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News Article  
Vase signed by Bill Fenton brings $125 at auction
By Eric C. Rodenberg

HERSEY, Mich. – On an unseasonably warm Sept. 15 at 10 a.m., this small rural village of 350 people instantly had more than 70 visitors, beckoned by Auctioneer Ryan Hanson, to settle the estate of a townswoman and collector.

Many had come to the auction to bid on the rose pearl vase signed by the late Bill Fenton, who before dying in 2002 directed – with his brother – the Fenton Art Glass Co. for more than 30 years. The vase sold for $125.

All prices are hammered finals. Hanson charges no buyer’s premium. The auction, which included several box-lots, took four hours to complete, Hanson said.

Several other pieces of Fenton, carnival and Depression glass sold for nearly what the glassware reflects. However, there’s action around fruit jars.

There was a table of Ball jars that was selling for $9 each, until the jar with the number of “13” on the bottom came up for bid, that jar selling for $21. The consigner told Hanson the “13-jar” was rare and somehow related to moonshining.

Urban legend has it that moonshiners used the jars for their product and, being superstitious, would break the “unlucky” ones with a 13 on the bottom, according to

While conceding that all jars with two digits on the base are rarer than those with single digits, fruit jar collectors and the published price guides do not reflect the number on the base as having any bearing on price. The numbers related to the jar’s mold position on the glassmaking machinery, usually limited to eight or 10 positions. Higher numbers were used when a mold was replaced.

Yet, jars persist to sell at auction for higher prices.

And, sometimes, lids are more valuable than the glass. Three boxes of Ball zinc lids, said to be new-old-stock, sold for $15 each.

There were 52 sad- irons offered for auction, at this sale a few miles north of Big Rapids. “Sad” is an Old English word for “solid,” using the period term “sadiron” to distinguish the largest and heaviest of flat irons, usually five to nine pounds.

The problem with sadirons was that they cooled too quickly. Entrepreneurs of the day helped remedy this dilemma by designing a “box-like” iron, in which coal or charcoal could be burned. More efficient, the charcoal irons released a lot of smoke, necessitating the addition of a chimney to protect garments from smoke.

One of these “spouted” sadirons, said to have been powered by coal, was the first to go for $30 at choice out. Five more conventional flatirons sold for $10 each, with the remainder (46 irons) sold for $100.

Trivets, as an intricate part of ironing, were also plentiful. “There were more than 50 trivets sold,” Hanson said, “They were at all prices.”

A cast iron skillet with a large Griswold logo sold for $20, while a Wagner piece sold for $15.

An antique hall tree, with mirror, bench and coat hooks, sold for $200.

Hanson, who is also a contract auctioneer of produce, has been an auctioneer for 13 years, graduating from the Ohio Auction School. A top-10 bid caller in the 2015 Michigan Bid Calling Contest, he also served on the Board of Directors of the Michigan Auctioneers Association in 2017.

Contact: (231) 796-3784