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Auction Preview: Rare Color Can Boost Glass Flask Value by $20,000 or More

by WorthPoint Staff (03/27/12).

The expected top lot of the April 27-May 6 Internet and catalog auction hosted by American Bottle Auctions is this Justus Perry early blown glass Masonic/eagle flask. The rare purple color has boosted this bottle’s value by $20,000 or more.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Bottles, bottles, who’s got the bottles? American Bottle Auctions, that’s who—around 175 bottles, in fact, many of them rare and vintage examples in a broad variety of categories. All will be sold in an Internet and catalog auction that begins April 27 and ends May 6. The bottles may be viewed online, starting April 24.

Bottle collecting is a rapidly burgeoning genre, often making the top 10 lists of the “most searched” categories of collectible on the Internet. This sale will have something for just about every collector in the field: rare “territory” sodas (from when states were still territories), bitters, western whiskey bottles, medicines, gins, early flasks, historical flasks and early blown glass.

“We’ve got a tremendous selection of antique bottles from all over the country. They are rare and desirable pieces from virtually every category,” said Jeff Wichmann of American Bottle Auctions. “Many will sell in the $1,000 to $10,000 range, but others will go for much less. The impressive thing is that these bottles are all fresh to the market. It should be an exciting auction.”

One bottle is expected to soar to $20,000-$30,000, maybe more. It’s an exceedingly rare Justus Perry early blown-glass Masonic/eagle flask (GIV-1), made circa 1822-1840 by the Keene-Marlboro Street Glass Works. What makes the bottle so special is its fabulous purple and blue coloration. If the same bottle was being offered in its usual aqua, it might bring just $500.

But at past auctions, such a bottle has fetched tens of thousands of dollars. This example does have a small chip on the inside of the Masonic side lip, its only flaw.

“We will be happy to have the lip fixed to perfection at no charge to the buyer,” Wichmann volunteered. “Without the lip chip, the bottle grades at 9.9. How much of a distraction the chip is—that’s up to the buyer.”

Soda bottles will span two key eras of manufacture. The so-called “blob”-style sodas—the first generation of sodas—were made from 1850-1890. The auction will have examples from the East and West coasts. The “territory hutch” sodas (made between 1890-1920) will also be in the sale, from Idaho, Utah, Hawaii, Oklahoma, the Northwest Territory and other pre-state regions.

While the sale boasts many rare and beautiful hutches, one stands out from the rest for its gorgeous olive-yellow coloration (hutches are almost always aqua). The T. Burkhardt Braddock bottle, with a tooled-mouth and on a reverse base, is expected to hit $300-$600. Its condition is generally good, graded 8.5, with some typical light scratches, but the green color is the big draw.

T. Burkhardt Braddock soda “hutch.”

Dr. Wonser’s U.S.A. Indian Root Bitters bottle.

Pineapple Bitters bottle, one of two in the sale.

Two bitters are worth singling out for their importance and desirability. The first is a Dr. Wonser’s U.S.A. Indian Root Bitters bottle, with an applied top (est. $7,000-$12,000). The bottle is colored a medium root-beer-amber, with just the lightest amount of wear on the outermost ridge. Collectors are snapping up Wonsers at a fast clip, and this one will get a lot of attention.

The other is a Pineapple Bitters (one of two in the sale), made by W. & Co. (N.Y.) and graded a robust, near-mint 9.8 (est. $3,000-$6,000). The bottle has a richer green color than its counterpart in the sale, plus it boasts a rare open pontil. The only wear is on the base (typical, as these bottles were typically used extensively). Overall, it would be hard to find a better example.

Western whiskey bottles were also known as “fifths” as they held a fifth of a gallon. But whiskeys also came out of the East, too. The sale will feature a very rare Mohawk whiskey and Pharazyyn bitters in the shape of Indian queens. Both are from the East Coast. The best of the West promises to be an Old Pioneer Whiskey bottle with an embossed bear (est. $3,000-$6,000).

The Old Pioneer bottle, graded a tip-top 10, has loads of whittle and a beautiful texture to the glass, which has a lovely yellowish amber hue. It is listed as Thomas-5 variant A, and was made by Wm. H. Spears & Co. (A. Fenkhausen, Sole Agents). The interesting nature of this bottle, combined with its overall beauty and mint-on-the-shelf look, makes it highly desirable.

Old Pioneer western whiskey “fifth” bottle.

Morse’s Celebrated Syrup bottle.

London Jockey Clubhouse Gin bottle.

Medicines will be well-represented and include a Wynkoop’s sasparilla in blue, a Morse’s Celebrated Syrup in green and many other rare and early pieces. The Morse’s medicine (est. $1,000-$2,000), 9 inches tall and with an applied top and pontil, is a great example of an early green, 170-year-old medicine bottle. Its overall whittle and crudity add up to a 9.5 grade.

From the gins comes a London Jockey Clubhouse bottle with embossed horse and rider, graded 9.6 (est. $2,000-$3,000). This pretty bottle has an applied top, iron pontil and great bluish turquoise color. Also featured in the auction will be beautifully colored and very early flasks, Pitkin flasks, some very rare corset-waisted scroll flasks and a nice selection of blown glass.

For more information about this auction, call 800-806-7722, e-mail to or visit the American Bottle Auctions website.


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