Fenton glass collectibles make timeless treasures
The 100-year-old Fenton Art Glass Co. is well-known today for its glass sold in stores and on TV shopping shows. The company was founded by Frank L. Fenton and his brother in Martins Ferry, Ohio, in 1905. They decorated glass at first but soon made carnival glass, chocolate glass and other types of glassware. They made a line of “off-hand” glass in 1925 and 1926, pieces made without molds. This art glass was difficult to make and expensive, so it was discontinued. The colorful art glass is hard to find today. Other glassware made by Fenton includes hobnail glass, overlay and opalescent glass, and many reproductions of early styles of glass.
Q: A framed textile has been in my family for many decades, and I’m hoping you can tell me something about it. It is 23 inches high and 31 inches wide, and pictures a large American eagle in front of two crossed American flags. Above the flags, there’s a gold banner with the words “E Pluribus Unum.” The fabric appears to be silk, and the design is embroidered in bright colors. What can you tell me?
A: The type of textile and its design lead us to think that it is one of many similar U.S. “emblem banners” made in the Far East for sale here during our national centennial celebration in 1876 or as souvenirs for sailors to take home. Banners similar to yours and in excellent condition sell for hundreds of dollars. Or, you might consider donating it to a museum. An expert would have to look at it in person to tell you more.
Q: I paid 50 cents at a yard sale for a metal contraption that the seller thought was a pencil sharpener. When I took it out of its box and found the original directions, I figured out that it was a razor-blade sharpener. If you put a double-edged razor blade inside and turned the crank 15 to 60 times, it sharpened both sides of a double-edged blade. The paperwork in the box calls the sharpener a Twinplex Stropper and says it was marketed by the Twinplex Sales Co. of St. Louis. The patent dates on it run from 1915 to 1920, and the original price was $5. I’m wondering why this invention didn’t catch on and what it’s worth.
A: The Twinplex Stropper must not have been a market failure – there are too many around, and they were made in several different styles. Because of this, one like yours would only sell for around $25. Older ones, like yours, list Twinplex’s address as St. Louis. Others list it as Chicago. Twinplex sold the stropper from the 1920s into the ’60s as a fast and easy way to sharpen double-edged blades. The whole idea behind stroppers was to save on the cost of forged steel blades. But the $5 the Twinplex cost in 1935 would be nearly $70 today. Meanwhile, a man named King C. Gillette had figured out in the early 1900s that lightweight, disposable steel blades would make a lot more money for his company than the razors themselves would. Twinplex doesn’t make stroppers anymore, but the company is still in the metal-fabrication business in Wood Dale, Ill.
Q: I have a tall vase that belonged to my grandmother. The bottom is marked with a wreath surrounding a symbol and with the words “Hand Painted Nippon.” Is the vase valuable?
A: Any porcelain marked “Nippon” was made in Japan for export between 1891 and 1921. Nippon is the English transliteration of the Japanese word for Japan. In 1921, U.S. law required that the name of the exporting country be marked in English on all imported wares. If the symbol inside the wreath mark is the letter M, your vase was imported by Morimura Bros., a New York City firm owned by two Japanese brothers. One of them was among the partners who founded the Noritake Co. in Japan in 1904. Nippon porcelain can sell for high prices, sometimes into the thousands of dollars.
Q: My family has owned a Victorian platform rocker for generations. It’s in the American Renaissance Revival style, with an elaborate open crest and arms with turned spindles. The wood is painted black with gold trim. The seat, back and tops of the armrests were originally upholstered in silk, but we had the chair reupholstered with tapestry in 1965. A brass plaque on the bottom reads “Schrenkeisen Rocker Pat’d 12-20-1874 and 5-23-1876.” It’s in very good condition. What is it worth today?
A: Martin and Henry Schrenkeisen manufactured rockers and other chairs in New York City from about 1859 until 1903. Platform rockers were first patented in the United States in 1840 and became very popular starting about 10 years later. People liked the chairs because the platform did not damage the carpet, like regular rockers. The patent dates on your chair show that it was made between 1876 and 1903, when the firm closed. Schrenkeisen was a well-known maker, and your chair is a good one. It probably cost more than $20 when it was made. Today it could sell for $250 or more.
Ivory will darken if kept in the dark. Keep a piano open so the keys will be in natural light. Keep figurines, chess sets and other ivory in the open.