Vol. I, No. 2, Saturday April 17, 2004

by dick bales

Like it or not, eBay is a fact of life for the shot collector. In many respects it has brought a globalization to the hobby, allowing, e.g., people in the Midwest to buy glass from collectors on the West Coast.

But eBay is a two-edged sword. Collectors, caught in a bidding frenzy, have on more than one occasion driven prices of glass upward and upward. This being the case, what is a person of modest means supposed to do? How can he or she compete with the “big guys” when it comes to glass collecting on the Internet?

My aging Baby Boomer memory may be mistaken, but I think that the following line comes from the movie, “Cool Hand Luke”: “A man’s got to know his limitations.” And if limitations like the mortgage payment and a child’s college education mean you won’t be bidding on the SOTW anytime soon, hey, that’s okay. You can still have a great time collecting. Here’s how:

     When the collecting bug first bit me, I wanted to buy anything and everything in sight. But when I discovered pre-pro.com and realized for the first time how many different types of shots there were out there, I realized that I couldn’t have every glass I saw. I had to develop a collecting policy.  And the pre-pro databases showed me how.

I used the database to survey the hundreds of different glasses. I live in Illinois, and so I considered collecting only Illinois glass. But I have always been interested in Chicago history, and when I saw how many different Chicago shots there were, I decided to concentrate on Chicago. I realize that I may never own a Rooster Bitters, but I already have four different kinds of Sunny Brooks. My goal is to collect all the variants; this would include Inspectors with different numbers of panels. I want to eventually write an article for pre-pro, setting forth my findings, with the hope that this additional information could be entered into the pre-pro database. I’m having a great time collecting not one but two of pre-pro’s ten most common glasses! (See “the Ten Most Common Pre-pro Glasses, numbers 7 and 9.) Who would have thought that was possible?

Museums have collecting policies; you should, too. It keeps you focused, and with luck, it keeps you from “impulse bidding” on eBay. But I must confess to having setbacks every once in a while. Just last week I saw a “Zahringers Pure Stock” (Peoria, Illinois) for sale at a price that I thought was absurdly low. After all, how could such a gorgeous glass go such a small price? Within seconds I bid on it, and only after my bid was confirmed did I think to check Robin’s eBay database. Well, there were plenty of Zahringers that had been offered on eBay in the past months, which indicated that this glass was not as rare as I thought. Of course, my bid was the high bid, and I am sure that I paid a premium price for a glass that isn’t even in my area of collecting!

But I have tried to learn from my mistakes. Now I research a glass before I bid. Only days ago a Pan America Exposition, 1901, appeared on eBay. I thought that this one was just too nifty for words and almost bid on it. But first I checked the pre-pro eBay database and discovered that this glass had been listed numerous times on eBay. Further research revealed that it was number 5 on pre-pro’s list of ten most common glasses! All of a sudden the price did not seem that great, and as it did not fit into my collecting policy, I passed it by.

If the bidding gets absurdly high for the stuff I really want, I force myself (with considerable self restraint) to just walk away from the keyboard, unflustered, unconcerned, and disciplined. (Think of David Carradine in that old “Kung Fu” TV show.) A few weeks ago there was a Sunny Brook variant that I wanted; an Inspector with fourteen panels. The bidding opened at $9.00 (with a reserve!?) and finally closed at $46.00! For a Sunny Brook! Forget it. As Robin says, “another one will come around soon enough; that is not the only one out there.” And of course he is right.

Besides, I truly believe that the fun is in the hunt. That Stein Bros. glass I wrote about last time will always be one of my favorites, simply because of the memorable way it was discovered. As I look at my collection of Chicago glass, each one has a memory for me. A great, great memory. My collection has not cost me a lot of money, but because of my narrow collecting policy, I believe that in just a few months it has become a valuable collection in its own way. I already have several pieces that are not listed in pre-pro’s database.

Let’s face it; eBay is here to stay. But it isn’t the only way to buy glass. For example, you can have lots of fun going to antique shows and flea markets. Sure, you are going to find more than your fair share of overpriced dogs. But even if you come back empty-handed, it is still a grand way to spend a Sunday afternoon. I went to an “advertising collectible” show last weekend, armed with a printout of my computer file that lists all the glasses in my collection, my copies of Historic Shot Glasses and Old Advertising Spirits Glasses, and Robin’s price guidelines that are on the pre-pro web site. (See “Values of Shot Glasses".) I found nothing worth buying, unless you think a Hayner priced at $35.00 is a bargain. But that is okay--maybe next time I will find that Label-Under-Glass for $20!



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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