Selling Your Full Vintage and Antique Liquor Bottles

 

It has been a common question over the years here at Historic Glasshouse – what to do with old or antique bottles of alcohol found in the back of a cabinet or stashed away in the basement, now covered in dust. In the earlier days of the internet, it was easy enough to list and sell such bottles like any other antique item.

Today that is not the case. Shipping options are very limited and some popular websites such as eBay and etsy specifically prohibit the individual from listing and selling alcoholic beverages. Further complicating matters are Federal and State laws which restrict the consumer from producing, selling and transporting alcohol-containing products.

What You Can Do

Your easiest solutions are probably local ones: put an ad on Craigslist, include the alcohol in your estate sale or contact a local auctioneer.

Some online resources may help:

Auctioneers
OldLiquors.com
MasterofMalt.com
TheWhiskeyExchange.com
Facebook Groups
Miniature Bottle Collector Events
websites on the “secondary market

 

What to Avoid

Do not attempt to ship bottles of alcohol. Consumers are prohibited from doing at the US Post Office, at UPS and FedEx. Only approved businesses can ship via these carriers.  See this page for more information.

Do not list such bottles on websites without checking their Terms of Service first. eBay and etsy are examples of sites which prohibit alcohol; others may do so as well.

Miniature Liquor Bottles – Single Shot, Nip Bottles and Samples

Just because they are smaller does not mean the same rules do not apply.  Reach out to collectors and mini-bottle club sites.  Attending a show is a great way to meet with collectors and dealers.

UK Mini Bottle Club
http://www.theminibottleclub.uk/

Midwest Miniature Bottle Collectors’ (MMBC)
http://www.midwestmbc.com/

Jim’s Miniature Bottles
http://jimsbottles.com/

Consider the Contents Separately From the Bottle

Ask around online for feedback such as on our discussion forum.  The bottle may have value on its own, the value may lie mostly with the contents or possibly both.  How you approach selling will depend on the case, ie. in some cases dumping the contents may make the most sense.

For the bottle – How old is it?  Does it retain its full label and seal?  Is the label visually attractive?  Does the label indicate the vintage or age of the contents?  Does the bottle include its original packaging such a box?  What is the condition of the bottle?  Any chips or other damage?

For the contents –  Is the contents complete and is the bottle still sealed?  Is there a tax stamp still in place indicating the bottle has not been opened?  Are the contents clear or cloudy?

 

A. Trask Magetic Ointment Bottles

The Trask bottles have always been a favorite of mine – I guess it is the magnetic cure aspect of the item that is most appealing.

Collecting the Trask Bottles

There are several variants – none is particularly common although a quick glance at eBay seems to turn up at least several for sale.

  • Perhaps the most frequently encountered is a small size, 2-1/2″ tall jar in aqua.  Smooth base. Body 1-1/2″ square.  Tooled square lip.  Chamfered corners on the body.  Embossed: A. TRASK’S / MAGNETIC / OINTMENT
  • Large size, aqua, smooth based, tooled lip.  Embossing same as above.  Height 3-1/4″ body 1-3/8″ square with chamfered corners.
  • Open pontil variant.  2-1/2″ tall, rolled lip.  Same embossing.
  • Flared lip open pontil variant.  Same small size and embossing but different lip finish.  Scarce.
  • Clear flint glass variant.  Tooled lip.  Smooth base but an earlier bottle.
  • Modern screw top bottle, label only.  See pictures below.
  • Have you seen other variants?  Let us know!

Competition

  • Dr. Wilson’s Magnetic Ointment – same 3-1/4″ tall size with the same body.  See photo below.
  • Might there be others?

Photos

Trask magnetic ointment

Dr. Wilson bottle on left, large size Trask bottle on right.

A crudely formed pair of Trask bottles recently seen on eBay.

Trask jar in paper wrapper seen on eBay. Date on wrapper suggests age 1912-20. The same graphic is used on almanacs of this era to advertise the product.

