Here’s an interesting little tale that begins back in August, 2014, when the glass shown below first listed on eBay.
It’s an etched barrel glass in rather sad condition with abundant evidence of wear, including a badly scuffed and worn inscription. It’s hard to figure out what the glass is from the listing photo, but it reads: “I. Michelson / & Bros. / FINE LIQUORS”. It was offered for sale by seller id candles-01, with an opening bid of $19.99. Given the condition, it’s not surprising that the glass went unsold and it did not relist that year, at least not on my watch.
Just to give you a little history – I. Michelson & Bros. were located in Cincinnati, OH., with the company name dating the glass to between 1904 and 1916. The company produced several different glasses; I hadn’t seen this variant before, but that’s not unusual given how few pre-pro glasses are “listed” (i.e., featured in the old and new testament of Barb Edmonson’s shot-glass bible).
Fast forward to June 19, 2019 and the glass relists with a different photo under the seller id jp-tech. Note that the wear pattern is identical. Wear patterns may get worse over time but they do not reverse, so they are as unique as fingerprints.
This time around it listed with an opening bid of $65 and it was jumped on the next day by bidder id i***d. Six days later, it was sniped in one by c***k and sold for $87.78.
So what the heck happened in 5 years that turned a $5 glass (an estimate based on origins and condition) into a $87.78 glass?
The auction title pretty much sums it up “UNLISTED Shape PRE-PRO WHISKEY Shot GLASS – I. MICHELSON & BROS 1904-16 TEXAS !!”
What happened was that Jack Sullivan wrote a blog post about the Michelsons that posted in April 2015. In his post, he noted that Abraham Michelson exited the firm around 1894 and set up on his own as A. Michelson, Wholesale Liquor Dealer, in Austin TX, which is presumably where the TX connection comes from.
The seller notes that “This glass was found just outside of Round Top, Texas during the last Warrenton/Round top antique weekend event so thats why I’m saying this glass is probably from the Austin, Texas area.”, which is not exactly a reassuring provenance given that antique dealers travel the length and breadth of the country hopping from one show to the next during the course of the year.
Note that Abraham died from diabetes in 1903, which predates the “UNLISTED Shape PRE-PRO WHISKEY Shot GLASS – I. MICHELSON & BROS 1904-16 TEXAS !!” glass by a year.
Did I. Michelson & Bros. sell hooch in Austin in later years? Probably. Did The Hayner Distilling Co., and The Rieger Co., and The Schweyer Co., and hundreds of other national wholesalers sell hooch in TX? Probably. Are Hayner glasses TX glasses? I don’t think so.
I know others may have contrary opinions, but imho a glass tracks back to the home base of the distiller and wholesaler, not the vendor. A TX glass is, by definition, inscribed with the name of a TX town or city, or with a brand name that is owned and registered by a TX distiller, wholesaler/rectifier, or vendor.
Suddenly there’s a lot to talk about and time has a way of slipping by, so I’m switching to mini-post mode in the hopes of catching up in between a seemingly endless series of work deadlines.
In the last SOTW, I was reflecting on the fact that there has been a seismic shift in shot-glass values, with traditionally high-end glasses selling for about half of their previous hammer prices, whereas the solid lower-end glasses have been steadily building value in recent months. I was using Russ Beem’s glasses as a case in point, and his latest (and seemingly his last?) set of glasses to appear on eBay further underscore this continuing trend.
The image of the Old Maid glass above is a little out of focus, but gives you a reasonably good sense of its appeal. This is a text-only glass, so that places its value in the $10-$30 range. It’s from the Orene Parker Co. of Covington, KY., a company that gave us one of the classic pre-pro glasses that every serious collector should own (they’re common and easy to come by – get one if you don’t already own one, and hold out for mint condition).
I’ve seen examples of the rarer glass above sell 10 times since 2001, with the price fetched averaging around $25, which would be consistent with a text-only glass valuation.
