Thursday, January 29, 2015

California Wine Depot A. M. Smith Salt Lake City Utah Western Whiskey Flask

Most western collectors have heard of the elusive Smith flask. Not sure how many collectors know that it's been found in aqua, green and various shades of amber. Can't recall how many years ago I heard about the flask and got to see pieces of the aqua find, it showed up on the west side of town on a block that was famous for saloons here in the city.

 As the years went by you'd hear stories of diggers coming up with a piece here and a piece there but getting that whole bottle just wasn't in the cards. I had this close encounter right down town on a project quite a few years ago on 3rd south and state street. It was under the building they took down that at one time housed a chinese restaurant and was my first introduction to chow mein. We didn't get to eat out much growing up so this was an adventure to drive into town and have lunch and look through a couple of department stores. All those memories came back as my diggin partner and I were trying to find all the pieces to the flask before construction was done and the new buildings went in. Not all there but still a thrill to see some of Utah's history come out of the ground

From the Utah Antique Bottle Cliché.... Thanks - rs -

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

That Beautiful Western Aqua

 I have collected western blown bottles for most of my life. I have just been attracted to the pristine, colored, and crude early western pieces most of all. No matter how rare or common...if it is sparkly, nasty crude and colored, I start to have increased heart rate and blood pressure.
 Some western colors are irresistible, like the greens, and yellow olive tones, but every once in awhile, an aqua piece turns me on. Almost 20 years ago, I missed out on this deep ice blue aqua variant 1

IXL...I hesitated just long enough for another collector to snap it up and I thought I would ever see a prettier "aqua" IXL. Well, several years later the collector went HEAVY in to whiskey bottles, and sold off a few items. I was fortunate to add this beautiful Henley's to my collection. I have traded it back and forth with two of my friends over the years and always got it back. This one is hammered with whittle effect, and has a monster top, millions of bubbles, and is in perfect condition. No, it is not green, or puce, or even rare, but a gorgeous ice blue-aqua that is hard to describe until you handle it. If I ever dig, or have a chance to acquire a yellow green variant 1 with these characteristics, I will be toast...DM.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Online Bottle Store

American Bottle Auctions new online bottle store has sure started a flurry of comments and discussions. Over at the sale site ( ) there is certainly nothing new or innovative about the sale of antique bottles.
Heck, Old West Bottles ( ), Oregon Trail Antique Bottles ( ) and the Western Whiskey Gazette ( ) , just to mention a few, all have for sale pages or items for sale from time to time.

These sale pages have been popular with the collecting community for years. For the perspective buyer the sale page gives you the fixed price of the bottle and the advantage of being an anonymous buyer. The fact that there is no buyers premium on the bottle you purchase is very attractive to the potential buyer. On a high end bottle the premium can be as much as the cost of another collectable bottle to put on your shelf. Some of these for sale sites even give you the option of making an offer on a fixed price bottle. Something that rarely happens at an online or live auction.

The online sale pages are a no-brainer for the person that runs the online sale site. How about not having to submit an advertisement to all of the bottle publications and  pay for that advertisement, no expensive auction catalogs to have printed and pay for and then pay the postage to mail them to perspective bidders. World wide online exposure of the items you have for sale multiplies your chances of selling the item for YOUR sale price.

Comments on the new ABA sale site have been mixed to say the least and range from:
 " exciting new format. Plusses and minuses. We need variety"
 " Jeff sure likes to toy with us bottle nuts ;) " .
 " I’ve picked up four or so extraordinary bottles from Jeff’s new sale page. Missed some too "
 " Scratching my head however at the defensiveness of Mr. Wichmann, at the suggestion of just auctioning the bottles, so everyone ends up on a level playing field. After all, he’s proven that he does quite well as a bottle auctioneer, so why would he mess with success in the first place? "

Personally I don't think its a question of "messing with success" but a shrewd business move to maximize profits and minimize expenses while keeping the bottle collecting community in a constant state of anticipation.

