Bottle Blog

Ebay: Smash your bottle?!

Recently, an ebay transaction of a violin, which sold for about $2500, ended with PayPal ordering the buyer to destroy the violin. PayPal refunded the purchase price to the buyer.

Could this happen with an antique bottle?

I would like to think this was an isolated incident.

See more at:

Instant Cathedral Pickle Collection

I still had not gotten over the breathtaking BLUE pickle bottle that turned up on ebay
recently (item #230778721478) and I thought that could not be topped. But wait! Someone in Florida lists their multi-decade collection of cathedral pickle bottles and the bidding rightly took off to 15 grand. There is simply an amazing lineup of strong colors and a few extra-tough-to-find examples. You will notice there is a bit of damage on some pieces but that is to be expected when you assemble 61 bottles of this caliber.

See auction #320899828111 to view the lot of 61 pickles (closes May 13, 2012) or view all current ebay auctions for cathedral pickle bottles

61 cathedral pickle bottles
Got cathedral pickles?
blue pickle
Cathedral pickle in a rare blue color

Back to that blue cathedral pickle that turned up on ebay – it brought a well-fermented price of $16,200. Remember, this is a smooth base bottle – no pontil. It is no record, falling quite a bit short of the ~50 grand paid for an amber Willington pickle about 10 years ago.

ABCR Auction #8

ABCR Auctions has a big spring offering of bottles which closes on April 28th.

Auction 8 contains 445 lots with a few items of interest to US collectors, some of which are:

Lots 218 to 220: Three fine pickle bottles from the mid 1800s, these highly elaborate pieces are part of a small collection of “goldfields” bottles that have been consigned to us, including some great cobalt pieces, some vinegars and salad oils.

Lot 349: Amber glass Australian made target ball. This target ball with cross hatched design is very rare. It is an Australian found target ball, possibly made by the Melbourne Glassworks, although unmarked.

Lots 368 to 369: A pair of superb and rare Bears Grease pot lids, one of which depicts a Cupid! We also have a range of other pot lids, including the colourful Williams Swiss Violet Shaving Cream from the US.

Lot 384: Fully labelled milk glass Hartwig bitters from Kantorowicz, the bottle itself is common, but with the near complete original label in place, this is a stunning piece.

Lot 385: John Moffat Phoenix Bitters with open pontil. Lovely early piece from New York, these are quite nice with the open pontil.

mallet bottle with seal
Lot 445 - Sealed Mallet "T.B."

Lot 386: Cobalt barrel bitters! Unmarked except for the embossed hoops, this early piece is shaped very similarly to the embossed American bitters. It has a different lip formation, and a ground glass stopper. We are guessing that it contained bitters, it may have contained any number of liquids. Importantly, however, it is a beautiful piece of glass which is very rare.

Lot 387: St Drakes Hop Bitters in amber, the four log variation. Not rare, but this is in superb condition.

Lot 442: Stunning little English mallet from the 1700s. This is a very small piece, a wonderful piece of history.

Lot 445: Another English mallet, more the standard size here, but in great condition, complete with a seal bearing the initials TB.

Of course, there are many more lots in the online auction, to view the catalogue, please go to

Bidding will go live on April 18th, 8 pm Australian Eastern Standard Time and will continue until Saturday, April 28th at 8 pm Australian Eastern Standard Time.

The Cabin Next Door – $10,000

Ok, we are in a recession and real estate has taken an hit. No, this is not the latest foreclosure but rather an amazing pale yellow green Drake’s Plantation Bitters that just sold on ebay for $10,000.

It is yet another amazing story of someone just stumbling on a great bottle – in this case, the neighbor gave it to them about 20 years ago. Of the thousands of Drake’s bottles out there, this one is sure to impress!

Dr. Goddins Compound Gentian Bitters

Wow, I cannot believe I missed this auction.

Several weeks ago, this bottle popped up on ebay, which I am sure was a surprise to many collectors. It is quite rare; only a single damaged example has turned up on the antique bottle auction circuit in the past 15+ years which speaks for itself. You’ll find it listed as G52 in Ring / Ham’s Bitters Bottles.

Over 30 bids ended with a closing price of $4100. My congratulations to the buyer; it was a steal.

It was ebay auction #190597109823 if you want to check it out.

Goddins Bitters

Goddins Bitters

ABCR Auction #6 – November 2011

ABCR has another auction about to go live this weekend, ending on November the 12th at 8 pm (Australian Eastern Daylight Savings Time). Plenty of items from a broad range of categories again.

Of possible interest to US collectors are a series of fruit jars including a midget Mason’s and the very rare quart and half gallon Sydney “Dingo” Fruit Jars (Lots 188 – 190).

A few Warner’s are on offer, including a nice green London example (Lots 268 – 270). We have a nice selection of ribbed poisons (Lots 320 – 323) with some other poisons available from Lots 330 through to 335. Once again we have a fine selection of pot lids, including one of the finest lids available in Australia (Lots 336 – 382). A superb fully labelled Hartwig bitters is available as Lot 390. Possibly some of the finest lots on offer are the final two lots of the auction, Lots 410 and 411. These are early applied seal wine bottles in a huge magnum size. Lot 410 is embossed on the seal: J. Bell. This is not listed in any of the English seal books, it is possibly of American origin?

