Hi. American Bottle Auctions (ABA) completed their 61st Auction on April 27th 2015, and was an apparent success. Following the auction, Jeff Wichman, owner of ABA, wrote a detailed review of Auction No. 61 which included his thoughts on the current status of the Hobby Of Bottle Collecting. After reading the article, I thought it would be great for other collectors to read and enjoy. The following is only an excerpt of the article written by Jeff, but the entire article can be read on ABAs web-site at www.americanbottle.com. Enjoy. Mike Polak (Alias the Bottleking)
It’s April 27th and American Bottle Auction finished their 61st auction last night with a roar. It’s apparent that the computer age has now become a reality as only one person bid by phone. We also had a good number of collectors come in and take a look. That helps even the eastern folks who can’t see them but know someone out here who can. We’ve noticed a more educated and alert audience in the bottle market. Ten years ago we’d need to explain various facts or details about a bottle and now it seems everyone knows it already. They often know much more than we do. Condition has become an issue of great importance to some, not all collectors
The hobby is apparently very strong, on most of the bottles we had. We didn’t have any historical flasks in this sale so we can’t elaborate on that but the bitters market seems especially strong, condition and color a major hurdle in getting the top dollar.
The western sodas and mineral waters did well, the rare examples from Nevada were pretty solid, not what they’ve been in the past but the soda and mineral water category is like a roller coaster. Puce umbrella inks are hot and we had a good one that brought $2,400 (all prices before the 10% buyers fee). Who says western flasks are fading? Our Castle flask brought $6,000 and the Fleckenstein & Mayer $1,000, not bad at all. A Wunder Beer tray brought $2,800 but the small advertising pieces were a bit of a disappointment going under $300. Is advertising losing its luster? A beautiful London Jockey did $4,600 and the rarer cleaned variant $2,200. The cleaning had a pretty big impact but the pricier variant was an extremely rare color and in great condition.
Western whiskeys as well as examples from the east did well and our top lot the Taylor’s Virginia N. brought $10,500, nice in these days of wondering where the western fifth market is headed. Good examples are selling strong, maybe not what they did in their heyday but that’s understandable.
Pontiled medicines fared nicely, a large blue and beautiful Wynkoop’s Katharismic and ague and fever cure sold for $8,500 and $3,600 respectively. Other pontiled meds like the Covert’s Balm of Life ($2,200) and Hyatt’s Infallible ($2,200) showed us that prices may be down a bit but solid.
Bitters did predictably well. If all you ever collected was bitters for the last 30 years you’d need a crowbar to get the smirk off your face. Eastern/western, it really doesn’t matter, bitters bottles come in such a stupendous variety of colors and shapes that by all accounts it’s hard to believe they will ever slow down. Some bitters have slowed mostly because of condition or the fact that there are more available. The Wormser Bros. is a good example. When we put out a scarce or rarer and more desirable bottle such as the Kimball’s or Phoenix Bitters we see more interest $1,000 and $1,200 respectively and of course both of those are pontiled. There seems to be a 30% price on the pontil, it’s a big deal. No pontil and they do $800. The barrels have been showing in swarms lately and although there are a lot of them out there, particular colors in particular variants are showing good returns. A Greeley’s R/H R101 in a very fresh and rare colored green with just a smidgen of a dink on the lip did $2,200. Without the dink? Probably a lot more, even though you can barely see it. Cabins are always hot and although a drop dead example in canary yellow 4-log Drake’s did $2,600 we thought it was underpriced. An amber/olive 6-log Drake’s brought the same. A lot of examples out there and color and condition are going to be the prevailing factors down the road. Color is by anyone’s guess the most important aspect of bottles and especially their bitters bottles next to condition. Bottle collectors love their bitters and there’s no sign of letting down.
We would be remiss in not mentioning the mostly Sandwich Glass Works items we were able to include from the collection of Bryan Grapentine. They included everything from an 1876 Centennial inkwell to fancy cut inkwells and some very rare and beautiful colognes and decanters.
From all accounts the bottle market is still filled with good natured laughter and effervescent moods, depending on condition. Veteran collectors as well as the eager and ready to learn new faces are in full force throughout the country. We see so many new and younger people getting interested in the bottle collecting hobby, is it a sign of things to come? There are so many websites and books new and old that collectors can spend their days and nights checking it out. The hobby is a “big deal,” now and with more core collectors than ever before. With bottles now it seems like we are closing in on the variants, rarity and established collections around the country. It brings a little pause to the hobby, but there will always be a new find or bottle for sale.