Hat's off to Mr. Wichmann for keeping capitalism alive
- rs -

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Dickey Pioneer Chemist - Redux-

A while back I wrote a post on the prolific San Francisco druggist Geo. S. Dickey. Even though I tried to gather all the information that I could on Dickey and his forty plus years of manufacturing one of  our favorite western distributed bottles, by the replies from diggers and collectors to the post, I feel the post was not comprehensive.

Geo. S. Dickey started, according to his advertisements,  his apothecary business in San Francisco early in 1850. The following advertisement placed by Dickey in October of 1864 claims he started his business fourteen years earlier in 1850. This is the earliest ad I could find for Dickey while he was operating at Howard and Third Street in a frame building.

According to what information I could gather The first bottle produced by Dickey was the example pictured below.

This medium blue colored bottle is embossed with a mortar and pestle and the words "PIONEER 1850". The base on this early bottle is flat, the top is tooled and savvy western collectors have named it "THE STOVEPIPE". The holy grail of Dickey's

 Flat base of the first embossed Dickey bottle.
I dug two blue stove pipes and an aqua one in a hole in Santa Rosa. In the hole were several broken pontiled pickles including an amber Baker and Cutting. Multi sided pontiled meds and three large Hostetter's in amber were also in the same hole..... R.T. Siri


The above pictured bottles are believed to be the second variant of the Dickey bottle. They come in shades of blue, have a tooled top and a square indented base. I have no idea about the timeline of when this bottle was blown but shared knowledge points to this variant as being the second of the Dickey bottles. This variant has larger and (kind of) flat embossing and the S.F. is higher on the base of the bottle then the last variant.

The above picture shows the square intended bases of the second variant of the Dickey bottle

I believe the oldest of the blue Dickey's (not including the mold with only the Pioneer 1850....we call these the Dickey without the Dickey) to be the mold that has the deep recessed rectangle on the base. the tops on these are a flared tool-top, similar to early Eastern meds. The examples I've dug, have come from late 60's - early 70's holes,,,,A.P. Hotaling

Aqua examples of the Dickey bottle. The bottle on the left has an applied top and the example on the right a tooled top
Flat bases on the aqua variants of the Dickey bottle

Amber Dickey bottles with applied tops. Pestle is on the right side of mortar
The bases of the amber Dickey bottle with applied tops. Note the circle base with the dot in the center. This is the same variant as the blue applied top bottle with the circle and dot on base. Just in amber coloration.

Blue colored Dickeys with applied tops. These are the most common of the Dickey bottle and have a base with a circle with a dot in the center. The embossing is larger then the latter examples. (Fourth bottle from left has a full label)
The bases of the blue Dickey with a applied top. Circle and dot on base.
Two examples of the last variant of the Dickey bottle in a chocolate coloration. This variant has the "thin" embossing and the S.F. is embossed lower on the bottle then the earlier variant. These bottles can be very crude and easily mistaken for the earlier blown Dickey variant
The flat bases of the last variant of the Dickey bottle
That's about all I have on the different variants of the Dickey bottle. - rs -
Ops! almost forgot about the variant of the Dickey with the pestle on the left side of the mortar. The variant with the pestle on the left has only been observed on the last variant of the Dickey to my knowledge
Four examples of the last variant of the Dickey bottle with the pestle on the left.
Click on the pictures to enlarge the Dickey of your choice
Happy Dickey collecting! - rs -

Monday, January 12, 2015

Kennel Club Whiskey

Interesting and informative post over at my old buddy Bruce Silva's Western Whiskey Gazette on Kennel Club Whiskey

Check it out HERE

Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Bottle Digger's Wishlist

Have you ever fixated on how special it would be to dig a certain bottle, or ever had trouble sleeping the night before a big dig because that dream bottle was keeping you awake? Have you ever thought it was your imagination running wild, that is until you actually dug the bottle? I'm not sure what got me thinking about what dream bottles I'd love to dig -- maybe it was the picture Dale posted about the Var.1 Cassin's, New Year's resolutions, or the frigid 50 degree winter weather in San Diego that's kept my family mostly indoors (well it was last week, but today it's 72 degrees and sunny).

