Brown's Celebrated bitters bottle brings $36,960 at auction An outstanding, mint condition Brown’s Celebrated Indian Herb bitters bottle, patented Feb. 1868, sold for $36,960 in an Internet and catalog auction held Oct. 29-Nov. 13 by American Bottle Auctions.
News-Antique.com - Dec 01,2010 - (SACRAMENTO, Calif.) – An outstanding, mint condition Brown’s Celebrated Indian Herb bitters bottle, patented Feb. 11, 1868, sold for $36,960 in an Internet and catalog auction held Oct. 29-Nov. 13 by American Bottle Auctions (www.americanbottle.com). It was the 51st auction held by the young firm, which has become synonymous with vintage bottle collecting.
“Overall I felt the sale was a great success and may have been our best auction ever, based on the fact that nearly all of the 375 lots sold,” said Jeff Wichmann of American Bottle Auctions, “and the eleven bottles that didn’t sell found new homes after the auction. We had over 100,000 hits on the catalog page and over 400 bidders.” The auction grossed around $300,000.
The Brown’s bitter was by far the top lot of the sale. Graded 9.9 out of 10 for condition and boasting a perfectly flat lip, the bottle was consigned by a woman who collected for fun years ago. “When she bought it, she was offered the choice of an amber or clear example, and thankfully she picked the clear one,” Mr. Wichmann said, adding it is likely flint, not lead glass.
“Bitters and flasks are hot sellers right now,” Mr. Wichmann observed. “I have to believe they are entering a new age. People are beginning to realize they just aren’t coming up at auction like they did, and everyone is scrambling to get the rarest and most perfect examples out there. Whether this is a tulip craze or real people with real money in it for the long haul, I don’t know.”
The auction featured bitters and historical flasks, but also Western whiskey bottles, sodas, medicine bottles and other offerings. Most of the bottles dated from 1850-1900, the period most desired by collectors, when superior embossing techniques were used. Bidders were encouraged to use the online catalog, where large photos and full-color videos of each bottle were shown.
Following are additional highlights from the auction. All prices quoted include a 12 percent buyer’s premium.
The surprise lot of the sale was an Eagle/Grapes one-quart flask that soared to $19,600, against a pre-sale estimate of $1,000-$2,000. The crudity, condition (mint) and color (a brilliant turquoise) combined to spark a bidding war. Also, a GI-40 Major Ringold Rough ‘n’ Ready pint flask in a very light aqua color brought $15,680 (it would have hit $20,000 except for a lip chip).
Another surprise happened when a pair of Fells Point/Sloop GVI-2 half-pint flasks came up for bid. One was puce, a very common variant, while the other was topaz -- much rarer and possibly unique. But when the final hammer fell, the puce bottle realized $12,320 and the topaz one fetched $5,152. “Should have been the other way around,” Mr. Wichmann said. “Go figure.”
A California wine bitters (M. Keller, Los Angeles), made in 1863 (the only year of production), a beautiful pastel green with loads of whittle and super strong strike, graded 9.8, gaveled for $10,080; and a Fish bitters (W. H.