Glenn Poch's Bottle Collecting Newsletter 19

Bottle Newsletter #19
September/October 1997


First off I retyped the distribution list so if anyone is not receiving the newsletter that did, or you are receiving two copies please email me at pochg@phl.alibrary.com


Special Report

As you may be aware there are a select number of Antique Bottle Auction Houses in the United States: Glass-Works, Pacific Glass, Norman Heckler, Skinner (Glass) and what was once know as Harmer-Rooke and than Charles G. Moore Americana. Only of recent has this last auction house comes under investigation for a number of unscrupulous actions including embezzlement. Charles Moore allegedly has vacated his business office without paying many of the consignors and failing to ship some of the items sold in prior auctions. The total of one consignor alone is over $100,000. It was later learned that he may be residing in Arizona, and even more disturbing he is rumored to be starting a new antiques business in this state. I have yet to find a story that would give Mr. Moore a beneficial outlook. Talking to a few of Chuck's former Employees provided an insight to his credibility and lifestyle, it seems that he was living a lavish lifestyle and could not afford to pay his bills during his finally auction years, feel that the number of corrupt individuals in this hobby is very minimal, lets keep it there and show that there will be no tolerance for this type of action within our hobby. Needless to say if some quality bottles start showing up, please take time to know whom you are dealing with and make sure that none of these bottles were already paid for.


Cathedral Pickle Bottles

Because of the preserving industry, pickles were a large part of the American diet in the 1800s (the equivalent to salads today). These gems of the 19th century food industry were produced in large quantities and sold to the consumer, when emptied they would sometimes be refilled with various contents as a means of a secondary storage. Uniquely American the bottles design was likened to that of Cathedral buildings, having arches and windows in the bottles design. It was hoped that this would lure the purchaser into thinking these were special bottles and better than the imported English products. These bottles were produced in hundreds of similar designs ranging in size from a half-pint to a gallon, and were produced in many various colors. Some of the popular companies of the day were W.D. Smith, Espy, William Underwood and W.K. Lewis. The most common of these bottles are found in aqua and are from the early part of this century, more valuable are the pickle bottles which were hand blown.


Bertrand Bottles

For nearly a century the search was on for the 19th century Steamboat that had sunk in the Missouri River by Portage La Force in Nebraska Territory. On March 18, 1865 the ship had left its dock in St. Louis heading for the Montana Territory, this Steamboats cargo had an estimated weight of 251 tons, and a value of at least $100,000 to $300,000. Items being shipped on this day were numerous, mining supplies, household, agricultural and glass and much more, a good bulk of its contents were bottles. The year was 1968 when the steamer Bertrand was found and it took two years for the contents to be carefully removed by those who found it, Sam Corbino and Jesse Pursell, along with the assistance of the National Park Service and the personnel of the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife (as this was national park land). The condition of the items found was pristine, leading to much historical information being obtained by the sunken ships discovery. The number of "mint" bottles found was mind-boggling. This was one of the most important historical discoveries to our hobby to-date, it gives us the exact age of the bottles, contents, and many company labels as well as insight to the packing and shipping of our prized collections that we proudly display. For more information on this subject visit the museum or read the book "The Bertrand Bottles : a study of 19th Century Glass and Ceramic Containers" by Ronald Switzer, 1974. It is rumored that some of the bottles have mysteriously walked out of the museum (who knows?).


OWL DRUG COMPANY

The Owl Drug Company is only THE MOST famous drug store among collectors (bottle collectors, drug store collectors, owl collectors, etc.)! Quoting "Old Owl Drug Bottles and Others" (yes, in 1968 a collector's book was written on the subject), "The Owl Drug Store was created in 1892 and the first store was at 1128 Market Street, San Francisco. The store continued to branch out until it became nation wide with stores in a dozen states and as far East as New York. The Rexall Drug Co. bought out the Owl chain in the 1930s..." All sorts of glass/bottles from The Owl Drug Company can be collected from prescription, medicine bottles to soda bottles, poison bottles, pill bottles, medicine dose glasses, and on and on. Most all of them have the characteristic logo embossed into the glass--an owl sitting on a mortar and pestle with T.O.D. Co on the mortar. Some of the bottles just say The Owl Drug Co. and sometime give the address (city) of the store. All together there an endless variations of this logo--one wing owls, two wing owls, pot belly owl, long tail, short tail, no tail, etc. Today, these bottles and other Owl Drug items are very highly sought after. Other items include ephemera (paper) such as receipts, advertising, stationary, calendars, catalogs, and so on.

