Rare Brown’s Celebrated Indian Herb Bitters to Highlight Bottle Auction

This Brown's Celebrated Indian Herb bitters bottle, patented Feb. 11, 1868, is expected to bring between $10,000 and $20,000 in an Internet and catalog auction slated for Oct. 29-Nov. 9 by American Bottle Auctions.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A trove of 375 rare and vintage bottles—including a rare Brown’s Celebrated Indian Herb bitters bottle that is expected to garner between $10,000 and $20,000—will be sold to the highest bidders in an Internet and catalog auction slated for Oct. 29-Nov. 9 by American Bottle Auctions. Most of the bottles date to 1850-1900, the period desired by collectors, when superior embossing techniques were used.

“We’re looking forward to what could be the largest auction American Bottle Auctions has ever conducted,” said Jeff Wichmann of American Bottle Auctions, which has conducted 50 auctions to date. “We have some very rare and desirable figural bitters and a good selection of historical flasks. There will also be some other terrific offerings, among them Western whiskey bottles, sodas, medicine bottles and more.”

The expected top lot of the auction is the Brown’s Celebrated Indian Herb bitters bottle, patented Feb. 11, 1868 (Ring-B 226). It is likely to bring $10,000-$20,000. “This is the first pure clear example of this bottle ever offered,” said Wichmann. “Usually, there is some amethyst or aqua. We don’t believe it to be lead glass, so it could turn purple. But right now it’s colorless.”

The bottle is in mint condition, graded 9.9 on a scale of 1-10. The ground lip is perfectly flat. “Here is a bottle that was recently consigned to us from a woman in the East who collected bottles many years ago, just for the fun of it,” Wichmann added. “She was offered the choice of an amber or a clear example and thankfully she picked the clear one. It’s rare, and a beauty.”

Another bottle expected to generate an intense bidding war is an extremely rare yellow-olive fish bitters by W.H. Ware, patented in 1866 (est. $7,000-$10,000). “We see so many in amber that a green one really stands out,” Wichmann said. “The consignor had her choice of amber or green and paid $25 for the green one in 1962. Not a bad investment.” It’s graded 9.6.

A California Wine bitters by M. Keller (Los Angeles) is another bottle expected to hit five figures. With a monogram on the shoulder and an applied band with kick up in the base, these bottles were made in 1863 only, and resemble the Henley’s example. This one has loads of whittle, is a beautiful pastel green, has a super strong strike and is graded 9.8 (est. $5,000-$12,000).

One bottle that never seems to waver in popularity is the Dr. Wonser’s USA Indian Root bitters. Collectors seek out the bottle and the one in this sale is a little deeper amber than is normally seen and loaded with tiny bubbles and overall whittle (est. $5,000-$8,000). A small, 3/8 inch-long annealing check in the top lip is the only distraction. Otherwise, it is graded a solid 9.7.

The Original Pocahontas bitters bottle (Y. Ferguson) is a rare bitters that always appears as aqua. The one in this auction (est. 4,000-$8,000) is covered in a Benicia film and “any way you look at it, it’s a very gorgeous bottle,” said Wichmann. “We can say without any hesitation that this is the finest Benicia bottle we’ve ever offered.” It is graded a near-mint 9.9.

The Bear Grass Kentucky Bourbon bottle (Braunschweiger & Bumsted, Sole Agents, San Francisco, 1883-84) is a very rare Western fifth with an applied top and an embossed bear head. The example in the auction (est. $3,000-$5,000) has a good strike with a slightly bent neck and a drippy top. It’s a terrific bottle for the advanced collector, and the grading is a respectable 9.5.

Rare yellow olive colored fish bitters by W. H. Ware.

Dr. Wosner's USA Indian Root bitters in a deep amber color.

California Wine bitters by M. Keller of Los Angeles.

Original Pocahontas bitters bottle by Y. Ferguson, aqua.

Bear Grass Kentucky Bourbon bottle, a very rare Western fifth.

A Fells Point/Sloop half-pint flask (GVI-2), boasting a topaz coloration and a 9.2 grade, is expected to fetch $2,000-$4,000. The bottle, with sheared lip and pontil, is quite crude. There is some light highpoint wear, but generally it’s hardly noticeable amidst the bubbles and whittle. The flask comes in a variety of shades, but the unusual topaz color of this one makes it a keeper.

A beautiful sapphire example of a Lancaster Glassworks cornucopia urn flask (GIII-16) should realize $2,000-$4,000. The bottle, with sheared lip and open pontil, has a beautiful and perfect mouth, and the tubular pontil is remarkable. Graded 9.8 and hard to find in that color, the flask is worth a view in the video posted to the American Bottles website (americanbottle.com).

Rounding out the short list of anticipated top lots, a beautiful lime green Father of His Country/Taylor quart bottle (GI-39B) with sheared lip, tubular pontil, lots of whittle and great color should go for $2,000-$3,000, while a light blue Washington/Taylor quart bottle (GI-51) with applied top, nice pebbly surface and unusual blob-style top is expected to hit $2,000-$3,000.

American Bottle Auctions was founded in 1990 by Wichmann, a native Californian who has been collecting antique bottles for 40 years. Over time, the firm grew and underwent a name change, but the focus has always remained the same: to specialize in appraising, brokering, consigning and auctioning antique bottles and glass. Bottle collecting is a burgeoning genre.

Wichmann has personally researched, appraised and estimated the values of thousands of antique bottles and related items. He is often called on to appraise antique bottles and glass for private individuals and businesses. In 1999, he wrote and published “The Best of the West – Antique Western Bitters Bottles,” a top research guide. He has also written many articles on the subject of antique bottles.

For more information about thia auction, call 800.806.7722, e-mail to info@americanbottle or visit the American Bottle Auctions Web site.

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