Ohio glassmaker acquired the molds and currently produces an assortment of Fenton-stamped collectibles. The Fenton Gift Shop in Williamstown, West Virginia carries the newly minted “Fenton” products.
Vintage Fenton Glassware Inventory
Fenton Art Glass produced an impressive variety of useful and decorative glassware. Pieces such as candy dishes and compotes are functional, while bells and hats are purely whimsical. Either way, all the Fenton glass pieces are quite collectible. Here are some examples of the most popular vintage Fenton glassware pieces:
- Banana Boats
- Bon Bon Bowls
- Candy Dishes
- Compotes (including Mini Compotes)
- Decorative Hats
- Decorative Plates
- Glass Baskets
- Glass Bowls (including Footed and Ruffled Bowls)
- Pitchers (with Tumblers)
- Vases (especially Swung Vases)
- Hatpin Holders
- Jars (Without Lids)
- Nut Bowls
- Shaving Mugs
- Toothpick Holders
Fenton Art Glass Styles and Patterns
Fenton Art Glass is known for its rich, vibrant colors and sculpted motifs. During its 100+ years in business, it produced several pressed glass styles and patterns.
Most pieces were fabricated in clear crystal, although Fenton also produced some colored satin glassware.
However, those glassware pieces were only made for a few years.
Fenton’s Carnival glass gets its iridescent shine from the metallic or mineral salts added during the manufacturing cycle. Carnival glass is available in a rainbow of colors. Marigold is the most common hue, with amethyst/purple, blue, and green closely behind. The glassware is also known for its highly sculpted and embellished patterns.
From 1907 to 1925, Carnival glass was a popular carnival prize (hence its name). Afterwards, demand for it slowed, but it enjoyed a comeback in the 1960s and 1970s. Depression glass is similar to Carnival glass, but Depression glass has a consistent color and lacks an iridescent sheen.
Fenton custard glass is appropriately named, as this opaque yellow-toned glass resembles freshly blended custard. The actual glass color ranges from pale ivory to a bright yellow/green hue. Custard glass often features decorative elements, such as roses and/or gold.
Non-hobnail Fenton milk glass pieces are also collector favorites. Fenton’s milk glass basket weave pattern is especially striking.The pre-1958 milk glass isn’t as dense or opaque as the glass made in later years. In addition, the older milk glass’ iridized salts produce an iridescent, multicolored halo in bright sunlight.
Fenton also produced a beautiful overlay milk glass variety. Overlay milk glass features transparent colored glass applied over the white milk glass.
Fenton introduced its hobnail glass in 1939. The popular glassware appeared similar to the earlier Victorian “dewdrop glass.” As Fenton’s 1967 catalog noted, the term “hobnail” came from the hobnails on the American pioneers’ hobnailed boots.
Fenton offered hobnail vases and other pieces in nine solid colors. Of these, the cranberry glass is very popular with collectors. Cranberry opalescent glass items, featuring a whitish tone around a vase’s neck and on some hobnails, are also sought-after collectibles.
Compact opalescent hobnail vases are the perfect size for a small display case or shelf. Generally speaking, all Fenton opalescent glass continues to be a highly desirable find.
Hobnail Milk Glass
These whitish-colored hobnail collectibles are the color of milk (hence the term “milk glass”). The pieces were quite popular from their introduction to the 1970s. In the 2000s, they came back in vogue with lower prices.
During Fenton Art Glass’ early years, many of the company’s pieces featured nature-themed patterns. Popular motifs included Butterfly and Berries, Peacock Tail, Thistle, Waterlily and Cattails, and Wreath of Roses.
Fenton’s hobnail pattern is the most famous type. But the Silver Crest pattern is the second-most-famous design. Silver Crest pieces feature a 1/4″ clear glass edge around the signature Fenton ruffle.
How to Identify Fenton Art Glass
During Fenton Art Glass’ long manufacturing history, the company marked its dazzling array of glassware in one of several ways. Before 1970, Fenton used paper stickers. But these were easily lost or removed.
From 1970 onward, most glassware received the molded “Fenton” signature. Decade-specific pieces, along with “Fenton Seconds,” feature different identifying marks.
Carnival Glass Identification Tips
As with many popular collectibles, Fenton Art Glass was a trendsetter. And copycats followed suit. Its Carnival glass popularity spurred other manufacturers to produce iridescent glassware. Glass experts think around 2,000 Carnival glass patterns are still available today.
Identifying authentic Fenton Carnival glass can be a challenge. However, older pieces often display carbon specks or air bubbles. The bases often feature distinctive spatula feet or ball feet. Plus, the edges often have a ruffled, crimped, or sawtooth effect. Finally, look for the pattern stamped on the item’s exterior surface.
Fenton Glassware Value and Price Guide
Generally speaking, decorative glassware has decreased in value over the last decade or so. Fewer younger buyers collect these pieces, and there’s essentially a glut of glassware on the market.
Though, Fenton Art Glass collectibles still have a dedicated following. The products’ striking styles, shapes, and colors make them a favorite among collectors. Fenton’s limited-edition glass pieces remain extremely popular through the years.
