2012 WV birthday piece will go on sale on 23 June 2012 at 8 am at Blenko's visitor center, Milton, WV. There will be a total of 149 pieces for sale at $149 each limited to one piece per customer. More details at http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/briefs/x1190168730/Glass-company-has-started-work-on-its-limited-edition-2012-West-Virginia-Day-piece
West Virginia was the 35th State in the Union and was established June 20, 1863.
In 1980 William H. Blenko, a marketing genius, entered into an agreement with the Diamond Department Store to produce a signed and numbered vase for June's celebration of statehood. The number raises each year to equal the age of the state. In 1980 only 117 pieces were produced. All pieces are signed and numbered.
Each year the Birthday Pieces are sold out within 3 hours of the store opening. The Birthday Pieces are highly sought after. My Blenko Project advisors say this will become the most highly collectible Blenko Series as it is produced yearly, by different designers, and in very limited numbers. It is the longest running annual signed/numbered item that Blenko produces.
The Series began with Diamond executives asking Mr. Blenko to produce a bowl that could be used on the table, for fruit or flowers, and that was very versatile for the homemaker. Mr. Blenko knew the cost of making a design and mold for such a limited series would be expensive and thus not profitable for Blenko, yet he entered into the contract and asked Don Shepherd, Blenko Designer, to design the piece.
Mr. William Blenko came to the Diamond, and later Stone and Thomas, Department Stores to sign each piece of glass and meet and greet the ladies who bought his Birthday Pieces and many other Blenko pieces for their homes.
The Birthday Piece grew in popularity and by 1987 the lines to purchase them were outside the Diamond Department Store doors before 7am. This tradition continued. In 2005 the Birthday Piece was sold at the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences in Charleston, WV. The Birthday collectors began to arrive shortly after midnight the night before, and by 11am (an hour after the store opened) the Birthday Pieces were sold out.
It is the perfect union - West Virginia's Birthday Celebration, a West Virginia Business, and West Virginia Hand Crafted Glass. Bill Blenko, while always trying to be supportive of his home state, started a yearly tradition for many families. He succeeded in his goal of producing an annual piece to celebrate the Birthday of our state. My own family has collected this particular piece for over 20 years, each year they see friends they know only from Birthday Piece collecting.
The Blenko Project has knowledge of five complete sets of birthday pieces. Mrs. John (Eppie) Boles of South Charleston, Mrs. Ken Ellis of Campbells Creek and her daughter Renita Williams have complete West Virginia birthday sets. John Homburg is the only member of the Blenko collectors society to have the entire collection. West Virginia birthday collectors are an eclectic group. Many are obsessed with only birthday pieces, while others collect all things Blenko. They are also savy collectors who realize that this collection is one of the most unique in the country. Perhaps, they like the art advisors to the Blenko Project realize the WV birthday series becomes more valuable with longevity.
A very conservative estimate of value for the entire collection of 27 pieces is between $19,000 - $22,000. Reported prices per piece vary from $2,000 to $375 depending upon age and condition. The first ten pieces are the most sought after. The 1980 - 1981 pieces cost between $900 and $2,000. These pieces are very limited. In 1980 only 117 were produced.