Sacramento, CA, Jan 10, 2020 — A 150-year-old blue Cassin’s Grape Brandy Bitters bottle so rare that for years many doubted its very existence has sold for a staggering $155,000 at the Part 1 sale of the Ken Fee collection of mostly Western bitters bottles, held November 29th by American Bottle Auctions (www.americanbottle.com). Part 2 will go online February 14th and end February 23rd.
The Cassin’s Grape Brandy Bitters was the undisputed headliner in American Bottle Auctions’ Auction #67, Part 1, an online-only affair with phone and absentee bids also accepted. Part 2 will be the same. What made the Cassin’s so desirable to bidders was its bluish-teal color, which many bottle collectors, even seasoned pros, had never seen and were skeptical one even existed.
“No one had seen Ken Fee’s collection of over 300 bottles in four decades,” said Jeff Wichmann of American Bottle Auctions. “It only came to light following his death in November of 2018. I’ve been working with the family ever since.” Many of the bottles are outstanding examples that brought a few hundred to many thousands of dollars. Part 2 contains many desirable rarities, too.
The Cassin’s Bitters is arguably one of the greatest Western bitters blown. Made in San Francisco in 1867 and 1868, its shape was meant to resemble a cello. The first variant of the bottle had thin corners and because of the fragility of the bottle only a few mint examples remain intact today. The second variant eliminated the fragile lines of the bottle and some still survive today, although there are still believed to be only a half-dozen or so in undamaged condition.
This example, though, was a marvel, regardless of age or history, and the only example known in this unique blue color. In addition, the bottle was in mint condition with no discernable flaws, a rarity for any bottle this old but especially important for the only blue Cassin’s known to date. It was expected to do well, with an estimate of $75,000-$100,000, but the final price blew past that.
Following are additional highlights from the Part 1 auction. All prices quoted include a 10 percent buyer’s premium.
A Dr. Boerhaave’s Stomach Bitters bottle with an applied tapered top, circa 1868-1869, finished at $28,000. This San Francisco made bitters, with the distinctive windows on the reverse, had its own special identity. This one was a beautiful light to medium green, as these bottles came in a multitude of colors. Graded a high 9 out of 10, the bottle also boasted good whittle and bubbles.
American Bottle Auctions
915 28th Street
Sacramento, CA 95816