Purple prose

This article is about one of the bad things that can happen to pre-pro glasses. By “bad”, I mean anything that tends to decrease value. There are several categories of bad. Damage to the inscription (fading/general wear, scuffs, flaking of the etching compound) is the most common. Cracks are generally a death sentence. Rim chips and dings are so prevalent that we tend to overlook them unless the damage is significant. Glasses that have been dug out of privvies are usually clouded (i.e., sick glass) and are essentially worthless. And then there is purple “desert” glass.

Back in September 2017, eBay seller lookwhatidug listed an embossed Security Distilling Co. glass with an opening bid of $55, as shown below. The auction title read “NICE RARE EMBOSSED SHOT GLASS SECURITY DISTILLING CO CHICAGO 1905 ERA CLEAN L@@K” Condition: “NO DAMAGE AT ALL AND IS SHINY CLEAN:”

The Security Distilling Co. of Chicago, IL. has the dubious distinction of being a nationwide leader in the mail-order hooch business yet distributing some of the least-inspiring shot glasses of all the many vendors in pre-pro days. I’m not even sure how many different glass variants they put out because I invariably get distracted by an urgent need to check the weather forecast or clean gunk out of my iPhone earbuds whenever I try to focus on possible differences between them. I think I may have one or two in my own collection, but…. oh, looks like rain tomorrow. ‘Nuff said.

What I can say is that the glass with the company name embossed in the base is relatively rare. It has such a generic look that it’s easy to miss the fact that it’s a distillery glass when hunting for pre-pro glasses in the wild – how often does one look at the base rather than the side? Not often, for sure.

Embossed glasses are much more resilient and less prone to breakage than their thin-walled, etched bretheren, so they tend to be less valuable; the one above is probably worth $15-$20, although I’ve seen them sell for more. $55 is a bit of a stretch, however, so it’s not surprising that it went unsold, even after a couple of relists and price reductions. Eventually the glass dropped off eBay.

lookwhatidug apparently is one of those bottle collectors that believes that even a crap, worthless bottle can be transformed into a work of art by turning it purple (or “amethyst” as it’s known in the biz).

How does one do this? In early pre-pro days, manganese dioxide (MnO2) was added to glass during manufacture to decolorize it. If added in large quantities, MnO2 colors glass purple, but small quantities bind impurities that would otherwise render glass muddy, thereby causing it to become crystal clear. If left out in the sun, however, MnO2-clarified glass takes on an amethyst hue due to the effect of UV light on the manganese, which is why older bottles displayed in windows slowly turn purple over time. MnO2 was replaced by other decolorizing agents that do not respond to UV light early in the 20th century, so amethyst is typically a mark of an older glass.

Judging by how many of lookwhatidug‘s auction listings feature “NICE PURPLE” in the title, the seller must have a barn filled with tanning beds devoted to the purpling process. So, thinking that what’s good for crap bottles is also good for crap embossed Security Distilling Co. shot glasses, into the tanning salon it went. After several months, it re-emerged on eBay with a nasty sunburn. This time the auction title read “NICE AMETHYST SHOT GLASS SECURITY DISTILLING CO CHICAGO 1905 ERA CLEAN L@@K” Condition: “NO DAMAGE AT ALL AND IS SHINY CLEAN:”  

To my mind, purpling a glass amounts to vandalism. Why not get hold of a diamond-tipped pencil and engrave little hearts and flowers all over the wall of the glass to further enhance its appeal?! Or fill it with vanilla/cinnamon-scented wax and stick a wick in the center? Maybe give it a coat of sparkly paint? Oy.

To be fair, purpling an embossed glass does not automatically turn it into a write-off because the inscription is preserved, but it’s difficult to see that giving glasses the color of a nasty bruise in any way increases their attractiveness, especially on display. You should NEVER purple an etched glass under any circumstances because the inscription is swallowed by the color change (i.e., contrast between inscription and the background is lost) and you might as well toss the glass in the recycling bin for your efforts.

To end on a brighter note, the purpling process can be reversed by heating the glass. Sadly, the temperatures needed to achieve reversal approximate those found in the center of the sun, so a thin-walled glass will be reduced to a puddle, albeit a nice, crystal-clear puddle. I exaggerate, but the take-home is that it’s better not to purple pre-pro glasses in the first place. Pretty please.

The glass above circled the eBay drain for a few weeks and relists, eventually selling for $28.95 during a 10% off sale.

O!SO WTF?! (SOTW, March 18, 2019)

There was a time not so very long ago that the O!SO GOOD shot glass that graces virtually all pre-pro collections was in such low demand that they barely fetched $5 at auction. Indeed, I distinctly remember Paul Van Vactor (better know as stilz on eBay) observing that he had at least 8 on hand and no idea what to do with them.

O!HOW times have changed.

O!SO GOOD glasses are one of the most common and readily-available pre-pro shot glass, second only to the Hayner Distilling Co. cylinder. I’ve logged 580 of them into the sales database since its inception. It usually comes with a gilded rim. There are a few glasses without a gold rim in circulation, but a closer look at the rim using a loupe confirms traces of gold, meaning that the gilding has worn off. There are two known (and quite rare) variants. The easier to find of them has a slightly different monogram (note the solid “J”) and text font, whereas the other has interior panels.

