October 24,  2008

Someone Must Have Lost Their Mind

I had some skin in that last Glassworks Auction with both selling and buying. I was bidding on a bottle, which I had seen many years ago at a bottle show and again in the 1988 Dr. Sam Greer sale of Pontil Medicines. I put in my first bid at what I thought was high. The bid was higher than the estimated selling price listed. Within a day, another bidder had taken me to my maximum so in a fit of impulsivity, I bid it up again way over what I thought the bottle was worth. You can’t win them all and the bottle I had in the Glassworks Auction did better than I expected.

Within the week, I was outbid and the high bidder remained so through the end of the auction. Apparently, he and I were the only ones who thought that bottle had that much value. But as it is in the auction world, it only takes two crazy bidders to put the selling price into the stratosphere.

In the last American bottles auction an even more incredible outcome was attained. Before delving into that story, let me preface it with a story of my own. Perhaps six months ago, I got a call from my digging buddy that there was to be a local auction which was advertising bottle. We decided to attend and my immediate impression was that the only thing for sale at this auction was junk. I recognized about half a dozen people in attendance, who were also bottle collectors and as I perused the boxed lots, I uncovered, buried in the bottom of one box, under some real junkie bottles, a cobalt blue, iron pontiled 1850s soda with the name J. Brosee and the word Maysville. I knew the bottle to be a Kentucky soda, and that it was rare. The blue soda was not a dug bottle and it was in pristine condition. I put the bottle back under the junk where I had found it...obviously hidden there by another potential bidder who in vain hoped no one else would see the bottle. Of course as it is at auctions, the item you want never comes up to the block in a timely manner. For an hour, all of the bottle collectors / potential bidders milled around as if there was nothing there to be found, each thinking perhaps no one else had seen the blue soda.

photo compliments of J. Van Gorder

When, after another hour or so of waiting around, I asked to have the bottle put up since it was clear that no one was leaving. the auctioneer agreed - he actually had no idea that the bottle was valuable and started the bidding at $20 or so. My digging buddy and I had agreed that we would bid for the bottle and split the costs and split the profits if their were any.

I thought that the bottle ought to be worth maybe $500.00 and ended up in a bidding competition with only one other fellow after the $400 mark was reached. I had never seen this fellow before and did not know him to be a collector but he was determined. We raised the bid to $675.00, more than I thought anyone would pay. and the Other bidder won the lot for $700.00.

I thought little more of it until last month when I saw that exact bottle in the American Bottles auction. The auction owner, Jeff W., had listed his estimate of $400-$800 but when I looked at the bid price it was $7000.00!!!! I thought something must be in error and I wrote a short note to Jeff who responded that, no, there was no mistake and that was the final selling price.

I am still having trouble wrapping my mind around this. No only had I underestimated the price, I had done so by 10 times the value. Off the top of my head, I could think of only 2 or 3 other antique soda bottles that had ever sold for more than that figure and in my mind, the other bottles were far better than the Brosee bottle. I know that at least 4-5 examples of the Brosee bottle have been found and even accounting for the fact that this $7000.00 example was not a dug bottle the selling price was in my mind just out of this world.

From where I sit, with my view of the world and the economy, the stock market might be in trouble, people might be losing their jobs, companies might be going out of business and Wall Street executives might had a million or so less dollars BUT ……