Sunday, February 8, 2015

Collector Guide to Fenton Opalescent Coin Dot

Fenton Coin Dot Hats
Four of the five Fenton Coin Dot colors. Which one is missing?
The Fenton Art Glass Company was founded in 1905, and is still in business today. They produce very limited quantities of art glass, but in their heyday they were considered a household name. Fenton glass was a staple of American household decor for decades before cheap imports from the Pacific rim in the 1970's nearly drove them to bankruptcy. Throughout their history they produced a wide variety of glass wares, from the mundane to the exquisite. There are Fenton collectors for nearly every style and design produced, with some pieces commanding high prices due to relative rarity, and others available for just a few dollars.
One of the most popular of the vintage lines with high collector interest is the Opalescent Coin Dot. It first appeared in the catalogs in 1947, and some types are still being re-issued today. It is technically a copy of a Victorian glass pattern known as "Polka-Dot", but Fenton displayed it's flair with their own unique shapes. The Victorian pieces are easily identified by having a polished pontil, whereas Fenton pieces do not. The Victorian pieces are nearly impossible to find, but the Fenton pieces sell every day at auctions, flea markets and online stores. With a variety of colors and shapes, the Opalescent Coin Dot line can provide collectors with a stunning display.

The Five Opalescent Colors
Most of the Fenton Opalescent Coin Dot pieces have a single basic commonality; they each are composed of a colored glass cased in a milky-white French Opalescence. The only exception is the Green and Lime Opalescent line. The 1947 Coin Dot catalog outlines the original three colors, and the other two were added later. There are still persistent rumors of test pieces made in additional color combinations, but as yet none have been verified.

Fenton Cranberry red Coin Dot
Cranberry Red Coin Dot, shape #1925 
Cranberry Red Opalescent Coin Dot
Showcased in the 1947 catalog, Cranberry Red was by far the most popular, and remains so today. The original 27 shapes were supplemented over the years, and the Cranberry Red was produced steadily until 1964. Fenton reintroduced the line in the 1980's but the colors were more muted. The reissued pieces are easy to identify because they bear the "Fenton" name impressed in the bottom of the base, whereas the original pieces were unmarked. The Cranberry Red color was created by mixing gold into the glass, and so was a bit more expensive to produce than the other colors.

Fenton French Opalescent Coin Dot
French Opalescent Coin Dot shape #189.
French Opalescent Coin Dot
Also in the 1947 catalog was the French Opalescent Coin Dot, a milky-white over clear glass. It produced an amazing effect where each of the dots reflected several of the others like a lens, giving it the illusion of having a multitude of dots within each dot. Production on this color ended in 1950, making it far less common than the Cranberry Red. It is difficult to find, but can be dazzling to display with the correct lighting. Collector interest in this line has been rising steadily, partly because theirs pieces can accent just about any decor. Over the years they have become harder and harder to find.

Blue Opalescent Coin Dot
Blue Opalescent Coin Dot, shape #194.
Blue Opalescent Coin Dot
The third color in the 1947 catalog was Blue Opalescent. The french opalescent casing covered a very pale blue body, and did not provide a great deal of contrast. After 1950, various shapes began to be dropped from production, until in 1954 the entire color was discontinued. The color did not sell well compared to the others, and even today collector interest is lukewarm. However, the supply is rather limited as well so they can sometimes be rather pricey to obtain.

Fenton Coin Dot Honeysuckle
Honeysuckle Coin Dot , shape #203.
Honeysuckle Opalescent Coin Dot
In 1948, Fenton released a new color of Opalescent Coin Dot called Honeysuckle. With french opalescent over a light amber core, it did not sell well at all, and was only produced in 1948 and 1949. Honeysuckle is quite hard to locate and although collector interest is fairly low when compared to the more common colors, these pieces can command high prices when they come to auction.

Lime and Green Coin Dot
Lime and Green Coin Dot, shape #454.
Green and Lime Opalescent Coin Dot
In 1952 Fenton produced the final color, the Green and Lime Opalescent. Produced until 1954, it is the pariah of the Opalescent Coin Dot. It was initially released with a pale blue casing instead of the milky french opalescent. The core was a bright lime color, creating a clashing and very busy-looking image. This was changed within the first year back to the standard french opalescent casing. Dealers sometimes see this color and assume it is uranium glass or Vaseline glass, but it is simply green glass because the production of uranium and vaseline glass was illegal in the United States between 1943 and 1958. All of the Green and Lime Coin Dot was produced during this ban. Finding these pieces can become a lifetime journey as the line was a financial failure with very poor sales. The few surviving pieces cased in blue are in private collections and rarely come up for sale.

