Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Do you Kiss and Tell?

Over on the whiskey blog there's a running dialog concerning the pro's and con's of mentioning just what the value of the bottle being spotlighted in the post is.
There is no doubt that bottle values are a major concern to collectors. Western Whiskey guru John Thomas used to say "If you own a particular bottle it is worth a lot more than if you don't own it". I have found that statement to be all too true.

On the whiskey site one blogger commented " I enjoy this blog greatly and visit quite frequently, but I do think avoiding posts that discuss or mention any dollar value will benefit both diggers and collectors in the long run. The posts on this site should be limited to history, digging reports, and recent finds/acquisitions". I think that's probably a valid and realistic way, if your a digger, to look at what is now a "big pain in the butt"; Too much readily available information to folks that haven't "paid their dues" or "put in the time" in the hobby to learn the values of what we collect.

Case in point:
The western auction after the big dig in S.F. featured a rare cone shaped bitters. The price that bottle brought was broadcast all over the world, featured on the nighly news and written up in antique papers by the auction house that sold the bottle.

I live in a backwater little town up in the Sierra's and during that time period was actively digging the townsite. It wasn't a week after the "Big Dig" auction was over that I started getting turned down on digging permissions. Heck, I knew every person in town and never had a problem getting permission to dig before the auction. I asked a couple of the firm "No's" what was going on and was told by one of the owners "If anyone is going to dig one of those $00,000 bottles in my yard it's going to be me!" The other owners suddenly just "didn't want anymore digging on their property". Now that they knew that "those dirty old bottles" were worth something, they wouldn't be giving them away anymore.

Getting back to the blogger's comment, concerning values, and after spending some time thinking about this whole situation I have come to the conclusion that..... When I was a young man I didn't kiss and tell...... and I'm certainly too old to start now!


  1. In my experience, here in "River City" anyway, nothing has changed regarding permissions to dig. No person has mentioned the extreme value of bottles, other than those whose thoughts turn to gold whenever you approach them, and the ratio of "go aheads" to "no GD ways"remains as it always was. Outlying towns are much easier to "permissionize" than larger urban areas, as it always has been and ever shall be.

    As far as "spilling the beans", "sharing the wealth", or whatever terms you use for giving away your diggin' spots, there ain't no way. Why in the world would anyone who spends hours researching a site, more time obtaining the OK to investigate it, then more time probing it, before you put shovel to soil, tell others about it. That's crazy talk. Cuttin' 'yer own throat, I say.

    If a neophyte wants to dig, let 'em learn the hard way just as we did. I get asked to take other guys along, but I can't do it. Never insult your diggin' bud by inviting someone else into the realm, as it were. Nothin' pisses me off more than getting a big surprise when I show up at the meeting place and another digger has been brought along, unbenownst to me. On one planned dig, we had made arrangements with the homeowner for myself and my partner to dig a privy. Well, a few minutes after we arrived, two diggers who had followed me over there also showed up and wanted to probe. Needless to say, the PO was upset because instead of 2 diggers, now there was four. He booted the uninvited guests and there were hard feelings over the situation, which, of course, was their own doing.

    All things considered, we "old timers" gotta stick together and protect our "assets".

  2. Rick,

    You seem to have a good handle on the issue, and appear to really love the hobby versus trying to pump-up interest and dollar value in certain sectors of bottles in order to sell collections or protect the value of a graying collector's bottles for a future sale, aka "pump & dump". Silver-pickers, auction houses, and slick dealers dont realize what it is like to beat the streets and pound on doors post 1999 Bryant's cone auction times, trying to line-up a dig.
    It is irresponsible and ignorant to talk prices in front of the world. Collectors on the blog surely follow the auctions and shows, and can easily get the info from those venus.
    Without digging, or severly compromising digging, the hobby will fade fast. It's bad enough the Liberal factions of the govt have outlawed digging in most state and federal ghost town sites under the guise of "protecting" them. Most collectors that purchase bottles started out as diggers.
    I commend you for your looking out for the diggers and seeing thru the intent to promote potential sales !

  3. Weeell gol dang!! aint non o you so called lovers o the hobby evr goin to invite a newcomer that mabe you might take under your wing so to speak. And show him what diggin is all about, I used to take a few fellers out on digs, and we shared what we dug. and then they went out and did it on ther own. seems ta me if we all say we love the hobby, maybe we should share some of the knowledge a bit.....diggin stockton 4 40 yrs now and it aint changed so much, just fewer places left now......but I still like to go out with some of the guys and dig a bit....