There is a huge number of items on offer, why not have a look when you get some time, you may well find something that will slot nicely into your collection.

Catalogue viewing now at:

A Great Label Makes a Great Bottle

There is no denying that a great label can make for a first rate antique bottle. Whether plain or super rare and valuable, a antique bottle with an intact label will greatly increase the value. How much? Ten percent, 100 percent, or even more.

I received an ebay Saved Search email in my inbox the other day with a tiny thumbnail of a labeled bottle. The photo jumped right out at me: first of all, the photo was brilliantly clear and captivating, but the bottle just sold itself with its full color graphical label. You can see that bottle on ebay – it is auction #250869094366.

labeled antique bottle
One great graphical label!

One might point out that this bottle is offered as a Buy It Now for a flat rate and is discussed here on a web site supposedly about auctions. If you have been paying close attention on ebay in recent years, the trend is very much away from auctions and has shifted to fixed pricing for many items. Some say the era of the online auction has peaked. I do not believe that entirely, but I can tell you in my spot check this week, the antique bottle pre-1900 category on ebay has just 30 percent as auctions. The remaining 70 percent are fixed price listings.

But I digress. When looking at labeled bottles, look for those in great condition. Damaged or worn labels are simply not as visually appealing and are never going to be worth what their crisp, clean counterpart will. Also consider the believable factor when looking at a label-only bottle. There are plenty of antique bottles out there which have been enhanced or augmented with labels. Some fit the bottle, others simply leave big questions as to their authenticity. One great example is the Hollis labels from a Boston, Massachusetts area company. A big cache of labels from this company were discovered in the past 20 years and have dispersed across the US. Many of these labels now reside attached to antique glass. While it can be argued that such labels do not detract from the value of the bottle itself, they do not necessarily increase value either.

Beware also of fraudulent or outright reproduction labels. I am aware of at least one person who is making high quality replica labels (the ebay seller goes by various names on ebay along the lines of “Granny Fark,” “BaxterCo” and others) and is attaching them to bottles of all different ages. The labels are also methodically yellowed and worn to look old. The seller does state that the labels are new, but you know as well as I do that such items find their way into the collecting world and their original story is lost. Sooner or later, they will be back on the market and pitched as authentically old.

Kellys Cabin Bitters emerges from self storage unit

Just when you think there are no more great bottles to be found, you hear yet another story like this one: Somebody is cleaning out a self-storage unit and comes across a green bottle. They list it on ebay and it brings $6700. Surprise!

Yep, that is the story behind this recently discovered gem. You see the KELLYS OLD CABIN BITTERS around in amber often enough, but not olive green. Darn…wish I had been watching ebay that week, because I would have bid!

kellys bottle
Kelly's Bitters, recently liberated from storage

And here is the color:

Woosh! olive green

Warner’s Cure Frankfurt “safe” at $2573

There are a million and one Warner’s bottles out there. Really. Most folks know the popular WARNERS SAFE CURE bottle which is common but always a good bet for an inexpensive bottle with eye appeal. The boldly embossed safe catches the eye – something company founder H.H.Warner understood well…and from which made millions in profits. Mr. Warner was indeed a great marketer and spent a huge amount of time on creating attractive packaging for his medicines. His great success means today there are lots of his bottles to be found.

The Warner empire did eventually spread world-wide so you will find examples of the Warner bottles from Australia, Germany and Canada. Back on June 17, a rare Warner’s Save Cure Frankfurt A/M sold on ebay, closing at $2753. I doubt it is a record price for a Warner bottle but it ranks up there in the auction records. It is thought to be one of three examples known to exist. Yes, indeed, true rarity does impact value and is not diluted by all the claims to rarity so frequently found on ebay! (I just ebay’s Antique-Before-1900 category and found over 13% of the listings included the word rare)

This is a perfect bottle in great condition and bold embossing. The “A/M” embossing stands for “Am Main” or to Frankfurt’s location on the Main River.

Incidentally, there is a truly great web site devoted to H.H. Warner and his bottles. Be sure to check out Steve Jackson’s The Warner’s Safe Blog I always enjoy reading Steve’s postings.

Warner's bottle

ABCR Auction #5

Australian Antique bottle auctioneer ABCR is soon to kick off their fifth auction with 406 Lots covering almost every field within the hobby of antique bottle collecting.

There are a few more enameled cobalt ribbed poison bottles to follow up from the Chloroform and Cannabis example that they had in Auction 4. Of particular interest to US collectors is an octagonal X. Bazin pot lid from Philadelphia. New England collectors should take note of the Willington Glassworks pickle that was found in Australia. Although this example is water-worn, it has a great appearance and has a ground pontil.

A third item of interest to US collectors is the embossed Dr Grants Dandelion Bitters, New York. This bottle may appear to be from New York City, but in fact it is not. This is an exceptionally rare bitters bottle from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, which was produced for Shell & Zabel, a short lived company. Several companies in Australia that utilized American sounding names – you will find other bitters bottles such as New York Hop Bitters, St Louis Hop Bitters, Milwaukee Hop Bitters and even Philadelphia Hop Bitters.

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