Care of your Fenton Glass
There are a wide variety of chemicals and cleaners that can be damaging to most glass, and this especially true of Fenton. Improper exposure to many common cleaners over time can cause the clarity to suffer, a condition often referred to as "Sick Glass".
Warm, soapy water and clean cloth are the best friends a piece of Fenton art glass can have. Never use kitchen cleaners, vinegar, bleaches, or ammonia. Lightly clean in warm, soapy water, rinse with warm water, and dry with a lint-free cloth and your Fenton art glass will remain brilliant and beautiful for generations to come.


Collectors of vintage Fenton art glass are almost universally aware of the Cranberry Red and the Coin Dot, and any auction that features them will fill the house with bidders. However, being knowledgeable about the variety of Coin Dot colors and shapes available give collectors an opportunity to expand the range of their collections. A Coin Dot collection should display as many of the five colors as possible to provide a visual experience that is far superior to just the common Fenton Cranberry. Perhaps there is a Green and Lime piece at the next auction just waiting for you!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Collector Guide to Roseville Pottery Zephyr Lily Pattern

Roseville Zephyr Lily vase 135-9
The Roseville Pottery created ceramic art pottery from 1892 until 1954, most of that time in Zanesville, Ohio. They produced many lines that sold across the country and abroad, and were a household name for over 50 years. For decades after their bankruptcy, Roseville pottery could be obtained for almost nothing at flea markets and garage sales, with most pieces selling for less than a dollar each. In the late 1970's, a new generation with a nostalgic attitude began collecting vintage Roseville Pottery they remembered from their parents, and a new hobby was born. Prices reached amazing heights in the turn of the new century, but crashed around 2003 when the internet made it easier to find and obtain previously scarce pieces. With prices now much more reasonable, it is much easier to put together a respectable collection. We will examine the Zephyr Lily pattern, a very common and popular line that has a strong collector base as well as supply.

Evergreen Zephyr Lily vase 206-7

Sienna Zephyr Lily vase 206-7

Bermuda Blue Zephyr Lily vase 206-7
The Zephyr Lily Colors and Marks
The Zephyr Lily pattern was first introduced by Roseville in 1946, and is considered a late period line. Roseville had for decades produced line after line, each named for a particular flower, and in a variety of colors. They generally used three sets of two colors each, and this served two purposes. The first was to ensure that no matter the color theme of a customer's decor, they would have something which would match. Secondly, they provided a seasonal feel, so that a customer could change out their decor with the changing of the seasons.
The Zephyr Lily pattern came in three distinct color themes. There is the "Bermuda Blue", designed for summer, which transitions from a very deep blue to a pale blue, there is Sienna, designed for fall which transitions from a burnt sienna to a pale orange, and there is "Evergreen", designed for spring which transitions a very dark green to a pale light green. The flowers themselves came in four colors, white, yellow, rose, and lavender. While there appears to be no system which will predict which colored flower will appear on a particular piece, the same shape with the same background colors will always have identical colors for the flowers that every other one does. A piece may have four flowers, each a different color, but so will every other piece of the same mold with the same background color. No other background colors or flower colors were ever used, so if you find a vase with a white background and purple zephyr lily flowers you have a problem.
Each piece of Zephyr Lily has raised marks on the underside reading "Roseville", "USA", and a shape number. There are a few exceptions, such as the ashtray which is unmarked. The second part of most shape number is an approximate size of the largest dimension in inches. It was not unusual for the actual measurement to be off by a half inch either way, but since the pieces were molded, if one particular vase was off by a half an inch, then all of them with the same shape number were.

