Old Bitters bottle

by Dr. Lori Verderame

Liquor or spirit bottles and figural flasks were made to hold spirits. These bottles, sometimes also called bitters bottles, stored liquids that are approximately 40% alcohol.

Bottles are evaluated on the open market by their age, color, condition, form, and type. Knowing how certain bottles are made can be helpful to date a bottle. Some collectors choose bottles based on where they were made, their color, their shape, or their design and marks.

Bitters Spirit bottleWhen it comes to appraised value of liquor or spirit bottles and figural flasks, the most expensive bottles are usually early American bitters bottles and figural flasks. Most of these types of bottles were made in the Eastern part of the United States in the mid 1800s. Some of these bottles were in the form of indians, ears of corn, fish, etc. Good examples that are in good condition often command as much as $1,000 to $4,000 depending on market, proper identification, and other factors. The most valuable bitters bottle to come to market in recent history was a Bryant’s Stomach Bitters bottle from the 1860s worth $60,000. After reading this true story about a bottle sold on eBay as told to me, you’ll make sure you get an accurate appraisal for your bottles before selling them.

Types of Figural flasks

Figural flasks can command even more money, upwards of $5,000 to $10,000 for good examples produced from 1815 to 1865. Figural flasks commonly featured the embossed faces of United States Presidents, eagles, flags, and other patriotic themes. Historical flasks featured symbols of patriotism and images of famous politicians, military heroes, etc. Some of the most collectible historical flasks feature George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, etc. These flasks were produced in the early years of the 1800s. The height of flask production took place in the 1840s. Specialty flask forms range in value from $15,000 to $60,000.

What to Look For

Look for a bottle with a unique color like cobalt blue. The traditional and typical colors for flasks were aqua, green, and brown/amber. Cobalt blue flasks were rare and thus, valuable. Condition, maker, and identifying markings all impact value.

The age of your bottle will impact its value too so find out how old your bottle is and learn about various colors, logos, impressions, and forms of bottles which show age.

Some of the well-known makers were Kensington Glass Works of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Connecticut’s Pitkin Glass Works where Pitkin flasks were made, and William Steigel who produced chestnut flasks from his shop in Manheim, near Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Get an online appraisal of your Old Bottles and Flasks from Dr. Lori.