Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information
Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information


The museum-quality bottle was among the top lots in a sale that grossed just over $156,700.

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) – A museum-quality, mid-19th century Constitution Bitters bottle, quite possibly the earliest figural bitters bottle ever blown in America, sold for $7,840 in an Internet and catalog auction (#57) held by American Bottle Auctions ( The bottle was among the top lots in an auction that ended Feb. 22 and grossed about $156,720.

Constitution BittersThis mid-19th century Constitution Bitters bottle is quite possibly the first figural bitters blown in America ($7,840).

The Constitution Bitters, a gazebo-shaped bottle, had a texture and patina that proved conclusively it was very early. “To our knowledge there are only one or two other examples known,” said Jeff Wichmann of American Bottle Auctions. “It was cleaned by Lou Lambert, who did a masterful job. I believe it would have brought more if it were a color other than aqua.”

In all, 176 rare and vintage bottles changed hands in an auction that featured superb back bars, flasks, medicines, whiskeys, sodas, beers and more. A total of 272 registered online bidders submitted a little more than 1,440 bids. “It was a strong sale considering we didn’t have any true superstars,” Wichmann said, “but what we did have were some nice pieces in many categories.”

He added, “The western whiskey fifths did very well, as did the historical flasks. All the lots sold, and that’s mainly due to the fact that we don’t have reserves and the bidding starts at $10 per bottle. We purchased a real nice collection about a week before the sale, but it was too late to include it in this auction, so we’re saving it for the next one – probably in late summer.”

Wichmann said the market for bottles is “very strong” right now, and may get stronger, as he sees supply beginning to dwindle. “We’re in a state of flux, and at the end of a cycle that could see some exciting new product unleashed on the market very soon,” he remarked. “Lots of collections with some great stuff in them are sitting dormant, but I see them heading for auction.”

Following are additional highlights from the auction. All prices quoted include a 12 percent buyer’s premium.

Tied for top lot of the sale at $7,840 was a Wynkoop & Company Tonic Mixture bottle (“Warranted to cure fever and ague”). One of three examples found in an abandoned pharmacy in Indiana, the 6 ½ inch bottle boasted an applied top and open pontil and was very crude, with a stunning cobalt blue color. It was rated a perfect 10 for condition (the only perfect 10 in the sale).

Right behind the two leaders with a final sale price of $7,280 was a Nixon & Company (Seattle, Washington Territory, circa 1883-1885) western fifth in terrific condition (rated 9.8) and colored medium to light amber. It took a black light inspection to reveal a ¼ inch by ¼ inch patch on the mouth, proving some repair work had been done, but it was virtually undetectable.

A Kentucky Gem Sour Mash Copper Distilled Whiskey western fifth (T.G. Cockrill & Co., San Francisco, agents, circa 1872-1879) changed hands for $6,720. The Kentucky Gem is one of the most sought after western fifths today, and this example (found in a remote area of Nevada) is one of maybe ten known. A ding on the corner base edge kept it from fetching more.

A Masonic Eagle pint flask (GIII-4), found in the safe of a Masonic temple and graded conservatively at 9.7, went for $5,600. The bottle was very heavy and colored a beautiful yellow green, with a tooled mouth with pontil. Its spectacular condition (attributable to the fact that it had been in the safe for many decades) caused the bottle to sail past the high estimate of $5,000.

An R.T. Carroll & Company Sole Agents (San Francisco) western whiskey fifth, made circa 1875-1882 and graded near-mint at 9.8, went to a determined bidder for $5,152. The overall crudity of this exceedingly rare whiskey bottle was just about perfect. American Bottle Auctions has only seen a couple of these in the past 20 years, a real testament to its scarcity.

A Jockey Club sixth-size western whiskey bottle (G. W. Chesley & Co., San Francisco), graded 9.6, found a new owner for $4,256. The bottle, one of the more popular sixth-sized western whiskeys, had been found under a house that was being demolished and the worker was smart enough to bring it home. This example, made between 1873-1878, had loads of whittle.

A Pike’s Peak olive yellow pint (GXI-50), showing a walking man and a man shooting a deer on the reverse side, topped out at $3,808. The bottle was near-perfect, graded 9.8, with no real distractions of any type, to include high point wear or scratching. It also boasted an applied band and smooth base. Bidders rewarded the bottle by nearly doubling the $2,000 high estimate.

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 [email protected]. To learn more about American Bottle Auctions and the auction slated for late summer, please log on to