Friday, January 29, 2010

January Review:

Rain, snow and wind were mostly what January was about up here in the foothills and Sierra high country. Heck, just a month or so ago we were complaining that the ground was so dry we couldn’t probe it, now if you dig a hole deeper than a couple of feet it fills with water. The high country is under snow and it probably will be till April or May sending us high elevation diggers down to the flatlands to try and get something going. The drawback to all this weather for us Sierra residents has been the ongoing power and internet outages. Sierra County has had sporadic electrical service and absolutely no internet service since the 23rd of January. Sure makes it difficult to keep fresh posts on this blog when you can’t get online.

Digging News:
A rare Dr. Furber’s Cordial of Mountain Balm was unearthed in the Bay Area not too long ago – nice extraction fellows, keep em’ coming. Rumors of a freshly dug Catawba Wine Bitters were being circulated throughout the bottle community lately; unfortunately there has not been any confirmation or denial of this rumor by the supposed digger.
I haven’t heard of anything being dug in Nevada lately but the Las Vegas show is coming up and a lot of the collectors – diggers like to combine a bottle show and digging trip to and from southern Nevada. Hopefully we will have some freshly dug items to report on after the Vegas show.

American Bottle Auction #49:
There were eight bottles in auction 49 that would have been of interest to the western bitters collector, here’s my take on where they finished and why:

Lot 106: 3 line Turner Brothers. Of the 7 (yes seven) variants of the Turner Bros. square this is the example that is most often found out here in the west. Described as “applied top with graphite pontil” This variant of the Turner’s, to my knowledge, has never been observed with a graphite pontil, or any other kind of pontil for that matter. Be that as it may this smooth base Turner’s brought $850, just about what they are selling for at shows but below the auction estimate of $1000 - $1500.

Lot 163: Pipifax. Considered a western bitters (even though not embossed as such) by some of the western collectors this bottle had an opening price of $100. After a few days of no opening bids the starting price was dropped to $50. It finished at $60. I have seen several examples of the Pipifax sitting on tables at bottle shows with an asking price of $100. If you were looking for a Pipifax this was a bargain.

Lot 294: Tool top Dr. Henley’s Wild Grape Root Bitters. Here’s a rare bottle. A couple of savvy western bitters collectors that I talked to at the Anderson show mentioned that in all their years of collecting they had probably seen maybe 5 examples of a tool top Henley’s. That’s pretty darn rare but it doesn’t seem to make the bottle very desirable or valuable as this example only realized a disappointing $210.

Lot 295: Dr. Henley’s. Here was the surprise of the auction for not only me but most of the western collectors that I have talked to. The catalog describes it as “this may be the finest example in so called “aqua” we have ever seen” “Many people would consider it a medium teal” I am not about to argue color with anyone, color is in the eye of the beholder. Take for example your basic western whiskey collector, the slightest hint of olive tone in a western fifth and they will be calling it green. As a bitters collector I would call this example of the Henley’s rich aqua. Whatever color you want to call it someone was willing to pay $3800 plus a 12% premium to become the new owner.

Lot 316: Clear Peruvian Bitters. Here’s another rare bitters bottle that graced this auction. For every 500 Peruvians that you see maybe one will be clear, that’s rare. But as most collectors know just because a bottle is rare doesn’t make it valuable. Just like the three L’s in real estate dictate value, the three C’s in bottle collecting are what bring the green. Color, condition and crudity set value in most cases, not always rarity. Don’t agree with me? Take a look at the thousands of Drakes Plantation Bitters; do you think rarity has anything to do with some examples busting 4 figures? I would consider $150 a bargain for this bottle.

Lot 317: Lacour’s Bitters. Here’s a bottle that not only appeals to western collectors but figural and colored bitters collectors also. A beautiful green this Lacour’s has a replaced top but it didn’t stop it from reaching $1700. If you believe in a certification and grading process for antique bottles (like stamps and coins) this would be a candidate. You can laser etch on the base REPLACED TOP before this bottle gets lost in the shuffle and re-surfaces in a few years as the “real deal”.

Lot 318: Bryant’s Stomach Bitters (leg) And yet another waterlogged Bryant’s surfaces from off the eastern coast of South America. Sand and water worn but polished to an acceptable appearance this world traveler brought a solid $3600

Lot 319: Chalmer’s Catawba Wine Bitters (Sutters Old Mill) at $17,500 this was the big dog in auction 49 for bitters collectors. Rare, beautiful color, crudity and dang near mint condition, everything an advanced bottle collector is looking for and then some. In the last year or so pricey bottles are being referred to by some “sellers” as “investment grade bottles”. At $17,500 I would imagine that the Chalmer’s would qualify as “investment grade” to these unnamed sellers, it’s pricey enough. The only problem with this “investment grade” baloney is this bottle sold a few years ago for $22,000. A poor investment for the previous owner. If you are not buying glass for the love of it, but as an investment, maybe it’s time to start thinking about throwing some of that disposable income at mutual funds or pork bellies.

Anderson Bottle Show:
This year’s Anderson show, in my opinion, was an interesting and fun event. First off, the ongoing theft problem that plagued the Auburn bottle show in December didn’t seem to be an issue in Anderson, making for a relaxed atmosphere and lots of visiting with other dealers. Part of the appeal of local bottle shows for me is the personal connection with other bottle collectors, being able to examine possible additions to my collection first hand and hang with folks that I have something in common. Your basic online auctions and the infamous ebay certainly can’t deliver any of the previously mentioned reasons for attending a local bottle show, or a not so local show for that matter.

Several nice western bitters were offered for sale at the show. A Chalmer’s Catawba Wine Bitters, aqua Dr. Wonser’s Wild Grape Root Bitters, Three line Turner Bros. square, a nice aqua Henley’s California IXL Bitters and a Gun Wa’s Chinese Remedy that an amigo from Oregon snatched off of a sales table were just some of the bitters available. If you didn’t make the Anderson show you missed a very pleasant western show
Upcoming Shows in February:
Don’t forget the upcoming 45th annual Las Vegas Antique Bottle & Collectables Club show and sale February 12th & 13th at the Palace Station Casino.
February 19th & 20th the Oregon Bottle Collectors Association’s winter 2010 show & sale will be held at the American Legion Hall in Aurora Oregon.

Support the hobby... Attend a local bottle show......
It’s good to be back

1 comment:

  1. A VERY nice heavily whittled red Lashes was dug a couple of days ago. Maybe the digger will post some photos one of these days. Not at all a rare or particularly desirable bottle, but it does have an applied top.