Hard Rock Cafe
Robin Prestonís March 2005 "Shot
of the Week" article is truly a shot heard Ďround the world. In his
own unique writing style, he referred to the current eBay pre-pro
feeding frenzy as "March madness on steroids" and gently chided us for
throwing away obscene amounts of cash in our feverish attempts to
satisfy our glass lust.
Robinís comments can be analyzed and discussed on many different levels.
Those buyers who pay premium bucks for glass might argue, "Itís my
money, my hobby; if I want to pay that much, why should anyone complain?
If anything, I am helping all glass collectors by raising the value of
perhaps that is not the case. First of all, a hobby, to be viable, needs
new enthusiasts to replace the ones who lose interest or die. If glass
prices start wildly skyrocketing, potential new collectors will get
discouraged and quit, believing that the only way to acquire "good"
glass is by taking out a second mortgage on the family home. Instead,
they start collecting Hard Rock Cafe glasses. (More on that later.)
Second, such wild speculation could lead to a complete market crash.
Remember the Beanie Baby craze? Remember when people were paying
thousands of dollars for "rare" stuffed animals, even paying many
dollars more for the privilege of owning a pristine name tag entombed in
a plastic protector? Hmmm, I wonder where that famous blue elephant is
Or go back a bit further in time (and a bit farther in place) to the
1600s in Holland and the famous tulip craze. Back then tulips were a
rarity, and only the very wealthy could afford them. Bedazzled by their
beauty, the rich clamored for tulip bulbs, and a buying mania resulted.
Prices for some "rare" bulbs rose to over $1,000 apiece!
As prices climbed higher and higher, middle-class and poorer people got
into the speculating act. They mortgaged their homes so that bulbs could
be bought for resale at higher prices. The tulip crash came in 1637,
when doubts arose as to whether prices could continue to increase.
Almost overnight tulip prices collapsed, bringing financial ruin to many
ordinary Dutch families.
But enough about the shot glass buyer. How does the shot seller feel
about this eBay spending craze? He or she is probably wishing that Robin
would keep his cyber-mouth shut, as he is killing a good thing.
But no, Robin isnít. If anything, market madness risks killing only the
golden goose. Yes, the eBay shot glass seller of today may be enjoying
record profits, but those dollars may be only short term if collectors
get discouraged and quit, leaving only a few people left to buy the
George Truog Eyeopeners and any picture glass lucky enough to bear the
words, "San Francisco."
When everyone who wants them has these glasses,
who will buy the remaining ones? One need only
search "Hummel" on eBay to realize the potential impact of these
words. Everyone who wanted these "limited edition" figurines ordered
them during the sculpturesí one hundred firing days. This meant that
everyone who wanted a "little girl with umbrella" bought one while they
were still being made. Sure, the mold may be broken now, but it makes no
difference; the market is glutted with tons of baked clay that no one
else wants. (I have two sons, and luckily, both of them would like to
inherit my collection some day. But my wife has a few Hummels, and my
sons never cease to raise her ire by commenting, "Okay, when mom and dad
are dead, who has to take momís stuff)?
So what is the new collector to do when eBay prices get goofy? Simple.
Donít participate in the Market Madness! In the
last few columns I have described
several ways in which one can collect glass, have fun, and not steal
from the first bornís college fund.
You know, I do not pretend to have Robinís knowledge of shotglass market
analysis, but I am willing to bet that I am not totally off base when I
say that to a degree there is an inverse relationship to glass rarity
and glass demand with more than a few pre-pro shot glasses.
|In any given month of late there
has been at least one George Truog picture glass for sale on eBay,
yet demand for George Truog remains high. On the other hand, I have
a battle-scarred "Old Rose Whiskey" from Chicago in my collection.
It is all text, no picture, and so I paid very little for it on
eBay, yet when was the last time you saw it listed on the auction
block? This glass is probably fairly rare, but there is very little
demand for it.
||There are probably more George Truog autographed
German Baptist conference glasses out there than Old Rose Whiskies, but GT gets all the glory. Go figure. I could list several other examples,
but you get the idea.
Earlier I mentioned the Hard Rock Cafe glasses. I have been told that
countless people avidly collect these. We pre-pro people may turn up our
collective noses and sniff, "modern garbage," but you know, I bet that
there are tons more HRC collectors out there than pre-pro collectors.
So what is the HRC attraction? I think that many people like collecting
something that is fairly uniform in size, is basically alike, but can
still be differentiated by a limiting distinction, such as the name of a
city or town. A HRC collector can have a cabinet of glasses, all the
same size, all the same logo, but all be different, and all be
reasonably priced. They can tell their friends (or their long-suffering
spouses), "Yeah, I have the Chicago and Toronto in this style, but I am
still looking for a London and a Vancouver and a Hong Kong. . . ."
Pre-pro collectors have their own version of the Hard Rock Cafe glass
that they can collect. I recently discovered a series of "sleeper"
glasses that I am having an absolute ball collecting. It is the
"Ladies/Gents/[Hog]" glass that bear a companyís name and address.
The glasses that I have so far are all fairly uniform. They are either
tall shot glasses or tonic glasses. As I said, they have the words
"Ladies," "Gents," and a picture of a pig or hog on them. Next to this
montage is the familiar acid etched writing of an advertiser.
I have five so far. The Max Kohn glass (Rock Island, Illinois) and the
Maryland Wine & Liquor Co. glass (Washington, D.C.) are both pictured in
the pre-pro data base. But I also have an Olson Company glass from
California that is described but not pictured in the data base and a
Laurel Spring Whiskey (St. Louis) and a Tony Golick (Peoria, Illinois)
that are not in the database at all. None of the five were very
expensive, and a couple were downright cheap. I bought one from an eBay
seller after the auction lapsed with no bids! (A Kentucky and Tennessee
Liquor Co. glass languished on the pre-proís sales table for weeks, but
now it has been sold, darn it.)
As you can see, these glasses are pre-proís answer to the Hard Rock Cafe
glasses. They are all fairly uniform in appearance (the text directly
adjacent to the graphics makes them display rather well), but none are
exactly alike. They are defined by their geography, just like the HRC
glasses. They are all similar, but they are all different.
Right now the collecting field for these glasses is wide open. That is,
one can collect them without spending a lot of money. With two out of my
five being unlisted in the pre-pro database, it seems quite possible
that there are a significant number of "unknown" glasses out there,
waiting to be discovered and catalogued. Thus, by collecting this glass
variant, there is the added benefit of contributing to our collective
knowledge of these advertising glasses.
If shot collecting ever advances to a stage where we actually have glass
shows with exhibits of glasses, I would think that a display of just
this type of glass would be an awesome sight to behold and could
actually win a "best of show" award. Or at least the "Peopleís Choice."
It is clear that any collector, whether a grizzled veteran or a
wide-eyed newbie, does not have to rob a bank in order to enjoy
collecting pre-pro glasses. What one does have to do is have patience.
Market madness is just a temporary thing. It will pass, and as it does,
prices will stabilize. Meanwhile, add "hog shot glass" to your list of
eBay favorites, tell George Truog to get lost, and have some fun! Better
yet, why not tell eBay to pound sand and buy a glass from a dealer
instead? Both Bruce Silva and Jim Dennis
advertise on this site. (I just bought the Olson Company glass from
Bruce.) We are lucky to have Bruce and Jim and other mail-order vendors
as an alternative to eBay, but if we donít patronize them, they may just
decide to cast their fate to the eBay winds instead.