Although currently available Fenton glassware brings lower prices than in the 1980s and 1990s, it continues to be a reliable seller. However, an item’s selling price depends on where you are and how you sell it. Finally, note that less-common pieces command higher-than-average prices.
Of course, lower prices can work to a collector’s advantage. You can likely snap up many sought-after pieces at bargain prices. And, specific Fenton items may increase in value during the coming years. In other words, Fenton milk glass values could see a resurgence among collectors.
Factors that Affect Vintage Fenton Glassware Prices
Multiple factors determine a Fenton Art Glass piece’s selling price. First, a rarer or elaborately embellished piece generally commands a higher price.
Next, glassware from certain years is especially desirable. And not surprisingly, a glassware piece’s color also plays a role in its selling price. When Fenton introduced a new product line, some colors were more in-demand than others.
Naturally, the item’s condition substantially affects its selling price. In comparing two identical pieces from the same manufacturing era, the mint-condition item will command the higher price. Glassware with chips, cracks, or telltale signs of wear will carry a lower price.
Auction Selling Prices and Estimated Price Ranges
If you’re wondering about the most valuable Fenton glass pieces, view these eBay auction selling prices from late 2020/early 2021. Note that these top-selling pieces are rare and in excellent condition. At the other end of the spectrum, view several lower-priced Fenton glass collectibles.
eBay Fenton Glassware Auction Selling Prices (Late 2020/Early 2021)
|Vintage Fenton Glass Collectible
||eBay Auction Selling Price
|Fenton Vaseline Opal Curtain Optic Vase
|Fenton Unique Vaseline Glass Hobnail Opalescent Floor Lamp
|Exceptionally Rare Fenton Jade Turtle with Opalescent Aquarium
|Fenton Pink Rose Controlled Bubble Optic Cased 5-Bulb Lamp
|Beautiful Mint Green and Pink Burmese Fenton Painted Lamp
Mass-Market Fenton Art Glass Pieces
|Fenton Glass Piece
||Current Value Range
|4 ½” Hobnail Vase
||$15 to $50
Older items bring higher prices.
Opalescent or iridescent glass can increase a piece’s value.
|Black Rose Bowl
||$65 to $75
|Butterflies Bon Bon Dish
||$10 to $50
|Carnival Glass Autumn Acorns Bowl
||$65 to $150
|Cranberry Glass Hobnail Vase
||$20 to $40
|Crimped Bowl with Dolphins
||$25 to $125
Cobalt blue glass can bring a higher price.
|Orange Tree Compote Footed Dish
||$10 to $30
Where to Find Fenton Art Glass
With over 100 years of production history, countless Fenton Art Glass pieces are on the market today. Although older glassware remains highly desirable, collectors also value newer Fenton items. If you’re searching for Carnival glass, you probably know that older pieces are harder to find than newer editions.
Colorful Fenton Art Glass has long been a mainstay of professionally managed estate sales. These multi-day events feature an inviting collection of furniture and décor. Adventurous shoppers frequently find hidden gems among the tables and shelves.
If you’re lucky, you might even happen upon a good-sized collection of Fenton glassware. Look for an estate sale near you this weekend, and let the treasure hunt begin!
To increase your chances of finding Fenton milk glass or Carnival glass, visit specialty retail shops that carry vintage glassware. Antique shops are a great starting point. A larger antique store (or an antique mall) might rent space to dealers who specialize in Fenton Art Glass collectibles.
Next, check out vintage furniture stores. Consignment furniture stores and upscale thrift stores are also worth a visit. These specialty retail shops often contain antique or vintage pieces. The items may have come from a relative’s attic or from a professional estate liquidation.
Well-managed auctions can yield some surprising finds. However, local and online auctions typically vary in their character and types of merchandise.
At a local auction, you might find a collection of farm or commercial equipment. Or, you could encounter the contents of an out-of-business antique shop.
Look at the auction company’s website beforehand to get an idea of the types of items up for bids. If the prospects aren’t encouraging, you’ll save yourself the trip.
An online auction features individual listings from sellers across the country. So, if you’ve been searching for a blue opalescent vase or a milk glass hobnail compote, you might find it through an online auction venue.
Business-savvy sellers provide a complete description and photographs of each piece up for bids. A reputable seller will also mention (and document) any defects. eBay and Live Auctioneers are two of the best-known online auction platforms.
Online Vintage Marketplaces
During the past several years, online antique and vintage marketplaces have become go-to destinations for shoppers seeking quality collectibles. Chairish, Etsy, and Ruby Lane are three popular online vintage marketplaces.
Beginning Your Fenton Art Glass Collection
If you’ve thought about collecting Fenton opalescent, hobnail pattern, or Carnival glass, this is an excellent time to start. Many items have great market availability, so there’s a good chance you’ll find the pieces you want at a reasonable price. Remember, an estate sale is a great place to start your search for Fenton Art Glass.
The final thing you have to do is choose where to put your glassware. Find a special spot to showcase your beautiful glass treasures. Consider a beautiful vintage curio cabinet or another secure display case. And when a unique piece catches your eye, add it to your growing collection.