  4. I think that stating prices on these blogs is not a very good thing to do. All of us know what good bottles are worth, just ask the owner and if it too much, dont buy it. the general public doesnt need to know what we pay for bottles most of them are sure as he__ arnt goin out in their backyards and dig them up....Andy

  5. Maybe you guys should try to
    restrict pricing in books too. Or even better yet not allow price tags on bottles at your shows. Oh and then there's eBay and auction houses that you could try and get prices removed from, the possibilities are endless. Some of the diggers here
    appear very self centered by trying to promote their own program and wanting the non diggers to follow. Your an awfully minute portion of the collecting hobby now days and the only ones it seems to have a problem with this. Us non diggers who enjoy this blog & collecting
    think it's a little strange to discuses every other portion of the hobby but prices which we're all interested in.

  6. Interesting and valid comments by the folks that are willing to voice their opinions.

    I did not start this blog to inflate the value of the bottles that we discuss here on this site nor have I backed away from reporting the prices that western bitters have realized at auction.

    As a digger (not as active as I used to be) and a collector (still pretty active) I can understand the difference of opinion on posting bottle values on this site.

    The Western Bitters News is an interactive site that interested collectors can visit, comment on, discuss posted items, and if they have enough smoke in their shorts, write a post and have it published here for the world to read.
    Does it get any better for our hobby?

  7. We knocked on two doors yesterday and got two OKs. Neither had heard of bottle digging or knew anything about old bottles. Not everyone Googles bottles on a daily basis.

  8. Regarding property owner that won't let you dig.Offer them a piece of the action if you find something of value .In the old days if you got caught snipping on someone gold claim without paying a royality you might have been shot . Share the gold . You may have probed the hole and dug the bottle but it's their bottle just like the gold .

  9. sneek in, dig quick try to sell our bottles at the highst price we can. we are the true lovers of the bottle hobby

  10. I would think that all diggers would do everything they can think of to protect the digging oportunities that we have. As that will be the only way that I will ever own one of these thousands of dollars bitters or whisky bottles that the rest of you seem to care so much about, and for the most part have DUG up......Andy

  11. After reading some of these posts I'm ashamed to say I'm a bottle digger! One thing is for certain and you all have in common, you know your ripping off landowners, and sadly, as the end of an era nears, are grasping at anything you can get ahold of, but seriously, ban mentioning prices? LMAO
    Move over boys, the days of the percentage diggers are at hand! Advertising in YOUR town coming SOON!

  12. Good point there, actually we did alittle test here in NY with some advertising and the response was amazing!
    We harvest timber on a percentage basis, so why not harvest 'bottles' the same way?

  13. Uh...Because timber is a managed renewable resource. Bottles are considered a finite historical artifact. That's one reason. Reason number two, is if you paper the area with "flyers" or advertising focusing on the big "split" or "share" of the treasure, you just wait and see how much "attention" you get. The end of the era of digging for bottles IS approaching, that you can be sure of, but it is because of the mindset that bottles are priceless artifacts which should be off limits to everyone but the State "professional" diggers. Be VERY careful here! There is a balance people...a balance between being a lying SOB, and putting a banner behind an airplane advertising for digging the treasure in your yard for a "cut". Ethics drives this, and this is where the trouble begins. You can be under the radar and still have ethics and integrity. Comparing bottles to timber? Better be careful...

  14. All I can say for sure is.......better keep an eye on sakaminny to make sure that one of those screwed up polytishuns isnt getting up a bill to stop bottle digging down here, like in Oregon!!!.......Andy

  15. The internet is the beginning of the end, of bottle digging. No more digging = the same bottles being recycled amongst collectors with very very few new finds surfacing from non-dug sources to add to the new limited finite gene pool. That might seem to work with historical flasks, but I dont think it'll fly in the other categories.
    Pretty boring forecast for bottle collecting in that scenario......... And, don't even start thinking the values will consequently rise... Nope. You'll be looking at a bunch of millionaires in a cake-walk with less and less chairs ,and all of em' scared of being stuck holding the hot potato !
    How many people want to collect something that's been outlawed by the govt to dig-up?? Wanna throw $$$ into that stuff?? "Where did you get that aqua Wonsers sir"?? Did you or someone else dig it up on State property? Can you prove you/they didnt? How many people wanna invest 15k in a bottle now?? Wanna buy some pre-columbian artifacts?? Wanna paint with a big broad brush?? Wanna throw the baby out with the bath water??
    You probably dont want any of that, but when State of Fed govt gets behind the arks and libs, that's where things can go and that's what they do ! They paint well, mostly very abstract shit that they call legislation.... remember the Antiquities Act, well intended and designed to protect Indian burial sites. Oh, by the way, the paint brush was a little large and it included any kind of digging for anything.
    Wanna be a Nazi state like Oregon where you can't even dig in your OWN backyard?
    Better run silent and deep.... as John Wayne once said........
    Every collector should be protecting digging. Not just the active diggers !