If you don’t have one of these glasses in the display case already, you need to find one, because it’s probably in the top 1% in terms of desirability. It’s a deceptive glass – it really doesn’t look like it’s worth bidding on when it pops up on eBay, but once you see one in vitro (so to speak), you’ll come to appreciate the boldness of the font and the way it captures the essence of pre-pro glass collecting.
Deciphering the old-timey fonts used on pre-pro glasses can occasionally prove to be a challenge, even to seasoned collectors, but I had to laugh at this eBay auction title. The well-known yellowstone shot glass was billed as a “Dr. Nowstone”. Wait, I don’t think I have a Dr. Nowstone in the collection – mental note to snipe that one….
For those of you interested in such things, eBay has lapsed into its traditional summer lull. A total of 135 glass auctions closed in the last month. Of these, 66 failed to attract a bid. The average price of glasses sold was $37.81.
Most glasses of interest in the past few weeks have been offered by water_works, a long-time collector better known to eBay regulars under his bidder id rwbeem. Russ has filled his showcase with many fine glasses over the years but is currently trimming his collection. Most notable among the recent offerings were a Red Top Rye highball and a “Standard of the World”.
Red Top Rye glasses are highly sought-after and the spinning top is etched in red, so it was a fair bet that the glass would sell in the three figures. rwbeem picked this off eBay for $271 back in January 2015; this time around it changed hands for a still-respectable $172.50.
The “Standard of the World” does not look like much, but it’s from Richmond, VA. VA is one of those states with a loyal collector following, and anything pre-pro from there can produce some “interesting” bidder action (think blood spatters and gore). This particular glass first shows up in my database in October 2016, when hottshots, who was selling off junkmoney’s collection, got an impressive $350.oo for it. This time around, it sold for $155.38. I’ve never seen another example of this glass – so far as we know, it’s a sole survivor from S G Atkins Co.
Yours truly picked up a couple of Russ’ offerings also. The Pellham Club below is from Boston, a city notable for producing some outstanding picture glasses (second only to San Francisco in that respect; by way of example, look at the Sphinx Rye or Owl Whiskey from Walsh & Co.) and also for being an East coast city that, along with New York and Philadelphia, few collectors find sufficiently interesting to compete for glasses from here.
The Pellham Club has an interesting eBay pedigree. glasspicker sold it to bluroc back in October, 2010 for $172.50, and bluroc passed it on to lakerdude33 for $175.00 in December, 2012. Lakerdude33 listed it at $150 in September 2014, and rwbeem picked it up as a Best price offer. Lakerdude33 tried to get it back again this time around, but oldwhiskey had the higher bid at $77.99.
As you’ll have gathered from these auctions, the price on the good glasses has dropped significantly in recent years as the field of pre-pro collectors has been whittled down by deaths and people cashing in their collections. Interestingly, the price on solid shots at the other end of the spectrum has about doubled and is rising steadily, which can only be a good sign since it shows a growing interest and appreciation in these old advertising glasses.
I recently had cause to consult Dale Murschell’s website, Cumberland glass, only to discover that it had been redirecting to a mattress coupon site for a year or so now. Dale authored the self-published book “George Truog and His Art” and his website had brief histories of the once-great glass companies working in Cumberland, MD. back in the day. Dale also had a piece on Truog’s Maryland Glass Etching Works. George Truog (GT) designed the inscriptions on many of the older, fancier, and more desirable shot glasses, so he remains of interest to the pre-pro collecting community. Rather than let his article slide into the mists of internet time, I’ve recreated his history of GT’s company here.
MARYLAND GLASS ETCHING WORKS
by Dale Murschell
George Truog (1861-1932) founded the Maryland Glass Etching Works of Cumberland, Md. in 1893 after arriving from the Seneca Glass Factory in Ohio. He had worked in Cumberland previously, at “The Cumberland” Glass Works. His company was in the glass decorating business which used acid to surface etch glass. The factory was on N. Centre street where Buchanan Lumber company was located (now occupied by TWR Communications). George was very artistic and his office and factory portrayed his characteristics with a rock garden, fountain and fish pond outside as well as an inside fountain and aquarium. This grandiose atmosphere was an indication of a business doing very well. He had been born in Italy, and spent his younger years in Switzerland.
