Rare Blue-Green St. Drake’s Plantation X Bitters Bottle Gavels for $37,950

The top lot of the American Bottle Auctions’ Internet and catalog sale #58, which went online June 21 and ended June 30, was this rare blue-green St. Drake’s 1860 X Plantation bitters bottle, which realized $37,950.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A St. Drake’s Plantation 1860 X bitters bottle—made between 1862-1872 and one of only a few known in the blue-green color—soared to $37,950 at American Bottle Auctions’ Internet and catalog sale #58, which went online June 21 and ended June 30. It wasn’t the most ever paid for that bottle in that color, but it was very close, a tribute to its rarity.

In all, 165 vintage and highly collectible bottles—many of them premium whiskeys and scarce high-condition handled whiskeys—came up for bid in an auction that totaled right around $290,000, making it one of American Bottle Auctions’ best sales ever. Several records fell and many bottles sailed past their high estimates. Participation was also higher than in any prior sale.

The St. Drakes Plantation X Bitters was the top lot of the auction. “Of the three or four blue-green examples known, this one may be the prettiest,” said Jeff Wichmann of American Bottle Auctions. “In fact, it might be the best colored bottle of any type out there. It’s also one of the finest bottles we’ve ever sold. It has all three elements: color, condition and, of course, rarity.”

The bulk of the bidding was done online, as 263 people registered to bid via the American Bottle Auctions website, accounting for 1,353 bids and an 89-percent sell-through rate. The other 11 percent was divided up between phone, absentee and faxed bids. But they totaled just 35 bidders, proving that most people prefer a screen over a gallery.

Wichmann attributed the success of the sale to several factors, including “a couple of great collections that came to us at the last minute, plus a fine range of bottles, with something for everyone in all price ranges. They say cream rises, and the better lots did fetch high dollars. There’s no telling what someone will pay for a bottle once he decides he’s just got to have it,” he said

Following are additional highlights from the auction (all prices quoted include a 15-percent buyer’s premium):

• Two other bottles topped the $15,000 mark, and both were new world auction records. One was a brilliant deep blue quart scroll flask (probably GIX-2), 9 inches tall, graded a near-perfect 9.8 out of 10 for condition ($19,550; a new record for a quart scroll flask). The other was an Ira Harvey (Providence, R.I.) tepee-shaped blue soda bottle ($16,100; a record for a soda).

• A large, uniquely shaped J.H. Cutter Old Bourbon bottle (A.P. Hotaling, Sole Agents), made circa 1869-1871 and one of the few western whiskeys made in green, graded 9.8, brought $14,400, shattering the previous record for this bottle; and a St. Drake’s 1860 Plantation bitters, the only one known in the “cherry Coke” color, made circa 1862-1872, graded 9.9, hit $13,225.

• Three other bottles made it past $5,000. The first was an OK Old Kirk Bourbon Whiskey label on an unembossed bottle (A.P. Hotaling & Co.), with original porcelain stopper and giving a San Francisco distributor phone number (of 2154), graded 9.9 ($5,290). The second was a St. Drake’s 1860 X Plantation bitters (circa 1869-1872) with arabesque motif, graded 9.9 ($5,060). The third was a George Washington-Zachary Taylor (“The Father of Our Country/Gen. Taylor Never Surrenders”) quart flask, colored a beautiful cross between sapphire and cobalt and graded 9.9 ($5,060, a solid price for a light blue example). Also, a nice light green Greeley’s Bourbon bitters, nicely whittled and with no wear at all, graded 9.8+, changed hands for $4,140.

• A pair of bottles knocked down identical selling prices of $3,910. One was an A.P. Hotaling Co. (Portland, Ore., Sole Agents) whiskey bottle with embossed crown, made circa 1884-1890, light to medium reddish amber, graded 9.7. The other was an A.M. Binninger & Co. (N.Y.) bottle, with no address on it, from 1860, colored strawberry peach puce and graded 9.8. 

St. Drake’s 1860 X Plantation bitters bottle, circa 1862, in a rare “cherry Coke” color ($13,225).

This brilliant deep blue scroll flask (probably GIX-2) sold for $19,550, a new record for a scroll flask.

J.H. Cutter Old Bourbon (A.P. Hotaling, Sole Agents) western whiskey, green, circa 1869-1871 ($14,400).

Ira Harvey (Providence, R.I.) tepee-shaped blue soda bottle, graded 9 ($16,100), a new record for a soda.

• Another Bittinger bottle with no address, this one light topaz in color and made in 1867, with applied top, smooth base and super crudity all around, fetched $3,680. “We’re not sure why Bittinger omitted the addresses on these bottles,” Wichmann said. “Maybe because they cut ties with Cozzens, around 1860. Whatever, they sold for more than I can ever recall anyone paying.”

• Rounding out the auction’s top achievers, a St. Drake’s 1860 X Plantation four-log bitters made circa 1869-1872 and colored a desirable golden yellow (vs. the more ordinary amber), graded 9.9, coasted to $3,680; and a Lafayette/T.S. DeWitt Clinton (Coventry, Conn.) historical flask (GI-80), in a lovely yellow-green color, with a solid strike and loads of bubble, hit $3,450.

American Bottle Auctions has announced something brand new—American Marble Auctions, with a new website and a premiere auction event planned for September. The firm has incorporated marbles into its bottle auctions in the past, but now the category will exist on its own, with a website and separate auction calendar. Details will be revealed as September nears. The next regular bottle auction will probably be held sometime in the late summer or early fall.

For more information about this or an upcoming auction, call 800.806.7722, e-mail to info@americanbottle.com or visit the American Bottle Auctions website.


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