CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Tammy Fowler and Bob Billups didn't know what to expect when they pulled up to the modest home in a quiet Charleston neighborhood. They were there to appraise and to sell the estate of a woman who had died in 2009. They opened the front doors to find relatively empty rooms with only a few pieces of furniture.
They descended the steps to the basement to find a treasure trove of art glass, glassware and oriental figurines.
"I've handled a lot of big houses, but this is the largest collection of glass I've ever seen," Fowler said.
Items in the extensive collection were carefully packed in plastic tubs in a remote corner of the basement. Blenko and Fenton glass were wrapped along with rare and valuable Pilgrim cameo glass, a Murano figurine and even a Rookwood piece. The owner's daughter-in-law said her mother-in-law dreamed of opening an antique store, but never did.
She must have had customers with diverse tastes in mind because the pieces vary from Victorian to contemporary and represent nearly every style in between. Delicate pieces of Limoges, Wedgwood, Royal Doulton and Haviland sit next to art deco and oriental works.
A collection of 250 "mud people" particularly intrigued Fowler. The oriental figurines, often seen in bonsai gardens and landscapes, were made by hand in Chinese villages from pieces of mud, hence the name. The brightly colored glazed figurines of men, women, wise men and sages often hold scrolls, pots, fish or musical instruments.
Collectible mud men and women were made before 1950. After that time, they were mass produced and not valuable to collectors. Fowler will examine each piece to date it.
The owner traveled extensively and collected many Asian pieces of glass, ceramics and art that fill every cabinet and cover every tabletop Fowler set up in the house. More common household items are displayed in the basement.
As is her habit with estate sales, Fowler will invite small groups of collectors and dealers to private showings. The private showings are most productive because the attendees have an established interest in the product. She'll conduct a public sale Jan. 20-22.
"Older people don't buy because they already have it. Younger people don't like anything they can't put in the dishwasher," she said. "This sale is for people who really appreciate glass."
Fowler plans to advertise the sale and will announce the location next week. Call 304-346-3907 or visit www.trophyantiques.com.
Reach Julie Robinson at jul...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1230.