CAVEAT EMPTOR Let the Buyer Beware

Digger Odell Publications

I received this letter from an interested reader:

Hi Digger,
I found this interesting auction on Ebay and would like to hear your comments.  I am aware of a blue repro of this bottle but was unaware that it was originally manufactured in blue.  When was the repro made and by whom.  Is it collectable and what might it's value be. Do you think this is an original?  I don't collect bitters but I love all bottles and enjoy keeping up with them.  Thanks for your input.  I will be away from my computer till next week.
I asked the seller about this auction and this is the reply:
Sorry for the delay.  Let me explain our position.  While I am not an expert
on bottles, I can tell you this came from an estate where the house was boarded up for the last thirty years.  The person who lived there was 90 years old when he died.  It was represented to everyone as a bottle from the late 1800's or very early 1900's.  When looking at the bottle with a black light, you can see air bubbles in the glass. It was definitely made in a mold.  

While we have no written proof, we believe it is a very old bottle.  I will also state that if you are the high bidder and you are not satisfied with the purchase, we will allow you to return it for full refund.
Thanks for your inquiry.

P** G***n

Don Sutherland
throughhiker on Ebay


The story about the 90 year old man and boarded up house is classic. I believe it was Phineas T. Barnum, the great American showman and founder of the Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan and Circus, who said, "The public loves to be fooled."  

I checked the auction myself and found that there was a final bid of $128 and The Reserve was not met.  I was shocked when I saw there were 22 bids but relieved when I checked the bid history to find they were only by three different bidders. 

Everything in the seller's response might well be true.  The man might have been 90 but the bottle was closer to 30.  The house may well have been boarded up for 30 years but then the man would have had to have bought the bottle shortly before boarding up the house.  That the auctioneer represented the bottle as a bottle from the late 1800s or very early 1900's is no surprise nor any guarantee of its age or authenticity.  Of course the bottle was made in a mold.  And yes, it probably had bubbles visible without a black light but under no circumstances is it an old bottle.  The seller leaves himself well protected from accusations of misrepresentation by disclaiming her or himself from being an expert but then goes on to give his opinion that, "it is a very old bottle".   I will give the seller the benefit of the doubt and say he/she was not trying to scam anyone intentionally. Perhaps the seller knew what Mr. Barnum knew, "Every crowd has a silver lining."

  The fuzzy pictures are a great touch too. They lend credence to the amateurish nature of the seller and suggest the bidder might be able to put one over one the seller.  Even the so-called experts get burned once in a while.  I sure did.  Some years back, I received a letter about a flask that from the fuzzy pictures that were sent looked authentic.  It was in an unlisted color and mold example of a very good listed bottle.  I began a telephone correspondence with the gentleman and began to negotiate to either buy the bottle or help him sell it for a good price.  So good was this item I was ready to fly to the East coast to pick it up.  I even bought a ticket.  Days before my flight, I get a clearer picture of what the bottle really looked like. Because of how the bottle was made,  the lip was very convincing (which of course I could see even in the fuzzy picture) but the base (which one could not see in the picture) was a dead give-away of a REPRO. I'll bet that would have given Phineas a good laugh.

Did you know you can't get your money back on airline tickets?  No, you can't - but you can pay more and change the destination.  That was the year I took an unplanned to trip to an Eastern bottle show. You know, since I had a ticket and all. Pretty embarrassing for someone in my position.   Barnum was credited with saying (although he did not) "There's a sucker born every minute."  Makes me squirm in my seat just to think about it.  

The answer of course is to educate yourself.  A vaccination, if you will, against stupid mistakes.  While no certain cure is promised, (just look at me)  a $30  investment in a copy of my Volume 2 Bitters could have saved any one of the above bidders almost $100.00.

 I believe Mr. Barnum also said, something to the effect, "I have never lost a dollar underestimating the intelligence of the American Public.  No doubt many of the American public on the other hand lost a dollar to Mr. Barnum.  So popular were his shows that in anticipation of overcrowding ruining people's viewing pleasure, he instituted drastic measures. One of my favorite stories about Mr. Barum was his method of crowd control.  In a  short hallway which terminated in a large metal door he put up a sign which read:


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