Modern Screw Top Example

The neat thing about this bottle (which turned up on eBay recently) is its label and the information it provides about the product.  The label states “Since 1846” and also says new label adopted 1939 so we get both clues on dating this example as well as the lifespan of the company.

We also get a list of ingredients:

  • Lobelia
  • Leaf Tobacco
  • Skunk Cabbage
  • Smart Weed
  • Rosin
  • Lard
  • Tallow
  • Oleostearine

Intended uses of the product:

  • For Superficial Congestion resulting from Exposure, Fatigue, and Exertion
  • Irritation
  • Irritability
  • Muscular Aches and Pains
  • Promote Healing
  • for Minor Superficial Injuries

 

Finally, the company.  Still D. Ransom, Son & Co. Buffalo, NY and Fort Erie, Canada.

Homeopathic Qualities of Ingredients

Indeed Lobelia is cited for its ability to relieve problematic respiratory symptoms.

Tobacco or plants of the Lobelia genus may have healing properties – going against the negative impacts of smoking.

Medicinal properties of skunk cabbage or Dracontium foetidum.

I assume the other ingredients listed above are inactive…but cannot confirm this.

 

Johann Hoff bottles – Value, Use and History

Johann Hoff, The Bottle

johann hoff bottle in olive green

Your (very) basic Hoff bottle

Most people encounter a dark olive green bottle marked “JOHANN HOFF” on the bottle’s shoulder. Occasionally they are found in other colors. There are other variants which are described below. The typical Hoff bottle measures 7-3/4″ to 8″ tall with a body around 3 inches in diameter. Some have applied lips, others have tooled tops. These bottles date from the mid 19th century into the early 20th century.

What Was Inside?

The Hoff product was malt extract and was marketed as a medicinal tonic those who were convalescing, with general disability, the weak, nursing mothers, etc.  But the bottom line is this – this was an product containing alcohol, plain and simple. It was beer in medicinal packaging. Much like bitters, this was a clever way of selling alcoholic drinks to a public that wrestled with temperance and later, prohibition.

Collecting Hoff Bottles

The most common variant is the olive green bottle as described above which are marked JOHANN HOFF.  These are found in abundance, that is, they are very common.  This bottle probably makes my “Top 20 Most Common Antique Bottles of All Time” list.  As for value, good luck.  If you can sell one for even a few dollars, consider yourself lucky.

Less commonly seen are those in either a plain amber color, a light, translucent amber color as well as emerald green.  While these colors are less common (and emerald probably scarce) this really does not add much to their appeal.

Another embossing variant is marked JOHANN HOFF / BERLIN on the body of the bottle.  I consider these scarce.

Labeled examples are also scarce and will find greater interest.  As always, the condition of the label is really important to value.

I wonder whether the company continued selling the product into the teens and 20’s but perhaps in unembossed bottles.  One advertising piece claims the company was founded in 1847 but I do not have accurate final date for the company.  I do find them in the 1908 New York City directory as well as 1917-18.

Locations of business (in no particular order):

  • 152-154 Franklin St., New York, NY
  • 6 Barclay St., New York
  • 90 West Street

Looking for help with the value of your Hoff bottle?  Post photos and ask questions on our antique bottle forum.

The Hoff Marketing Machine

The Johann Hoff Company was fond of large advertisements in the periodicals of its time.  Below are samples of several ads which utilized the endorsements of famous names including actress Viola Allen, operatic soprano Nellie Melba, Olga Nethersole, and a variety of military generals.

Competition

The sheer number of these bottles found today suggests malt extract was a popular product.  The collector will find other similar shaped bottles both embossed and unembossed.  The image below shows two amber bottles – on the left has no markings, the right is marked on the base PURE MALT DEPT / CA KING / BOSTON MASS.  These two bottles date to the late 19th century.  A later example of the King bottle with full label can be found on this page on the Smithsonian Institute website.

Two malt extract bottles

Two malt extract bottles, unembossed and CA KING

CA KING embossing on base

CA KING embossing on base

A Bit of Bottled History

Johann Hoff was a nondescript product but contained a wildly popular stimulating beverage.  It is also counts itself in the minority of bottled products which may be best known for its legal battles, clever marketing, and huge popularity. That’s more than you can say about most antique bottles today..

