SACRAMENTO, Calif. – An outstanding, mint condition Brown’s Celebrated Indian Herb bitters bottle, patented Feb. 11, 1868, sold for $36,960 in a sale closing Nov. 13 by American Bottle Auctions. Internet and catalog auction held Oct. 29-Nov. 13 by American Bottle Auctions (www.americanbottle.com).
More than 400 bidders vied f or 375 lots, resulting in a sale that grossed about $300,000. The auction was a complete sell out with bidders buying outright the 11 bottles that didn’t sell during the auction, said Jeff Wichmann of American Bottle Auctions.
The Brown’s bitter was by far the top lot of the sale. Graded 9.9 out of 10 for condition and boasting a perfectly flat lip, the bottle was consigned by a woman who collected for fun years ago. “When she bought it, she was offered the choice of an amber or clear example, and thankfully she picked the clear one,” Mr. Wichmann said, adding it is likely flint, not lead glass.
“Bitters and flasks are hot sellers right now,” Mr. Wichmann observed. “I have to believe they are entering a new age. People are beginning to realize t hey just aren’t coming up at auction like they did, and everyone is scrambling to get the rarest and most perfect examples out there. Whether this is a tulip craze or real people with real money in it for the long haul, I don’t know.”
The auction featured bitters and historical flasks, but also Western whiskey bottles, sod as, medicine bottles and other offerings. Most of the bottles dated from 1850-1900, the period most desired by collectors, when superior embossing techniques were used.
Left, the top lot of the auction was this Brown’s Celebrated Indian Herb bitters from 1868 which sold for $36,960.
Following are additional highlights from the auction. All prices quoted include a 12 percent buyer’s premium.
The surprise lot of the sale was an Eagle/Grapes one-quart flask that soared to $19,600, against a pre-sale estimate of $1,000-$2,000. The crudity, condition (mint) and color (a brilliant turquoise) combined to spark a bidding war. Also, a GI-40 Major Ringold Rough ‘n’ Ready pint flask in a very light aqua color brought $15,68 0 (it would have hit $20,000 except for a lip chip).
Another surprise happened when a pair of Fells Point/Sloop GVI-2 half-pint flasks came up for bid. One was puce, a very common variant, while the other was topaz — much rarer and possibly unique. But when the final hammer fell, the puce bottle realized $12,320 and the topaz one fetched $5,152. “Should have been the other way around,” Mr. Wichmann said. “Go figure.”
A California wine bitters (M. Keller, Los Angeles), made in 1863 (the only year of production), a beautiful pastel green with loads of whittle and super strong strike, graded 9.8, gaveled for $10,080; and a Fish bitters (W. H. Ware, 1866) finished at $9,520. “I think it could have gone a bit higher,” Mr. Wichmann said, “but a small postone scared some bidders away.”
An original Pocahontas bitters (Y. Ferguson), aqua blue with an applied top and completely covered in a Benicia film, one of the finest Benicia bottles ever seen, graded 9.8, coasted to $7,280; and a Dr. Wosner’s USA Indian Root bitters, very popular with collectors and having a deep amber coloration, lots of tiny bubbles and overall whittle, graded 9.7, hit $6,720.
Two bottles went for identical prices of $6,160. One was a Lancaster Glassworks Cornucopia urn (GIII-16), wit h a sheared lip and open pontil. The pint flask was sapphire in color and graded 9.8. The other was an Old Pioneer Whiskey bottle (A. Fednkhausen & Co., Sole Agents, S.F.). The 1880s bottle had a gorgeous amber color and a super strong strike.
A Dr. Robertson’s Family Medicine bottle (prepared by T.W. Dyott, circa 1809-1815), made by Kensington Glass Works, rose to $4,704. It is believed to be the first ever embossed medicine bottle made in the United States. Also, a Bear Grass Kentucky Bourbon western fifth (Braunschweiger & Bumsted, Sole Agents, S.F., 1883-1884), grad ed 9.5, hammered for $4,256.
Rounding out the sale’s top lots: a Double Eagle GII-91 green flask with applied band and smooth base, graded 9.2, changed hands for $4,032; a Dr. Henley’s Wild Grape Root bitters with super heavy whittle and beautiful green color, graded 9.8, went for $3,808; and a Wister’s Clubhouse bottle, made circa 1851-1855, a beautiful teal color, graded 9.8, finished at $3,360.
American Bottle Auctions is always accepting quality consignments for future sales. You may call them toll-free, at 1-800-806-7722; or, you can e-mail them.
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