Indian bitters bottle may break $10K in online auction

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pocahontas bitters bottle
This original Pocahontas bitters bottle by Y. Ferguson, aqua, graded 9.9 / 10 could sell for between $4,000 and $8,000.
bear grass bottle
Bear Grass Kentucky Bourbon bottle, a very rare Western fifth, 1883-84 (estimate $3,000-$5,000).
dr wosners bitters bottle
Dr. Wosner’s USA Indian Root bitters in a deeper amber color than usual (estimate $5,000-$8,000).

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A trove of 375 rare and vintage bottles will be sold to the highest bidders in an Internet and catalog auction slated for Oct. 29-Nov. 9 by American Bottle Auctions ( It will be the 51st sale for the firm. Most of the bottles date to 1850-1900, the period desired by collectors, when superior embossing techniques were used.

“We’re looking forward to what could be the largest auction American Bottle Auctions has ever conducted,” said Jeff Wichmann of American Bottle Auctions. “We have some very rare and desirable figural bitters and a good selection of historical flasks. There will also be some other terrific offerings, among them Western whiskey bottles, sodas, medicine bottles and more.”

The expected top lot of the auction is a Brown’s Celebrated Indian Herb bitters bottle, patented Feb. 11, 1868 (Ring-B 226). It is likely to bring $10,000 to $20,000. “This is the first pure, clear example of this bottle ever offered,” said Wichmann. “Usually, there is some amethyst or aqua. We don’t believe it to be lead glass, so it could turn purple. But right now, it’s colorless.”

The bottle is in mint condition, graded 9.9 on a scale of 1 to 10. The ground lip is perfectly flat. “Here is a bottle that was recently consigned to us from a woman in the East who collected bottles many years ago, just for the fun of it,” Wichmann said. “She was offered the choice of an amber or a clear example, and thankfully she picked the clear one. It’s rare, and a beauty.”

Another bottle expected to generate an intense bidding war is an extremely rare yellow-olive fish bitters by W.H. Ware, patented in 1866 (estimate $7,000-$10,000). “We see so many in amber that a green one really stands out,” Wichmann said. “The consignor had her choice of amber or green and paid $25 for the green one in 1962. Not a bad investment.” It’s graded 9.6.

Another bottle expected to hit six figures is a California Wine bitters by M. Keller (Los Angeles), with a monogram on the shoulder and an applied band with kick up in the base (estimate $5,000-$12,000). The bottles were made only in 1863 and resemble the Henley’s example. This one has loads of whittle, is a beautiful pastel green, has a super strong strike and is graded 9.8.

One bottle that never seems to waver in popularity is the Dr. Wonser’s USA Indian Root bitters. Collectors seek out the bottle, and the one in this sale is a little deeper amber than is normally seen and loaded with tiny bubbles and overall whittle (estimate $5,000-$8,000). A small 3/8-inch-long annealing check in the top lip is the only distraction. Otherwise, it is graded a solid 9.7.

The Original Pocahontas bitters bottle (Y. Ferguson) is a rare bitters that always appears as aqua. The one in this auction (estimate $4,000-$8,000) is covered in a Benicia film, and “any way you look at it, it’s a very gorgeous bottle,”  Wichmann observed. “We can say without any hesitation that this is the finest Benicia bottle we’ve ever offered.” It is graded a near-mint 9.9.

The Bear Grass Kentucky Bourbon bottle (Braunschweiger & Bumsted, Sole Agents, San Francisco, 1883-84) is a very rare Western fifth with an applied top and an embossed bear head. The example in the auction (estimate $3,000-$5,000) has a good strike with a slightly bent neck and a drippy top. It’s a terrific bottle for the advanced collector, and the grading is a respectable 9.5.

A Fells Point/Sloop half-pint flask (GVI-2), boasting a topaz coloration and a 9.2 grade, is expected to fetch $2,000 to $4,000. The bottle, with sheared lip and pontil, is quite crude. There is some light highpoint wear, but generally it’s hardly noticeable amid the bubbles and whittle. The flask comes in a variety of shades, but the unusual topaz color of this one makes it a keeper.

For more information on Auction No. 51 call 800-806-7722, e-mail or visit ?

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