 

Sources

Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Volume 61, Page 1552, October 25, 1913.

Johann Hoff v. Tarrant & Co., The Federal Reporter, Vol. 71, Feb-March 1896, pp. 163-167.

A new antique bottle auction record?

If you ask around in the antique bottle community, you will hear that the top price paid for an antique bottle (we are talking empty bottles here to exclude wine) is around $200,000 in a private exchange. Officially, the record stands around $75k.

All that is about to change.

This week at Glass Works auction can be found a rare cobalt blue Columbia / Eagle flask, one of just three known in this rare color. Longtime collectors will remember an example in the same mold and same color which brought $40,000 back in the late 1970s – a record at that time.

Glass Works has a pre-sale estimate on this flask of $150,000 to 200,000. Many collectors I am sure are watching this closely and it will surely be ah hot topic at the upcoming Baltimore Bottle Show.

columbia2

Restieaux’s Pill Bottles

Back in the 1970s when I started collecting bottles, I bought a lot of a dozen Restieaux’s Pill bottles. I guess I must have sold or traded most of them away over the years, but recently found one in a box of bottles stashed away in the attic.

In case you are not familiar with these little bottles, they are clear, are just 1-3/4″ tall and are marked RESTIEAUX’S PILLS in a circular formation on one side.

pill bottle

 

Apparently, Thomas Restieaux, an apothecary shop owner in Boston at some point decided to market his own product in addition to filling prescriptions and selling medicines by other manufacturers.  I have no proof that this is the same Restieaux but it seems very likely it is.

Note the trade card below which advertises Horsford’s Acid Phosphate, Rumford Chemical Works in Providence, RI but no mention specifically of his pill product.

Restieauxs-pills1

Restieauxs-pills2

 

The card lists Restieaux’s business as located at 29 Tremont Street in Boston, opposite the Boston Museum.

According to “An Old Boston Institution: A Brief History of the Massachusetts Charitable Fire Society“, (of which he was a member) Thomas Restieaux was born in 1813 and was in business from 1835 until his death in 1887.  His son, Thomas Jr., was involved with the business and may have continued in the trade after this time.

 

 

Reproduction Drakes Plantation Bitters and Old Sachem Barrel

Among the buzz at the recent FOHBC Show in Manchester, NH was talk about two reproduction bottles: a Drake’s Plantation Bitters and an Old Sachem Bitters barrel. Both were produced in newly made molds, in what would be rare colors for original examples and were made with a fair degree of accuracy.

reproduction-barrel-drakes-plantation

Below is a close-up shot of the Drakes.  Notice the crudely rendered embossing.  On close inspection, the bottle does not say “ST Drakes” like the original but rather “ST FRAKIS”

drakes-plantation-detail

One thing that would alert the experienced collector is the weight of the glass.  The Drakes felt much too heavy compared to the original.  However, the base looked fairly believable:

drakes-plantation-base

The lip finish was much too shiny and precisely executed.  There were none of the usual imperfections one would expect to see on an original.

drakes-plantation-lip

Below is a close up shot of the barrel.  Like the Drake’s, the lip is applied and tooled, but the glass texture is much too perfect to be believed.

old-sachem-barrel-lip

Another close up of the Drake’s (or rather Frakis) embossing:

reproduction-drakes-plantation2

A close up shot of the barrel embossing.   Notice the jagged, wavy rendering of the embossing.   The word WIGWAM looks much more like WICWAM.

reproduction-old-sachem-barrel

A final shot of the Drake’s Plantation reproduction.  It is a beautiful color and would look great in any window, but don’t be fooled.

reproduction-drakes-plantation

Vintage Four-Chamber bottles

I have seen a number of these clear bottles which contain four separate sections. The first I acquired was probably back in the 1970s when I started collecting.

A typical four section bottle

Newer examples are fitted with plastic pour spouts. I see to remember seeing at least one which was fitted with cork and glass pour spouts.

