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!

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