As a side bar, I found this info from the web site called The History of Pharmacy Museum at the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy, where they even sell a print depicting one of the Owl Drug Stores-- "'Dillinger at the Owl Drug' depicts the outside of the Owl Drug Store in downtown Tucson, which gangster John Dillinger frequented before his arrest on January 25, 1934. It has been suggested that the woman in the red dress is Dillinger's famous companion, the "Lady in Red." These paintings have been turned into signed and numbered lithographs and are available for a nominal fee." Jess [pharmacist] noticed that one of his customers was a bit different than the rest: the stranger who dined daily at his lunch counter dressed more like an "Easterner," as Jess described him, and he had a habit of chewing a stick or two of Black Jack gum as he waited for his meal. When his meal arrived, the stranger always stuck his gum underneath the counter. One morning in January 1934, Jess opened his newspaper and read that the notorious Dillinger Gang had been captured in Tucson. To Jess' surprise, it was John Dillinger himself who had been his patron. In a small jar, Jess collected Dillinger's chewed gum from under the counter. The jar is now displayed in the small room near the lobby as an unusual reminder of a gangster's visit to Tucson.

Article submitted by R. Tracy Gerken-- always on the lookout for Owl Drug Store items. Thanks for your interest. Email: 102104.3376@compuserve.com


ANOTHER THOUGHT ON BOTTLE AUCTIONS

  1. Auctions of all types have been around forever. They serve two functions:

    glassCo, and I would presume all other bottle auction houses, is used for both. I would stress that option a) is used just as often as option b). Most pieces in any auction are not "the top" pieces, they are just regular, run-of-the-mill pieces.

  2. Auctions level the playing field.

    In Auction No. 7, there were many pieces we could have sold with a phone call. The left-handed pint Beaver, the 1737 sealed mallet, the Pressburg Warners all could have sold by a phone call. But by that means of selling, most collectors would NEVER have the chance to purchase quality pieces. A good example was our previous auction, No. 6, where we sold a rare Canada West medicine at auction. It could have quickly slipped into the hands of one of Canada's premiere collectors. As it was, the top three bidders on the piece were newer collectors, without the "connections", who never would have had the chance to own these pieces without the open auction process.

  3. Auctions and prices.

    Do auctions raise the prices of pieces? Probably yes, for the most part. Why? Because they stimulate DEMAND. In your newsletter No. 18, you mention one collector who was finally able to buy a Beaver jar, in Canada, from their computer in the states, via bottle auction. And yes, the price of Beavers is probably going up. If the Red Book on a quart Beaver is $50 (just guessing here), and they are now trading at $80, that rise is due to the fact that a larger American market finally has ACCESS to Canadian jars. The quantity has remained the same, just more collectors are interested in adding a certain piece to their collection. Competition has been stimulated across a wider marketplace. In the purest form, if you are against this competition and the subsequent rise in prices, look at your own collection. You would have to argue that Americans should not be able to buy Canadian fruit jars, and that in fact, they should be restricted to buying pieces from there own state or even their own hometown in order to force competition down. And that's not about to happen! And there are bargains every auction. If every auction house maintained current prices on there site like glassCo does, you could scan the auction every day as closing day comes, checking out the bargains and buying stock, traders or just plain bargains for your shelf!

  4. Problems with auctions, and regulation.

    There are always problems with auctions. You must be able to trust your auctioneer, as integrity is the only thing an auction house has going for it. I have been in contact with Kevin Sives of the FOHBC about setting up some sort of an ethics committee for the bottle community, similar to the NIA (National Insulator Association) ethics community, to police auctioneering and general selling in the hobby. We would like to see this put in place, and accreditations given to certified auction houses. Anyone can open a mom and pop bottle auction house on the web (we did, although we won't be a mom and pop until about August 15th!). Certification would mean that the FOHBC ethics community could review your bid sheets any time a sale is questionable.

  5. Things to be wary about:

Buyer beware, I guess. Ask around. I have bought and sold at many of the known glasshouses. There are some I will never deal with again, some I would happily leave a very high advance with (and no, given my position in the marketplace, I won't name names). But many many collectors have bought from the likes of Pacific Glass, Glass Works, glassCo, Hecklers and others, and will have their opinions. Ask around. And ask the auctioneer. I strongly recommend asking the auctioneer whether they own the piece you are thinking about buying. The wonderful thing about the Net is that more opportunities to buy are coming up. In Auction 7, we had what I thought was a unique book on wine glasses. When it sold, I was sad to see it go. But a search of the Web found a copy at a used book site. So if you really aren't comfortable with auctioneer X, just hold off...the piece will probably come up at another auction house, at another time.

All in my humble opinion. All in all, I think auction houses as a rule are excellent. I love auctions, and I love the variety that is opened up to me. Auctions can be a ton of fun when you are buying, and even when you are selling.


glassCo auctions, web: http://www.glassco.com


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