Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Climax Bitters

For the last week I have been watching the Climax Bitters up for auction on ebay. I threw, what I thought, was reasonable bid at it but watched it close at over half a grand.

After thinking about the Climax Bitters and searching the old memory banks I couldn’t, for the life of me, remember ever seeing one for sale at a bottle show or at auction. Maybe I should have done my homework on this bottle and paid more attention to the auction.

Well, to make a long story short, I started researching the Climax bottle and found absolutely nothing in the Daily Alta California, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento Transcript or the San Francisco Call. Next stop was the “go to” bitters reference books; Wilson’s Western Bitters and Wichmann’s Antique Western Bitters Bottles.

Wilson has Sacramento’s Justin Gates and partner Alonzo Van Alstine from San Francisco as manufacturers of the product from about 1887 to sometime in 1890. In the early 1880’s Gates moved from Sacramento to San Francisco and by 1884 was in partnership with Alstine and the two of them were selling Dr. Gunn’s Bitters. Sometime in 1889 Gates died and the Climax bitters product along with him.

Wichmann, in his Antique Western Bitters Bottles book, has pretty much the same information as Wilson. Both Wichmann and Wilson rate this bottle as “very rare” No wonder I can’t remember seeing an example of the Climax for sale. Next time I see one of these obscure 1890’s era western bitters for sale you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be paying closer attention to it.


  1. Rick

    I sold one in Jeff's auction last yr. They are very rare indeed. They may have been blown back East, since most come out of the ground stained. I have only dug 2 broken examples over the yrs. The one I sold was undug, and I picked it up at a flea mkt.

  2. I dug one of them in 1981, at the site of the new Capitol Bank of Commerce site at 3rd & Capitol Ave(M St), here in Sackamenna. Also in that pit were a couple of punkers, both half pints. One A.H.Powers and the other Hugh Casey. The sadly broken good'un was an Arcade Hotel pint coffin.

    A ton of high quality early bottles came from that site. It was especially fun because the tractors exposed the tops of many pits and all we had to do was scoop 'em out. The posts and ash were dead giveaways. That situation is not likely to ever be repeated. These days, archys and/or liability issues keep sites locked and guarded.