Australian Bottle Collectables Review

I am on the mailing list for ABCR Auctions which is conducting an auction now. ABCR is headed up by Travis Dunn. Travis is based out of Victoria, Australia.

Travis got me thinking about some of the Austrailian Bitters we typically see stateside. I even own a few including the Very Rare Backwards Philadelphia Hop Bitters (pictured) which is noted by Ring/Ham as follows:

P 90 PHILADELPHIA HOP BITTERS Circa  1880 – 1890, Motif black man holding a bottle / PHILADELPHIA ( au ) / HOP / BITTERS // f // f // f // 9 1/4 x 2 1/2 (6 3/8) 3/16  Square, Aqua, LTC, Applied mouth, Very Rare, Lettering reversed. This brand was distributed for several years in the 1880’s in Australia and New Zealand. It is believed the proprietor was Rock, Thompsett & Co. who also put out New York Hop Bitters.

Philadelphia Hop Bitters

Philadelphia Hop Bitters - Meyer Collection

Travis further provided this information in an email this morning:

[Travis Dunn] For some reason it seemed popular to name some of our early bitters with American names, we think it may have been to cater for a large population of Americans who came over for the gold rush.

Most of the bitters bottles are very rare to exceptionally rare. The New York hop bitters in aqua (new mould) is quite possibly the most common, comes in two sizes and sells in Australia for around $100 or a bit less for a reasonable example. This comes in green as well in the ‘new mould’ which means there are no recessed panels, the green ones have been in Glass Works auctions, they tend to sell for around $5k. New Yorks also come in an old mould, with the panels being recessed a bit like the Dr Soules Hop Bitters. In aqua they are extremely rare, probably sell for around $2 to $3 k. Then they come in a range of colours, I have seen green, brown, yellow, black, and many shades in between, all as rare as each other and sell anywhere fromn $5 to $10k.

There is a Philadelphia Hop Bitters, this is from a Brisbane Company and has a negro trade mark, this comes in a standard version and a reverse writing version. Both are obtainable, but sell for between $500 to $1000.  Broken examples have been found in amber, no known complete ones.

St Louis Hop Bitters have a flag trade mark, like most of the American named bitters. All of their bottles are exceptionally rare. There is a version in aqua much like the standard New York Hop Bitters, written across the bottle in aqua. These are worth a few grand plus. Then there are coloured versions, embossed in a flag down the bottle in recessed panels again, these come in colours from aqua through to black again and are worth thousands in each case.

Boston Hop Bitters are very similar with the words in a flag down the bottle in recessed panels. These come in aqua (maybe worth $2k or so), amber (not that rare – can pick them up for under a grand), green (worth a lot) and possibly the best bottle in Australia – a cobalt blue example. Who knows what this is worth, there is only one known (there was two but one was destroyed in a house fire).

The Steane’s American Hop Bitters is an extremely rare aqua bottle from Melbourne, no trade mark, but highly sought after.

Milwaukee Bitters, in my mind is one of the best too. There were rumours of a couple of coloured ones being around for years, never to come to fruition until I secured one of the two a couple of years ago. There are two aqua examples known, these have an American Eagle down the front panel. The two coloured ones rumoured were found forty years ago by a non collector who thouht they were worth a fortune, this collector passed on, left them to her brother who contacted us. I got one, my mate got the other. My mates was a green brown colour. Mine is just dark brown. Both with the eagle, both simply stunning bottles. All of these bottles mentioned are cabin bitters.

There are a few other less American sounding ones around in Australia, but I think the above ones are the more interesting ones for US bitters collectors such as yourself.
I did get details of all the known examples for Bill Ham when he was doing his supplement, so they are pretty much all listed in there, but only with line drawings it is sometimes hard to gain an appreciation of the true beauty of some of these pieces.

Cheers, Travis

Travis sent me these cool pictures yesterday…

Gippsland Bitters

American Hop Bitters

Milwaukee Bitters









Royal Hop Bitters

Gordons Sarsaparilla

Johnsons Sarsaprilla

About Ferdinand Meyer V

Ferdinand Meyer V is a native of Baltimore, Maryland and has a BFA in Fine Art and Graphic Design from the Kansas City Art Institute and School of Design. Ferdinand is the founding Principal of FMG Design, a nationally recognized design consultation firm. Ferdinand is a passionate collector of American historical glass specializing in bitters bottles, color runs and related classic figural bottles. He is married to Elizabeth Jane Meyer and lives in Houston, Texas with their daughter and three wonderful grandchildren. The Meyers are also very involved in Quarter Horses, antiques and early United States postage stamps. Ferdinand is the past 6-year President of the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors and is one of the founding members of the FOHBC Virtual Museum.
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