His business was decorating the outside of tumblers, pitchers, vases, and lemonade sets, among other things, with words, flowers, animals, or other designs. Early methods of inscribing or decorating glassware included embossing, engraving, sandblasting, acid etching, imprinting by stamp, and hand painting. Embossing required an expensive mold, while cutting and engraving did not allow ease of making letters. Stamping with color pigment could be rubbed off, hand painting was time consuming, and pyroglazing with enamel had not been developed yet. Although some painting had been done on glass, it was not stable. George Truog’s acid etching was there to stay. He was able to be superior to his competition he would advertise that his etching was guaranteed to not come off. He would advertise that etched glassware was merely a sideline with all other factories, but was his specialty because etched glassware was all he made at his factory. He was able to compete with foreign trade in Bohemia because of his excellent designs. Bohemia was the world center for decorated glass. His wares were sent everywhere in the Western hemisphere. His method was to have the design engraved in a metal plate. A resist, normally bee’s wax, was coated on the plate. The excess wax was removed from the high points of the plate, which was the desired design. A tissue was then used to transfer the wax design to the glassware. When the tissue was removed, the wax stayed on the glassware, leaving the desired design with no protective wax. The glassware was then exposed to acid, which attacked the unprotected glass. When the etching was deep enough, the glassware was removed from the acid, and the wax and acid were washed off, leaving only the desired design.
In the early years, he used sales agents like Fred Seeman of St. Louis, MO, and William Snyder of NYC. Later, he sent out his own advertising. This advertising was done by George, printed from steel engravings, all designed and engraved on steel by himself. In 1905, he sent out complimentary cards containing a picture of his daughter, Rita, with the slogan “My Papa’s Compliments and mine, too”. The cards also contained George’s elegant signature. George also advertised in various glass trade journals.
Many of his customers were distillers and brewers, although he also did The Lord’s Prayer, America, and a lot of other patriotic slogans. He did popular sayings and flower or animal designs. An article in the Pottery and Glassware Reporter indicates the product line included glassware, blown and pressed tumblers, stemware, bottles, table sets, and lamp chimneys.
Many of the items produced, which George had a personal hand in, would contain the initials “GT” or “G Truog” or “George Truog”. The “GT” would sometimes be in a leaf or a word tail on the right side. Sometimes the initials would stand alone below the etching. Sometimes the G would be over top of the T. The full last name was mostly on larger things like vases or pitchers.
The blanks for these items were most likely obtained from “The Cumberland” glass factory in the early years, which was a few blocks away on N. Mechanic St. As “The Cumberland” changed to National Glass Co. and then Wellington, George became associated with Potomac Glass Co., which also was very close to his factory. With George’s help, Potomac carried a line of acid etched glassware. George obtained design patents, which were assigned to the Potomac Glass Co. like design patent 44,043, a flower design on a drinking vessel, issued April 10, 1913. There are three pages of etched designs in the Potomac Glass Co. catalog, but the designs are different than those offered by the Maryland Glass Etching Works.
While George Truog was doing well with his own business at the turn of the century, he undertook building one of the finest homes in Cumberland. It is of Swiss or Italian design and is located at 230 Baltimore Ave. It reportedly cost about $50,000 at the time. The building was used as a funeral home for the past 60 years. With a downswing of his business, the huge cost of the grandiose house, and a marital court defeat, George lost his factory and his home in 1909 to the courts. George continued to make etched items, either by himself or with just a few helpers, in one room shops, for the next 20 years. By 1918, he was confined to a wheel chair. George was living in a one room apartment on Holland Street.
