What a State of Affairs

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.

Caveat Emptor.

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.

Swings and roundabouts

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.

Russ picked this glass up for $23.19 back in April, 2013 and started this listing at $25, which was perfectly on target. It sold a week later for an eye-popping $127.50.

Yikes.

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.