Fab or Fake?

Now there’s a question.

Very occasionally, someone gets an idea into their head to create a “fantasy glass” and put it on eBay to make a buck or two. eBay’s motto is “Caveat Emptor” after all, and there’s many a gullible punter trawling the web eager to be fleeced. Mercifully, the fakes have been easy to spot so far and the collecting community is small (= low financial incentive), so we’ve been blessed with knowledge that if a glass is billed as being pre-pro and it looks pre-pro, we can be fairly confident that it is indeed the genuine article.

Those of you new to the hobby may not realize that the thin-walled glasses that were so commonly used as vehicles for advertising in pre-pro years are extremely difficult to make in modern times. The glass-blowing machines used to produce these glasses by the gross and that were so prevalent back in the early 1900’s no longer exist. The corporate owners of the Jack Daniel brand tried to reproduce them to create a commemorative glass back in the late 60’s and, in so doing, proved just how difficult it is to make convincing thin-walled whiskey tasters in bulk.

So, if you’re an enterprising faker, what do you do? If you’ve been out trawling antique malls and hunting pre-pro shots in the wild, you’ll know that there are many thin-walled blanks available and just  waiting to be picked up for $2-$3. These are the genuine article and they are just crying out for a fake label to be applied.

All of which brings me to the topic of this latest post.

This “Raleigh / For Men of Brains” glass was listed on July 29, 2019 by diggerdaveb for an opening bid of $29. Digger Dave describes it as follows:

“This is a rare deep wheel cut Raleigh Whiskey advertising shot glass from the pre prohibition era of the early 1900s. From Einstein Bros of Cincinnati, Ohio who registered the Raleigh Whiskey brand in 1905….This awesome glass has a picture of Sir Walter Raleigh cut into the glass!

RALEIGH FOR MEN OF BRAINS with Sir Walter Raleigh all wheel cut engraved into the glass on front….thin wall shot glass….2 3/8″tall….Sparkling near mint condition with only one teeny tiny nick on the top inside edge of rim. You can hardly even see it and can barely feel it with your fingernail. No other nicks or damage. Shiny clean. About the finest possible example of this very scarce pre pro picture glass! I have never seen or heard of another one like it…Raleigh Whiskey was registered in 1905 by Einstein Bros of Cincinnati, Ohio. It is interesting to note the Einstein name and “Men of Brains” motto connection…”

diggerdaveb usually lists glasses as a buy-it-now, so seeing it list as a regular auction was unusual for him, which is interesting in itself, but what the heck is it? As he notes, “I have never seen or heard of another one like it… “. Me neither. I’ve seen and/or owned tens of thousands of pre-pro glasses over the years and I’ve never seen one like it either, so what the heck is it?

It’s difficult to tell for sure from listing photos, but I would very much doubt that it’s a wheel-etched glass. The design is too intricate – wheel etching was typically used to create souvenir glasses to order, such as the “Don’t Drown The Hog” glasses. The most intricate design I’ve seen is on a “Free Trade” glass, as shown below, but it’s still pretty crude by comparison with the Raleigh above.

One possibility is that it’s a laser-etched glass, and since I’m pretty sure that there were no lasers around in the early 1900’s, that raises the possibility of it being a fake.

diggerdaveb comments that “It is interesting to note the Einstein name and “Men of Brains” motto connection…”

Albert Einstein was a young man working in Switzerland during the pre-pro years. Although he developed his theories of relativity during this period and received a Nobel prize in 1921 for discoveries relating to photoelectric effects, it seems doubtful that he was a household name yet. Would your average whiskey-buying punter link the Raleigh glass with Einstein? Probably not, but maybe a faker thought it was a clever poke at collectors. Or maybe it’s just coincidence.

In reality, I think the Raleigh is a hot-needle etched glass or debossed glass, such as found on the steamship and Spokane silver grill shots shown below.

This is a very uncommon way of creating an glass inscription. Although it’s ideal for labeling glasses intended for routine daily use (the needle-etched labels do not fade or wash off over time, unlike the common white-frosted labels) the labels do not stand out well against a background. It takes some effort to be able to get a good photographic image of them for this reason, and they do not stand out well in display cases.

So, to return to the title of this post, is the Raleigh glass Fab or Fake? It’s probably neither. I doubt that it’s a fake, although I’d have to be able to examine it in person to judge. It’s an interesting inscription and it would have been a winner as white-frosted label, but it mainly has curiosity value as a needle-etched glass.

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