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.

Researching the person named on your antique bottle

“What can you actually find out about the average person named on an 19th century bottle?” In many cases, the answer is not much, or at least not much besides what a genealogist might find out.

I ask you to think about small business owners who you know in your town or neighborhood. How much really is written or published about them? Consider that in the 19th century, there was no such thing as a human interest article in a local paper. Many companies did not print much in the way of advertising – they relied on their local market to sell their goods. In short, it can be a major research effort to find any information.

Some sources of information:

  • Your town / city historical society
  • City directories which often contained ads for businesses. Use to find when someone was in business. Find where business was located. If you get lucky, the ad may say something about the products sold.
  • State historical societies
  • Published genealogies.
  • Sanborn Fire Maps. Available back to the 1880s. Maps show precise diagrams of buildings on properties with property boundaries. Owners of properties are listed.
  • DIY genealogical research. Start with familysearch.org and ancestry.com
  • Books on antique bottles. There are lots of specialty books on bottles. Many are out of print. Many are not found on Amazon or book stores. You need to do some digging online to find what you need. Check ebay.com. Check abebooks.com
  • Auction catalogs. Some bottles, especially those of significant value, get special consideration in auction catalogs. Both American Glass Gallery and Glass Discoveries have done some great work in this regard.
  • Collectors of local bottles for your town, city, state or region.

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.

Washington Taylor, Father of His Country flasks

The Washington Taylor flask described by McKearin as GI-37 is a fairly common item whether they be the original 19th century bottle or the abundantly reproduced 20th century copy. Determining whether one is a true historical flask or just a replica made by the Clevenger Brothers or other late 20th century manufacturer is not always an easy task for the non-collector.

The #37 quart mold is the first of 32 different variations thought to have been made at either Dyottsville Glass Works in Philadelphia, PA or Lockport Glass Works in Lockport, NY. Original bottles exist both as smooth base or with a pontil scar; lip finishes vary from the common shear to single or double collar and even in some cases a square or tapered collar.

Let’s compare:

(1) Some modern replicas are quite different, in shape, size and embossing. It’s the Clevenger Glass Works product which is fairly faithful from the original and causes the greatest confusion. The differences are subtle and in some cases only the experienced collector is going to be able to tell the difference.

(2) Originals were produced in a wide variety of colors, some of which are rarely seen in 19th century bottles. Modern pieces are found in both the common aqua color as well as brilliant green, yellow, puce and cobalt blue, among others. Colors other than aqua should be an immediate warning sign that the bottle is likely modern.

Commonly Found Colors for Modern Reproductions

(3) Modern and old are found in smooth base or with pontil scars. Modern and old can have a plain sheared lip or some type of lip finish.

(4) Both modern and old can show similar thickness of glass; similar straw marks, bubbles and potstones. A common trait in modern examples is the bumpy, “orange peel” effect to the glass surface.

(5) The junction of the neck and body of the modern bottles is often abrupt. As you see in the photos below, the modern examples look like the neck was just jammed onto the bottle. In 19th century bottles, the transition is smooth without a seam or crease.

(6) The bases of 19th century examples are either flat or with a large oval recess. Modern examples have a precisely round concave recess in the bottom center. In some cases, the round recess is obscured by the pontil scar.


Reproductions are abundant and do not have much value. Figure $5-20 decorative value. Originals without damage begin in the $75-100 range for aqua and can reach into the $20-30 thousand dollar range for a great example in a rare color. $2-6 thousand is more typical for a good quality colored example.

Antique Bottle Forums

Here is my list of all current discussion forums which focus on antique bottles. Allow me to be a bit biased and begin with Historic Glasshouse’s

  • Historic Glasshouse forum
  • Antique-bottles.net
  • Mr. Bottles Forum – http://www.mrbottles.com/FORUM/default.asp
  • Australian Bottle Forum – http://ozbottleforum.com/
  • Treasure Quest forum – http://www.treasurequestxlt.com/community/index.php?forums/antique-bottle-talk.273/
  • Fruit Jar Forum – http://www.hoosierjar.com/jartalk/index
  • BottleCollectors Group on Yahoo Groups – http://groups.yahoo.com/group/bottlecollectors/