. August 1, 2014

It was the top lot of 186 bottles offered in an auction that went online July 11 and ended July 20.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A rare Durham Whiskey fifth bottle, made circa 1876-1882 and one of maybe only six known, sold for $13,440 to take top lot honors at Auction #60, an internet and catalog sale from American Bottle Auctions that went online July 11th and concluded July 20th (at www.americanbottle.com). In all, 186 bottles changed hands. The auction grossed $173,107.

“These early fifths are so rare some collectors don’t even know they exist,” said Jeff Wichmann of American Bottle Auctions. “That’s because there are two variants – one from the east coast, which is common, and the western variant, which comes with and without a ‘foot’ on the reverse. This was one of only three known without the ‘foot’ and the first example we’ve ever offered.”

The bottle, a “fat” looking fifth showing an embossed steer, was bright yellow amber in color with lots of overall crudity and whittle. It had been found in the 1970s by Arnold Sierras, Sr., in San Pedro. “This is a very special western whiskey, a category that is red hot right now anyway,” Wichmann said. “The fact that it graded 9.7 out of 10 for condition just added to its desirability.”

A total of 262 people registered to bid online and combined for an impressive 1,373 total bids. In addition, 34 phone bidders took part, while absentee bids totaling $84,000 were tabulated. “This auction had mixed results, most of them positive,” Wichmann said. “The rarer western whiskeys did very well, while the historical flasks didn’t do as well as expected, with a few exceptions.”

Wichmann added, “The market is selective but strong right now. Hard-to-find items soared past their estimates, while the more common pieces stayed within or below range. There were some good bargains, with quart colored flasks coming to mind, and a few bottles even sold for way more than we’d even hoped. There are some very knowledgeable and savvy buyers out there.”

One example: Lot #140 – a Clasped Hands bottle with a cannon on the reverse – was cataloged as a G-XII-42. But sharp collectors knew from the lot photo that it had been wrongly cataloged. It should have said 42a, not 42, and that made all the difference in the world. The bottle showed a pre-sale estimate of $300-$500, but by the end of the sale it sailed past that to finish at $4,928.

Auction #60 featured sodas, bitters, back bars, medicines, whiskey fifths and flasks, plus some advertising items (rare for American Bottle Auctions) and spirits and poisons. “Some random items were a big surprise and overall the auction was a success,” Wichmann said. Following are additional highlights from the auction. All prices quoted include a 12 percent buyer’s premium.

A Jockey Club early western whiskey sixth (G. W. Chelsea & Co., San Francisco), made circa 1873-1878 with great strike and light amber in color, graded 9.6 and one of only a dozen known, brought $5,152; and a double eagle pint flask with applied band and smooth base, colored a beautiful sapphire blue with loads of whittle and overall appeal, graded 9.7, realized $4,928.

A great GI-42 cobalt blue George Washington /Zachary Taylor quart bottle (“The Father of His Country / A Little More Grape, Captain Bragg”), quite possibly the best example in existence, rose to $4,440; while a GI-51 Washington/Taylor flask quart, boasting a ton of bubbles and crudity, the finest of its type to come up at auction in quite some time, changed hands for $5,376.

A Rosenbaum’s bitters (N.M.B. Jacobs & Co., San Francisco), with applied top and smooth base, one of the more popular western squares, 9 ½ inches tall and graded 9.5, fetched $3,808 despite a few distractions; and a Gun Wa’s Chinese Remedy bottle, the smaller of the two sizes made, 8 ¼ inches tall, yellow amber in color and graded well at 9.7, went to a determined bidder for $1,792.

A pair of J. H. Cutter Old Bourbon (A. P. Hotaling & Co., Portland, Ore., Sole Agents) western flask pints were fought over by eager bidders. Both were the earliest of the five known variants. One was deep amber in color, circa 1873-1877 and loaded with whittle, graded 9.6 ($2,464). The other was more desirable because of its rare greenish amber color, and graded at 9.4 ($3,136).

From the advertising category, a Cyrus Noble Pure Rye metal advertisement with original self-frame (Crown Distilleries Co.), 30 inches by 24 inches and graded 9 overall, with a terrific provenance, went for $8,400; while a Buffalo Brewing Co. Lager (Sacramento, Calif.) corner sign in sky and navy blue, 20 inches by 14 inches, visually appealing and graded 7, hit $4,032.

American Bottle Auctions is always accepting quality consignments for future sales. To consign a single bottle or an entire collection, you may call them toll-free, at 1-800-806-7722; or, you can e-mail them at info@americanbottle.com. To learn more about American Bottle Auctions and the firm’s next auction (dates and times yet to be determined), please visit www.americanbottle.com

Category: Auction News

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