The last few years, (1927-1930) George had a shop at the Bennett Transfer building with 8 or 10 girls doing the work. This was his final effort in trying to regain his past business stature. Unfortunately, the marketplace for etched glassware had changed. With prohibition, there no longer was a demand from distillers and brewers. The demand for Victorian type decorated tumblers had waned, and the desire to develop another thriving business was defeated, even though the product was still top grade. When George could not keep his business going, he gave up and went to Wash. DC, where he eventually died. George had donated his 5 foot tall body to the University of Maryland.
George Truog’s overall downfall in life was probably caused by his lavish living including the house that he built. For about 15 years, George Truog was able to really enjoy life. His business was producing what was probably the best quality product of its time, and he was apparently making good money. But by 1908, his customers either found alternative approaches to having their glassware decorated, or they found a cheaper source to get adequate goods. In any case, the superiority of the market share of the Maryland Glass Etching Works diminished, and so did the life of a great artistic man.
Etched tumblers decorated by the Maryland Glass Etching Co. These examples all contain George Truog’s initials.
When it comes to growing a collection via the internet, eBay undoubtedly offers both the biggest selection and a seemingly never-ending supply of interesting glass.
I’m constantly surprised by the number of previously-unknown glasses that show up on eBay on a regular basis. Sellers will often note that they are “unlisted”, which I take to mean that they were not cataloged by Barbara Edmonson during her compilation of HSG and OASG. HSG and OASG were — and still are –remarkable works, but the two books together listed around 3,000 unique glasses. The shot glass database here at pre-pro.com currently lists 4,653 glasses, only about 50% of which appear in either HSG or OASG. The sales database currently lists 7,621 unique glass variants, less than half of which are in the shot glass database, so now there are something on the order of 10,000 glasses known and cataloged, with new ones appearing for sale on a weekly basis.
Many collectors either do not have the time, resources, desire, or patience to hunt glasses on eBay, however, which raises the question of where else one might go looking for glasses on the web. Unfortunately there are few alternatives. Etsy (an eBay subsidiary) regularly has a handful pre-pro glasses for sale (try searching for “antique shot glass“), but few turn out to be bargains. John Crary always has a few glasses listed on his North Country Bottle Shop website, but they tend to be a mix of pre-pro, post-pro, and medicines, so ask before buying. John regularly cycles these glasses through eBay also. As I’ve mentioned before, Glassworks Auctions occasionally has pre-pro glasses on offer, although their main focus is bottle and jugs.
I periodically search the web for other sources of glass, but there are precious few. Sites maintained by, or affiliated with, antique malls occasionally have a glass or two for sale, but these are few and far between and difficult to find amid the general websearch clutter.
Some of the more reliable alternative sources of pre-pro glasses (aside from the sales pages here) are brick-and-mortar auction galleries, many of which feature live online bidding through LiveAuctioneers. This past week, The Ohio Company Antiques and Art presented an auction entitled “Bottoms Up! Whiskey adv., snuffs, &more” which featured a collection of 160 pre-pro shot glasses plus a highball or two.
As small collections go, it was an interesting one. Although I’d seen most of these glasses before, it did feature some uncommon ones, including several glasses from Texas and rarer George Truog novelties. Texas glasses can be hard to find.
The auction was unfortunate in that most of the glasses appeared to be, erm, in “less-than-pristine” condition, although I suspect that that was more a reflection of the presentation than the glasses themselves. Glasses photographed on a contrasty background have to be carefully washed and dried with a lint-free cloth, because even a speck of dust can diminish desirability. I picked up one of the lots; I’ll report back here on condition once it eventually arrives.
The most interesting offering was what appears to be a larger rocks glass from Jos. Werner & Co. of St. Louis. This is not one that I’d seen before and looks to be an older glass. The hammer price for the lot (including 23% buyer’s premium) was $67.65.
The lot that I was most curious about was one featuring a Bristol Distributing Co., VA. dose glass and a Casper CO, NC. whiskey glass, both of which sell high on eBay.
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.
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“).
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!
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, Rich Lucchesi, 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, 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.