SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A medium chocolate amber California Clubhouse Whiskey bottle, made circa 1872-74 and one of only nine examples known, soared to $30,240 in an Internet and catalog auction held Aug. 10-21 by American Bottle Auctions (www.americanbottle.com). The bottle, highly prized by collectors, boasted a fancy monogram in the center, a gorgeous embossing pattern and a 9.5 grading.
The top lot of the sale was this California Clubhouse whiskey bottle, made circa 1872-74 ($30,240).
Southern Cock Tail (sic) bitters bottle by J. Grossman of New Orleans ($6,160).
“Time and time again, when votes are taken for the most desirable western fifth, the California Clubhouse comes out on top,” said Jeff Wichmann of American Bottle Auctions. “For whiskey bottle collectors, it is the Holy Grail. They were only produced for three years, and the one just sold is the first example ever offered at auction, in any color or condition. It was last purchased at a show in the 1970s.”
The California Clubhouse bottle was the top lot of the more than 260 bottles that changed hands in a sale that grossed just under $250,000. “The results of this auction told me that the antique bottle market is very strong despite a weak economy,” Mr. Wichmann said. “Bitters, rare flasks and hard-to-find pieces did beautifully, realizing higher prices than I even hoped for. Overall, it was a great auction.”
All of the bottles were vintage, with most of them made between 1850 and 1900 (the period most coveted by collectors, when superior embossing techniques were employed). Following are additional highlights from the sale. All prices include a 12 percent buyer’s premium.
Two other bottles topped the $10,000 mark. One was a bourbon whiskey bitters, straw or wheat in color with an applied top in light yellow, loads of whittle and an amazing light color. The bottle, graded Mint 9.2, coasted to $10,640. The other was an original concentric ring eagle flask (the GII-76A variant), in nearly perfect condition except for some high-point wear. Graded Mint 9.3, it made $10,080.
A brilliant green H.P. Herb Wild Cherry bitters bottle with an embossed cherry tree, cabin-shaped with a tool top and generally perfect with a 9.5 grade, rose to $7,840; a Southern Aromoatic Cock Tail (sic) bitters bottle, by J. Grossman of New Orleans, with a long sleek neck, achieved $6,160; and an almond hair wash bottle by W. Herd, beautiful sky blue and loaded with bubbles, earned $5,600.
Three lots all realized identical prices of $5,376. They were a London Jockey Clubhouse Gin bottle with embossed horse and rider, applied top, great iron pontil and a grade of 9.8; a teal-colored Lediard’s Celebrated Stomach bitters bottle with applied double tapered top with iron pontil, graded 9.7; and a W & Company Pineapple bitters bottle, very early and with sensational color, used but still a 9.5.
A Germania 10-inch bitters bottle with an embossed seated woman having herself a wonderful time, one of only two known examples with the original labels intact, graded 9.8, fetched $5,152; an original Pocahontas bitters bottle by Y. Ferguson, a rare barrel with a bluish aqua color, graded 9.6, hit $4,928; and a Greeley’s Bourbon 9 1/2 inch bitters bottle, lime green and graded 8.9, went for $4,704.
An OK Plantation 1840 bottle (patented 1863), without the word “bitters” but still a bitters bottle, with loads of tiny bubbles and free from any flaws, breezed to $4,704; a Sarsapariphere Lacour’s bitters bottle (circa 1870-73), in a rare uneven amber color, graded 8.9, topped out at $4,032; and a Pearson Bros. Bodie bottle, greenish aqua and probably made around 1890, graded 9.2, brought $4,032.
A 6 3/4-inch-tall Alpine Hair Balm bottle in brilliant green, made in Providence, R.I., and with a perfect applied top and smooth base, graded 9.8, rose to $3,808; a rare green E.L. Billings SAC City soda bottle (with Geyser Soda on the reverse, circa 1872-79), graded 9.3 changed hands for $3,584; and a geometric pattern molded decanter (GII-7, circa 1820-40), olive and yellow, graded 9.5, made $3,584.
An oddly shaped, cobalt blue Fish’s Infaliable Hair Restorative bottle (with N. Mills on the reverse shoulder, made in 1863), possibly Hawaiian in origin, graded 9.7, garnered $3,360; a St. Drake’s 1860 Plantation bitters bottle (patented in 1862), green and amber and graded 9.7, sold for $3,360; and an Arlington M.A. Lindberg Prop. (Bakersfield, Calif.) half-pint bottle, graded 9.7, climbed to $3,136.
American Bottle Auctions was founded in 1990 by Jeff Wichmann, a native Californian who has been collecting antique bottles for nearly 40 years. Over time, the firm grew and underwent a name change, but the focus has remained the same: American Bottle Auctions specializes in appraising, brokering, consigning and auctioning antique bottles and glass. Bottle collecting is a burgeoning genre.
Mr. Wichmann has personally researched, appraised and estimated the value of tens of thousands of antique bottles and related items. He is often called on to appraise antique bottles and glass for private individuals and businesses. In 1999, he wrote and published The Best of the West – Antique Western Bitters Bottles, a top research guide. He has also written many articles on the subject of antique bottles.
American Bottle Auctions’ next Internet and catalog auction will begin around late November and conclude in early December (exact dates to be determined). Quality consignments for this and all future auctions are always accepted. To consign a single bottle or an entire collection, you may call American Bottle Auctions toll-free, at 1-800-806-7722; or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos courtesy American Bottle Auctions.