Message from the President June 2006

And Away We Go!

By Brian Pitman, June 2006

When I was a child, growing up as most people my age and younger did (with the television playing the role of baby-sitter), I used to watch a Saturday morning show on our local CBS affiliate called “Whizzo!” Whizzo was a clown, and this clown was a whole bunch of fun for a young ‘un like me (yes, this was back in the early 1970s when I was only 5 years old). One of my favorite parts of Whizzo was when he would sing this goofy little song to start up the show. The lyrics went like this:

“Who’s always smiling, never sad? It’s Whizzo!
Who makes the boys and girls so glad? Whizzo!”

But even more than the song was the big build-up to the song itself, the phrase that would signal to young children like me at the time that it was time to have a LOT OF FUN! Before he would utter the phrase, he would get this look in his eye like it was time for more fun than any of us had ever seen. He would give that look, then smile, turn to the camera, (where he was looking at me!) and say, “And…away…we…go!” Whizzo came to Topeka from Kansas City, which is where he got his big start. Kansas City was also, fittingly, the site for another “And away we go!” moment in carnival glass this past April.

I attended the HOACGA auction like so many others did, hoping to see history made, hoping that good friends, Pete and Paula Bingham, would do well with selling their collection, and hoping to have a little fun. The auction ended up far exceeding all of my hopes, as several records were broken, including the overall take from the auction, which ended up around $615,000 for one auction. The beginning of the auction, however, was the big “And away we go” moment for everyone.

Jim Wroda is a very smart auctioneer. Putting the blue Millersburg People’s Vase up as the very first item to sell at the auction was pure brilliance for so many reasons. Its sale set the tone for the entire auction, and when it hit $100,000 during the bidding, everyone in the room knew that history had just been made. This was the highest price paid for a piece of carnival glass. It was also the highest price brought at auction for a piece of carnival glass. It was also the first piece to break the $100,000 barrier. The electricity in the room will not be forgotten ever.

The sale of that vase (and of the entire auction for over $600,000) really has changed a lot in the world of carnival glass. The big numbers draw the interest of so many people who had relegated carnival glass into the “cheap” category. Many more people will begin to collect carnival glass, simply for the financial possibilities it may bring them. Furthermore, the sale answered the rumors that perhaps carnival glass values had softened over the past five years. No longer is that true. The sale also encouraged many longtime collectors to consider selling their collections.

This auction has set us up for five years unlike any we have seen before in the carnival glass world. We are going to see several of the largest collections in carnival glass come to auction. This means that you are going to have the opportunity to buy some glass (at a premium) that hasn’t been seen out of someone’s home in possibly decades.

Some look at this opportunity and shy away because of the inevitable high prices many of these pieces will command, but it will all come back to the age-old question of whether you really, really want to add that piece to your collection or not. Financially speaking, it is up to you whether the pieces are worth what they ARE going to bring. From a collection perspective, though, it really doesn’t matter what the price is if you want the piece to be in your collection. You will do what it takes to get that piece, and that is that.

But let’s go back to Whizzo for a moment. This feeling instilled by “And away we go!” is still here. This is a moment that is going to last. There are too many exciting things happening, and one of them is our ICGA Annual Convention. We have the never-before-tried Flash Mob (with three huge display rooms on three different days), the field trip, the banquet dinner, and room sales, spending time with each other, and the auction.

Our auction this year is truly a great one, one of the best we have had in the past decade. Half of the glass up for auction is from John and Loretta Nielsen, two wonderful ICGA Members (John is even a Board Member), and two great collectors. They have owned some exciting glass, and much of that glass is in this auction. The other half of the auction is from Phyllis and the late Dick Ott. Dick used to be the president of ACGA, and though he passed on some years back, Phyllis is still an ICGA member. They also collected some great glass (including some awesome vases), and the marriage of the two collections promises to bring us some beautiful glass to bid on during our convention auction. Jim Seeck will be sending out the brochure soon, so check it out!

If you haven’t made your room reservations yet, please do so now. I am writing this article in early May, and already we are more than half full (which is unusual for us to have this many reservations so early). The cutoff date for reservations is in the middle of June, so please call (319) 393-6600 to make those reservations before we are out of space!

I love the ICGA Annual Convention, and this year is really going to push that “And away we go!” feeling so much further. How we pull off something so ambitious is simple: with the help of all of you. If you haven’t already contacted John & Loretta Nielsen about your wines and stemware, Don and Barb Chamberlain about your Northwood vases, and Cathy Dunham about your Vaseline glass (including stretch), then please do so. Remember, the goal this year is size, in getting all of us to bring what we have and put it together in one room for a few hours to see what we can accomplish. The goal of this convention is unity in participation!

And so, as I conclude this article, I think again fondly of Whizzo, a guy whose real name was Frank Wiziarde, who absolutely loved making children laugh. He loved it so much he played Whizzo for 30 years before dying of cancer in 1987 (the year before I graduated High School). His last show as Whizzo was only four months before passing on, because he also enjoyed giving that “And away we go!” feeling to children.

If you want to feel that way again, come to the convention. Red nose and floppy shoes are totally optional!

Brian Pitman