Less than 10 years ago I had just a handful of common western whiskeys, but had amassed a pretty substantial collection of western blob top sodas....the only thing was that I hadn't dug any of them. I had longed to dig a cobalt blue Bay City, H. Ficken, Gerdes, or colored Empire, but the reality of digging those in SoCal made that feat seam nearly impossible (which is mostly true). However, all of that rapidly changed course when I moved to San Francisco (a.k.a Soda Francisco) in the Spring of 2007. Only hours after getting all my belongings and moving boxes packed into a small studio, I got a call from the boys about a small lot in the city that might have a few outhouses. So I eagerly hopped into their car, arrived at the lot, probed for an hour or so, opened up some late trash pits, and we called it quits. Well almost....having found a broken shard of a blue Owen Casey earlier, something in me refused to leave just yet. A few minutes later my probe hit glass at less than a foot....probably just another trash layer, right? With nothing to lose but more patience and time, I kicked a few inches of sand away with my foot and miraculously exposed a cobalt blue soda. We raced back to the car to grab a few shovels and a dig stick, still in a state of disbelief that this floating area in the center of the lot would have anything worth digging up. Well, it turned out that it was an 1870's era terracotta trench hole with a half dozen mint sodas laying gracefully all around the old pipe: (3) Bay Cities in different shades of blue, a cobalt Crystal Soda Water, an aqua San Francisco Glassworks, and a Lime-Aqua Pioneer Soda (with Shield). I couldn't believe it, my very first dig while living in S.F. seemed as easy as plucking sodas right off the worn pages of my Markota book. Hundreds of digs later, I realize it was a just lucky fluke mixed with a little persistence; that dig still holds it's spot as one of the top 2 or 3 soda holes I've ever dug.

After living in S.F. for a little over a year, I ended up digging some bottles I never expected to see come straight out of the ground: Tea Kettle, No-Crown Cutter, Sole Agent Cutters, Dr. Renz's Herb Bitters, J.F. Cutter Fifth, and a few more handfuls of sodas. And since then, the list has grown further: Kane O'Leary 1/2 Pint flask, Miller's flask, J.F. flask, King of Pain med, African Stomach Bitters, and believe it or not, even two blob top sodas in San Diego :)

So what bottles do I dream about digging now? What if someone told you that any bottle is possible to dig, yes any bottle, even a Baker and Cutting Cathedral Pickle, a Frisch, or an Old Signet....It starts anew in 2015, the proof of the past is that every bottle, in every collection, was found by someone somewhere, whether it was an old lady gardening out an Old Castle flask by some roses, a hunter stumbling across a Cassin's beneath some pine needles, or the dedicated outhouse digger pulling out a bucket of western fifths after countless hours of time, research, probing and digging!

Here's my list....and I'd love to hear about yours!!!

The following bottles are not necessarily the most rare or expensive (although most are), but are the ones that present a worthy challenge or have some other unquantifiable significance to be dreamt about:

GREEN California Clubhouse
G.A. Simon's
Oldner's Miner's Protector Jug
Black Glass or Aqua Cassin's
Barry and Patten (Full Face)
Olive Dr. Wonser's
GREEN J.F. Cutter Fifth
Chalmer's Cylinder
Denzler Quart Beer
ANY San Diego, CA Fifth
Blue Indian Queen
Genuine/Grange Flask
Dr. Bowen's Blood Purifier
Baker and Cutting Pickle
Cobalt Blue H&G Bear Soda
Non-Aqua Gold Dust Fifth
*Too many others to list....but simply 2 or 3 from the list above would be of storybook proportions.