'Extremely rare' Bitters bottle makes $36,000 in collectibles sale

American Bottle Auctions' November sale looks to have been their best yet, taking almost $300,000 and selling 97% by lot. And one bottle in particular literally stood head and shoulders above the rest.

The Brown's Celebrated
Indian Herb bitters bottle
sold for $36,960

"Overall I felt the sale was a great success and may have been our best auction ever, based on the fact that nearly all of the 375 lots sold," said Jeff Wichmann of American Bottle Auctions, "and the eleven bottles that didn't sell found new homes after the auction."

The top lot of the auction was an outstanding mint condition Brown's Celebrated Indian Herb bitters bottle, patented Feb. 11 1868, sold for $36,960, beating its pre-sale estimate of $10,000 - $20,000.

Graded 9.9 out of 10 for condition and boasting a perfectly flat lip, the bottle was consigned by a woman who collected for fun years ago.

"When she bought it, she was offered the choice of an amber or clear example, and thankfully she picked the clear one," Mr. Wichmann said, adding it is likely flint, not lead glass.

"Bitters and flasks are hot sellers right now," Mr. Wichmann observed. "I have to believe they are entering a new age."

"People are beginning to realize they just aren't coming up at auction like they did, and everyone is scrambling to get the rarest and most perfect examples out there. Whether this is a tulip craze or real people with real money in it for the long haul, I don't know."

As with numerous auctions this year, collectors of every kind from classic car enthusiasts to philatelists have proven more than happy to pay high prices for the best and rarest examples.

And as the antique bottle market grows on both sides of the Atlantic, collectors may get the chance to see their passion turn into a booming business.


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