Presumably, this bottle was fancy gift packaging for the US market. I’m not sure if there is a tradition of marketing such bottles in France and Europe. Many are marked “Bottle Made in France” on the base. The contents from the best that I can tell is not always of French origins. I found one example, mentioned below, which is marked “produced and bottled in Philadelphia.”

Most appear to me to have been produced in the 1970s or later. If they had been produced earlier, US law would have required that the bottle carry the embossing “FEDERAL LAW FORBIDS SALE OR REUSE OF THIS BOTTLE.”

You can often find a number of these multi-section bottles on ebay by searching on “four chamber bottle.”

I have assembled the following information based on labeled examples that I could find:

  • Example 1 – marked “Nuyens” contains: Creme De Menthe, Creme De Cacao, Blackberry Flavored Brandy and Triple Sec.
  • Example 2 – marked “Cointreau” contains: Cointreau, Creme De Menthe, Apricot Brandy and Cacao Chouao. Base is embossed “Bottle Made in France.” We know that at least the Cointreau is a French made liqueur. I am not sure about the others.
  • Example 3 – marked “Marie Brizard” – Anisette, Creme de Cacao, Creme de Menthe, Apry (Apricot Brandy)
  • Example 4 – marked “Jaquin’s – Blackberry Flavored Brandy, Creme De Menthe, Creme de Cacao, Forbidden Fruit
    Produced and bottled by Charles Jaquin et Cie Phila, PA. America’s Oldest Cordial Producer. Base is embossed “Bottle Made in France”
  • Example 5 – marked “Mohawk Fait Main” (hand made) Creme De Menthe, Creme de Cacao,Creme de Banana, Creme de Almond
    Base is embossed “Bottle Made in France.”

Have you seen any earlier or different examples? Do let me know.

Dr. Richardson’s Bitters – A Complete History

Hats off to Nancy Bertrand for the incredible article on Solon Osmond Richardson, creator of the Dr. Richardson Bitters which is known to so many bottle collectors. Dr. Richarson’s enterprise was quite successful; many bottles of his product remain today.

The product was first produced by Solon’s father, Nathan as early as 1808, Bertrand tells us. Solon took over the business in 1837 after his father passed away.

Like so many medicines of its time, it contained mostly alcohol.

Read the story at http://wakefield.patch.com/articles/history-dr-richardson-s-bitters

Here is a photo of a Dr. Richardson bottle which was re-purposed in the 19th century as a vessel for “Somerset Bourbon” which was sold by N. Douglas Sevin in Norwich, Connecticut.

19th century Leeching Cup

Here are pictures of a clear glass leeching cup from the earlier part of the 19th century. It is 2-3/4″ tall and about 2″ in diameter. It’s a hand blown piece with folded rim and a polished pontil.

Byron Springs Discovery – 1848

I stumbled across a reference to the discovery of Byron Springs in New York State – in the December 30, 1848 edition of Scientific America:

“A number of acid springs have been discovered in Byron, Genesee Co., NY. They are strongly impregnated with pure sulfur which increases in strength during a drought. The vegetable matter is killed around them. The water is colorless, and from a spring flows in sufficient quantity to turn a grist mill. A similar spring is known to exist in Persia, Asia, where it is used to make sherbet, as a substitute for lemon.”

Antique bottle collectors will know that this spring became sufficiently popular to spawn a business of bottling its waters. A quart cylinder with the embossing BYRON ACID / SPRING WATER is fairly rare. It was probably blown at the Lockport Glassworks. The bottles bear an iron pontil mark. According to Donald Tucker’s great book on mineral waters, examples are known in Lockport green, amber, deep emerald green, olive, aqua-blue-green and yellow green. The bottle is listed in Tucker’s reference as N-5.

Thanks to a recent Historic Glasshouse visitor for this Byron Springs photo!

A rare deep blue green Byron Acid Springs bottle, mid 19th century.

A rare deep blue green Byron Acid Springs bottle, mid 19th century.