In the past few years, interest in O!SO GOODs has increased exponentially, presumably coinciding with and prompted by the resurrection of the J. Rieger & Co. brand in the guise of the Rieger Restaurant and the Rieger Distillery, both of whom claim family connections to the original company. The idea that someone might engage in a bidding war that ultimately resulted in a hammer price of $76 for one of these glasses would have seemed ridiculous just a few years ago, but here’s the evidence:

The glass above was listed on eBay by glomannd with a starting price of $9.95, closing on March 13 at $76 with new bidder l***2 in pole position. Yikes.

jeffstateglass of Western Whiskey Bottles fame jumped in with a coat-tails bin (buy-it-now) that sold 4 days later for $55:

Old timers will be feeling light-headed and in dire need of a Rieger’s-on-the-rocks after all this excitement, but, hang on to your hats girls, this latest offering still has two days to go. It’s in fence post condition (as in, good only for putting on the fence post and using for target practice) but it’s already at $76 with l***2 in the lead:

Watch this space for the outcome…..

For those of you that are interested, this past 4 weeks saw 269 pre-pro glass auctions close on eBay. 158 auctions closed without a bidder. The average price of glasses that sold was $40.68.

Update: The O!SO GOOD shown above finally closed at closed at $76, with l***2 being the winner and i***a in second place.


For those of you not yet acquainted with Glassworks auctions, you may want to bookmark their webpage because they occasionally have pre-pro shots nestled amongst their collections of bottles, jugs, and other pre-pro memorabilia. Their latest ‘End of Winter’ Potpourri Auction #129 features two lots of interest – #228 and #229. Both include 7 different bitters glasses, both with an opening bid of $120.

Lot #228 includes 6 pre-pro stemmed bitters glasses and a pebble-green beaded label glass of indeterminate origin. All of these glasses are familiar from eBay, although some are more common than others. A solid bitters starter group nonetheless.

Lot #229 should set the blood thrumming in any dyed-in-the-wool pre-pro collector’s veins. The Dr P. at top left is a Truog glass. The Alter Bismark is a pre-pro classic picture glass – this alone is worth the opening bid. The others are just gravy.

Note, however, that Glassworks auctions charges a 20% bidder premium that have to be factored into the final bid price. Their shipping prices tend to be premium also.

If you only need only one of these glasses, no fear, there’s a good chance the two lots will be picked up by resellers, broken up, and end up as buy-it-nows on eBay (e.g., follow seller id “diggerdaveb“).

SOTW, March 3, 2019

eBay regulars will have found it hard to miss the one-of-a kind collection of pre-pro shots offered for sale by birdstreetantiques (a few relists are still available as I write). Most small collections are motley affairs, being composed of several of the usual Hayner variants, Sunny Brooks, Detricks, and the ever popular embossed Calverts (common, but not pre-pro).

Not so the birdstreetantiques offering. The seller is representing a family of an elderly lady from Barbara Edmonson’s old hunting grounds in CA. The collector in question has an exceptional eye for the rare and valuable, with several examples of glasses that have not been documented before, either in published sources or in the databases here at pre-pro.com. These included three lugs — one unknown — which had the Poobah salivating like a rabid mutt watching steaks cook on a grill.

Perhaps the most important of these was an “Old Homestead“, from Samuel Westheimer of St. Joseph, MO. Not only is this an older glass (pre-1900), it was clearly the work of George Truog of the Maryland Glass Etching Works fame.

Not surprisingly, the glass attracted numerous bids, eventually falling to id b***w for $305. Congratulations to the winner!


A new beginning

Once upon a time, many, many, moons ago, I wrote a periodic feature called Shot of The Week. For various reasons (mainly to do with time), I stopped adding to the SOTW archives back in 2014.

Much has happened within the pre-pro collecting community since that time. Many collectors cashed in their collections and dropped off eBay. Other sold off their collections, then rebuilt them, then sold them off again, and are yet again rebuilding. Several prominent collectors died, including Bob Mraz, Roger Roy, and Ralph Van Brocklin, all of whom left gaping holes in the community.

The pre-pro collecting world continues to spin on its axis, however, and many new collectors feature regularly in eBay bidding wars. Since eBay reduces bidder identities to a series of forgettable letters and asterisks, it’s difficult to follow or report on the action in any meaning way. l***c really does not have quite the same caché as does bluroc, once a familiar name on eBay.

eBay continues to showcase a seemingly never-ending bounty of old and rare pre-pro glass however, and there is still a place for a forum such as this to showcase it. I have not used blogging software before so it will take some time to get New and Shotworthy fully functional (we need a way for readers to upload images, for example), but here’s a new beginning.

For those of you interested in such things, 306 pre-pro glasses appeared for auction on eBay over the past month. 160 of those went unsold; the average price of glasses that did sell was $45.06.

(s***s on eBay)