Flip-Top Rye

This is not about shot glasses but, given the recent flurry of Red Top Rye-related sales, it’s an amusing little tale.

Morean’s latest auction closed on February 4. There wasn’t much of interest to us here, aside from one of the Bellwood mini-mugs I mentioned a couple of months ago – this was a nice example and it sold for an impressive $176.

However, the auction also included a Red Top Rye flask. The auction listing describes it as follows: Early metal flask. Advertises Red Top Rye whose letters are outlined with intricate engraving. Red has been nicely re-pigmented. 4 x 4.5 inches. Note the “Red has been nicely re-pigmented” – meaning that the red paint is not original.

The flask shows considerable wear to the plating, with many noticeable nicks, breaks, and dings, with a characteristic flaw in the middle of the label around the “T” and “o”:

The final bid price (with premium included) was $263 (plus shipping).

Ten days later, a striking similar flask shows up for sale on eBay, listed by martin50k03 with a buy-it-now price of $895:

The listing description reads: Rare Red Top metal flask, measures 4 1/4” diameter. Good condition. No mention of a paint upgrade, but note the wear pattern around the “To” – it’s the same flask.

A day later, the price dropped to $795 and, shortly thereafter, a special offer showed up in my email inbox that brought the price down to $495:

Today is Feb. 16 – I’ll be interested to see if there’s any additional discounts, but I’m betting that they won’t bring the price below $263.

Why I don’t Bother Going to Local Bottle Shows

Once upon a time, I used to live in the Northeast – the Philadelphia area to be precise. The opportunities for pre-pro glass hunting in the Northeast are almost limitless. Adamstown is within an hour’s drive – imagine a 3- or 4-mile highway with antique malls spaced evenly along the way – that’s Adamstown. One the the larger malls is run by Renningers, who have outlets in Adamstown, Kutztown, PA., and also in FL. The two PA locations each host traveling extravaganzas three or four times a year, and I used eagerly await each of these, especially in Fall when the rich scents of decaying leaves, crushed grass, mud, and waffle cakes were on the air. Adamstown also hosted a bottle show that attracted several vendors that were familiar names on eBay. The Baltimore Bottle Show, which is probably the biggest in the country, is a 75 min drive South. I usually came away with at least a couple of new pre-pro glasses for my collection from each scavenging event.

Then I moved to the Atlanta area and how times have changed. Yes, there are antique malls in the South, but “antique” has a different meaning here. Wandering through an Atlanta area antique mall is a trip down memory lane, because much of what is on offer dates back to my childhood. Pre-pro glasses do occasionally show up, but they’re usually the more common ones. The few bottle shows in the area are usually tiny and rarely offer shot glasses for sale. After attending the local show for a couple of years, I stopped making the effort because it wasn’t worth the 45 minute drive.

However, I recently happened to stumble across a flyer for the Rome Bottle and Advertising show that was due to take place only a few days hence. Rome is about 80 mins away, but I thought why not – maybe the show has improved significantly since I was last there.

Google maps view

The show was held in the local VFW hall which, on first sight, reminded me of a line from the movie “Battle of Britain.” Michael Caine’s character has just been informed by a maintenance officer that his squadron is being relocated to a flying club’s airfield as a result of German bombing. The maintenance officer remarks that “It’s not a bad little field“, prompting Michael Caine to reply “I’ve seen it. Damp tents and a nasty little shack full of dead flies.

To be fair, the VFW hall was a perfectly fine location and just the right size for the show. It was also busy, which is always good to see, even though few of the attendees were youngsters (meaning anyone under 65 years of age). I included some general overview pics below, in case you’re interested. The main problem with the show was that there was a preponderance of Coke and other soda bottles – not surprising given that it’s an Atlanta area show and Atlanta is home to the Coca-Cola megacorp.

There were exactly two shot glasses. One was a very common “O! So Good” from Kansas City, the other a “DRS Dist. Inc” tonic from Memphis with a $50 price tag. I passed on both.

I’ll probably not be back to this show for another decade or so, sad to say.

Red Top Flop… and One to Watch

Highball glasses glasses occupy a special place in the collecting world. If we were to consult Google maps, we’d find it just North of Contempt and about 5 miles West of Indifference. Highballs just don’t have the the same cuteness factor that the shots do and, from a practical point of view, they’re way too tall to fit in a shot glass display case. Even sideways.

Beer collectors, on the other hand, have no problem turning their basement over to acres of custom-built shelving to accommodate the larger glasses, but highballs are not beers and if one were to show up on a basement shelf, it probably would be as a result of mistaken identification.

So, whereas a Red Top Rye shot glass can command prices in excess of $1,000 (as noted in my previous post), Red Top Rye highballs have trouble making $50, let alone $500 or more. As always, there are exceptions. I have seen a Red Top highball featuring a colored top sell for $271 almost a decade ago, but when the owner put it back on eBay several years later, he lost $100 on the deal.

Sold for $271 in 2015

The Red Top Highball listed by union_razor recently does not feature a red top but, rather, a white-frosted label with measles. Expectations were not high. It listed with an opening bid of $9.95. Two collectors held their noses and entered bids and it closed a week later at $20.50. Whoop-de-do.

Sold for $20.50 in 2024

Here’s one to watch. I’m sure I’ve highlighted Casper glasses before because they used to trigger ferocious bidding wars back in the day, even when the glass involved was one of the common variants. I almost missed the example shown below because the listing photos and are poor, but it’s a one-of-a kind (so far as I know – I haven’t see one before) red etched variant.

The label is worn to the point where the trademark diamond (image at right) is unrecognizable, so this would be considered a placeholder glass at best, yet the bidding is already up to $56 with more than 4 days to go until the auction’s close. This one will be interesting to keep an eye on.