Roseville Zephyr Lily Shapes
According to Roseville records, there were 51 different shapes offered for sale. Considering that each was done in all three background colors, it comes to 153 unique pieces for a collector to obtain. The following is a list of the known shape numbers:
393-7 basket
394-8 basket
395-10 basket
470-5 bowl, tall 2-handles
471-6 bowl, tall 2-handles
472-6 bowl, low
473-6 bowl, with pedestal base
474-8 bowl, low
475-10 bowl, console
476-10 bowl, low
478-12 bowl, console
479-14 bowl, console
1162-2 candle holder
1163-4.5 candle holder
8-10 compote
5-8 cookie jar
203-6 cornucopia
204-8 cornucopia
7-C creamer
22-6 ewer
23-10 ewer
24-15 ewer
672-5 flower pot
472-5 hanging basket
671-4 jardiniere
671-6 jardiniere
671-8 jardiniere
671-8 pedestal
477-12 tray
478-14 tray
130-6 vase, 2-handled
131-7 vase, 2-handles on base
132-7 vase, 2-handles on base
133-8 vase, 2-handles on base
134-8 vase, urn, 2-handles on top
135-9 vase, 2-handles on sides
136-9 vase, 2-handles on base
137-10 vase, 2-handled
138-10 vase, 2-handled
139-12 vase, 2-handles on base
140-12 vase, 2 handled
141-15 floor vase
142-18 floor vase
201-7 bud vase
202-8 vase, urn, 2-handles on top
205-6 vase, "V"-shaped
206-7 vase, three holes in top
1297-8 wall pocket
1393-8 window box
*The ashtray is unmarked

Fake Zephyr Lily. Note the almost uniform color of the background, and crude painting of stems and leaves.

Correct raised marks. Note the yellowish color of the unglazed circular heel.
Spotting Damage, Repairs, and Fakes
In it's heyday, Roseville Zephyr Lily pieces could command amazing prices, and so naturally many damaged pieces were repaired. It used to be easy to spot these repairs with a black light, but today materials are used which can fool that test. When examining a piece, always remember that the Zephyr Lily pattern has a dull finish. If if has a glossy and high-shine finish, it has probably been over-sprayed. Zephyr Lily can be safely cleaned with warm soap and water, and many times this over-spray will peel off when being cleaned like a snake shedding it's skin. You can also safely use common kitchen cleaners such as 409 that will cause many repairs to melt off. You can also scrub them lightly with a non-scratch scrubby pad, but never use metal steel wool or SOS pads. If there are repairs they will usually just peel right off with light scrubbing. Don't kid yourself: a very large percentage of the time when people sell pieces "as-is" they are repaired. We have been to auctions where there were dozens and dozens of Roseville pieces, and found every single one to have been repaired. Although a practiced eye can usually detect the repairs with a bright light and magnification, even the best get fooled occasionally. Always purchase from dealers with strong reputations who will accept returns.
For the last 20 years there have been Zephyr Lily reproduction pieces produced in China available on the market. They cannot fool a practiced eye, but can certainly fool the novice. The first clue is that on the bottom, the clay will usually be a brilliant white instead of the yellow Ohio clay. The second clue is that the colors are usually off by quite a bit, as are the details. Lastly, the "Roseville" signature on the bottom is not correct. They pop up here and there at auctions, but most collectors see them immediately for what they are. We see them less and less as most auction participants call them out for what they are, but be aware they do exist.
Always look carefully at pieces for chips, cracks, and damage. A small "fleabite" can be the difference between a great piece and one that is almost valueless. Check the edge of the base all of the way around, the rim at the top, and try to look inside for any cracks. Then examine the edges of the handles for chips, and especially cracks where handles meet the main form. The ones that we usually miss are on the flowers themselves, but the Zephyr Lily pattern has smoother flowers than most so they rarely get damaged.
The Zephyr Lily pattern seems to be nearly immune to crazing, we rarely see crazed pieces come up. I would steer clear of any crazed piece since there is an abundance of uncrazed pieces available.
Many patterns such as Pinecone were run in molds so many times that you can find examples with nearly every detail smoothed. This is known as "bad mold" or "poor mold". While in the Zephyr Lily pattern some molds are sharper than others, I am yet to see a produced piece that I would consider a "poor mold". They must have become more diligent in changing the molds in the 1940's, so this is not normally a concern with this pattern.

The Roseville Pottery Zephyr Lily pattern is popular with collectors, and armed with a little knowledge it can be a fun collection for you as well. Take your time, learn about the shapes and the colors, learn to spot the bad apples, and you will soon amass a beautiful collection to be proud of!