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.


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.




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.


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”


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:


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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.

Bottle Makers and Their Marks

Bottle Makers and Their Marks is an important research project undertaken by Jullian Harrison Toulouse which he published in 1971. The book’s publisher, Thomas Nelson, Inc., responded to demand with a second printing a year later. It’s an encyclopedia of knowledge covering the marks found on vintage and antique bottles of the 19th and 20th centuries, both in the US and other countries.

Collectors will find this to be an invaluable resource to research bottles which display embossing from manufacturing firms such as Whitall-Tatum, Owens-Illinois, Clevenger, and many a fruit jar manufacturer. There is plentiful information on dating bottles according to company logos and mold numbers.

Bottle Makers and Their Marks by Toulouse


Unfortunately, this book is, like so many amazing reference books on antique bottles, out of print. Chances are you will need to part with at least 50 dollars to get your own copy. I cannot imagine living without a copy; mine is open for reference all the time.

The ISBN #  (hardcover) is 0-8407-4318-1

There is also a soft cover reprint available.

Buy the book at Amazon




Old Bitters in a New Bottle

I recently exchanged emails with John Keys after stumbling upon his bitters ingredients auctions on ebay.  For about $10, you can recreate the 19th century experience of the bitters consumer – with great historical accuracy.  His product line is called Wild West Bitters – you will receive the herbs and spices used in many of the popular bitters formulations known well to antique bitters bottle collectors today.

The unique ingredient packs from Wild West Bitters make it possible to reproduce, in one’s own kitchen, many of the bitters that were sold in the patent medicine era of the late 1800s. The product line is the result of 40 years’ research on the part of John David Keys of Stephenville, Texas, who felt that antique bottle collectors and many others might find it fascinating to experience just what was originally inside those bottles.

Keys scoured through distillers’ formularies, pharmaceutical dispensatories, period advertisements, medical writings and judicial reports in his quest for reconstructing the formulas, or recipes, for the bitters. Chromatographic chemical analysis of rare surviving bottle contents was also employed. Lastly, Keys relied on subjective assumption for many of the bitters.

Claimed originally as having miraculous curative powers, most of the patent bitters of the 1800s were in reality simple stomachic digestives. In fact many of them were consumed as “recreational” beverages, much like Jägermeister is today. The bitters that can be prepared from the Wild West Bitters ingredient packs are intended as “recreational” beverages, and no medicinal properties are implied. Keys himself regards the line as “history you can recreate, experience and share”.

Fifty varieties of Wild West Bitters ingredient packs are available exclusively on eBay. Wholesale sales are offered for 12 of the more popular items.

For example,  The Dr. Harter’s Wild Cherry Bitters is based on an 1887 formula whose ingredients are: wild cherry bark, sweet orange peel, cinchona bark,cardamom, canada snakeroot, gentian, cinnamon, cloves,powdered caramel coloring, bitter almond oil (natural benzaldehyde).

Is this not amazing?


Old Home Bitters

This exceptionally large square cabin-shaped bitters bottle is modern.  It was made in the 1970s for a North Carolina furniture company for use as a lamp.  Most are found with a hole drilled in the base.  They are usually seen in amber but also occasionally green.

The bottle reads DOC DUNNING / OLD HOME BITTERS / GREENSBORO N. CAROLINA  on three of the four indented panels. It is about 14″ tall with a 5″ square body.  You will find in listed in the Ring/Ham Bitters book as O34.

They are attractive and do make a nice lamp, but they are not particularly valuable.  Figure around $50 for a drilled example; more if undrilled.

The Originals

This is a reproduction of similar bottles with similar embossing.

First is O35 which is embossed OLD HOME BITTERS / WHEELING, W. VA. / LAUGHLIN & BUSHFIELD.  This is an amber cabin which is around 10″ tall.

Second is O36 which differs from O35 only in that it is marked LAUGHLIN / SMITH & CO.  This is apparently the earlier of the two original bottles.  This is also found in amber and is a bit under 10″ tall.

These two original bottles are worth $1-4 thousand.