Vol. I, No. 4, Friday December 3, 2004

THE COMMON STUFF
by dick bales

THE SHOT GLASS - IS IT ART, HISTORY, OR A LITTLE OF BOTH?

The Summer 2004 issue of Bottles and Extras featured Howard Currierís article on the vast and varied collecting interests of Ed Sipos of Scottsdale, Arizona. When Howard asks, "What advice would you offer to young collectors just starting out?" Ed replies, "I think young collectors should focus on acquiring good condition glasses with nice graphics and few flaws. One day weíll all have to let go of our collections, so if you stick with more desirable glasses in clean condition, youíll make it much easier on yourself later on. If you have a certain region that appeals to you, or type of glass you like, that can be a good start also."

I have been reflecting on Edís comments ever since. Two thoughts repeatedly come to mind: One, do we collect shot glasses because they are art, history, or a combination of both? Two, does the answer to the first question have any effect on Edís thoughts as an overall collecting philosophy?

It seems to me that there are three broad groups of shots. First of all, there are shots that are pure art. Many of George Truogís glasses fall into this category. Consider, for example, the "Night Cap," "Eye Opener," and the "Donít Drown the (Pig.)"

I define history glasses as those that are all text with no graphics. Of course we all have these in our collection; one of the most common is the Security Distilling Co. glass from Chicago. This is fairly "bare bones" history, just the name of the company and its location. Other glasses are more descriptive. Consider the Mellow Springs Whiskey glass from St. Louis, which advertises the prices of its whiskey right on the glass.

By default I include in this category text glasses that are so barren that they contain no information at all about their company. "A Little Cuban Bitters Please" is a classic example; others include "Golden Age," "Borderland Whiskey," or "Mohican Whiskey" (below).

 Thankfully, because of the work of Bob Snyder, Howard Currier, Barb Edmonson, and Robin Preston, we are learning more and more about these glasses, and so they probably belong in this category and not in a separate group that is devoted solely to "mystery" glass.

Finally, there are glasses that are both history and art. One glass that truly illustrates this concept was in Robinís February 8, 2004, Shot of the Week. This Father Time Old Elgin Rye Whiskey features gorgeous graphics and interpretative text that indicates that it hails from Elgin, Illinois. Another is the Remington Liquor Co. glass from Portland, Oregon; it was featured in the September 12, 2004, Shot of the Week.

So what is the relationship between these three broad fields and our collecting interests? "Art" glasses seem to be popular. Robin Prestonís article on George Truog appeared in the Fall 2004 issue of Bottles and Extras. He writes that auction prices on some of Truogís novelty glasses have risen spectacularly in the last two years as awareness of them grows--from only $20 to over $150! (Oh, to own a time machine. . . .)

There seems to be a similar (if not greater) demand for art/history glasses. Robin notes that the Father Time glass sold on eBay for $261.99 and that a Remington glass went for $300 in December 2002 when it was listed on a pre-pro sales page. Thus, the marketplace seems to be in line with Edís comments--graphics are good.

But what about history? It seems that scarcity can increase desirability, graphics or no graphics. See, for example, the "Pride of North Carolina Corn Whiskey" glass featured in the June 12, 2004, SOTW. This glass featured no graphics, only text, but garnered an eBay bid of $167.50 that did not meet the even higher reserve price. A peek at the pre-pro data base reveals an almost total dearth of North Carolina glass, and so this unlisted shot garnered much attention. Similarly, although for the most part the A.M. Smith "Merry Xmas" shots have no graphics, many collectors are trying to obtain a complete set of these glasses. Finally, a glass that merely contained the (albeit enamel) words "Old Settlerís Club Whiskey" sold recently on eBay for $258.88.

But scarcity is no guarantee of desirability. I have an unlisted Chicago glass that bears the name of Adolph Market Co (below). I have never seen it on eBay since I purchased it about six months ago, and although it might be uncommon, I dare say that this shot would garner little interest on eBay if I were to list it tomorrow, even if the etching were stronger than on my example.
 


All this leads me to conclude that although there are exceptions to this rule, if you want a maximum return on your investment, collectors should collect "art" and "art/history."

But should one collect glass solely with an eye to the future, to that time when you decide to sell your collection? No, not at all. I think that you should collect what you want to collect. Collect for fun, and if your collection happens to go up in value, well, thatís better still. And Ed seems to suggest this when he adds that one can collect a state that he or she is interested in.

For example, consider collecting your home state. If you live in North Carolina, well, collect a state you are interested in. Illinois, e.g., has tons of great-looking glass, and much of it is not expensive.

Ed adds that one could even collect a shape of glass. I found this comment to be especially interesting. I confess that I have always been intrigued by the "barrel" shot glass (See page 9 in Historic Shot Glasses.) If one wants to collect glasses from all over the United States, but still wants to have a limited collecting scope because of budget constraints, I think that a shelf of "barrel" glass (much of which seems to be "history" glass), would look truly nifty. Consider, for example, the examples shown here. (Barrel glasses donít seem to be as common as the more conventionally shaped glasses. I note that the etching is worn on two of the three examples in my Illinois collection. I wonder if the etching wore down prematurely because of the shape. Is it possible that because of this, the shape was not very popular? Or is it just that I have some poorer examples?)



And who knows? As we learn more about a glassís history, perhaps the "history" glasses will become more and more valuable. For example, Robin writes in his article about George Truog that the Dr. Petzholdís German Bitters glass (a "history" glass), was etched by Truog and in fact bears his tell-tale GT signature!

 

If you would like to comment on "The Common Stuff", please post it but you can also contact Dick Bales directly at  BalesD@CTT.com

 

 

 

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