View Full Version : pre-Pro Whiskey

05-23-2004, 13:52
Some of you may be aware that I maintain a web-site devoted to the worship of shot glasses that were given out as a means of advertising whiskey and its purveyors in the period leading up to Prohibition. The site is actually much more than that: it also contains databases that are constantly being updated with information on the old distillers, rectifiers and wholesalers. Information comes from shot and bottle collectors, research texts and often from grandchildren of the original company officers.

The site regularly gets questions from visitors. They typically fall into two groups. The first asks if we have any glasses from a particular company for sale - these usually come from descendants of the company of interest. The second group includes questions along the lines of "I have an unopened bottle of brand X dated 1916. Please can you tell me what it's worth and do you know anyone interested in buying it?" Which is the reason for this posting.

Are there any general guidelines when it comes to determining value -- and is anyone here interested in buying it?

Robin Preston

05-23-2004, 13:59
Are there any general guidelines when it comes to determining value -- and is anyone here interested in buying it?

Generally no, there are no general guidelines used in determining a bottles value. It's basically what the market will allow or what someone is willing to pay for a specific bottle. And is anyone here interested... I guess some may be, but it would depend on what it is a bottle of and how much is being asked for it. Also, is it/are they sealed and full? Me personally, I only collect certain bottles that interest me and they have to be sealed and full. Hope this info helps.

05-23-2004, 14:15
Thanks - I have seen several sealed bottles go down on eBay but prices tend to be erratic, which is why I wondered about guidelines. I don't have any interest in it myself, but if someone is I'd like to be able to connect owners with potential buyers.

Here's the latest request:

"I hope you can help, I have a bottle (still sealed) of The Blockdale Pennsylvania Pure Rye Whiskey (Pint) It was made in the Spring of 1916 and Bottled in the Fall of 1922.

It was produced by The East Penn Distillery No. 10, 23rd District Penn."

If anyone's interested in being put in touch with the sender of this e-mail, please drop me a line.

Robin Preston

05-23-2004, 14:56
Old bottles that I have found for collectors have fetched in the hundreds of dollars...Collectors will give "big bucks" for rare and no longer made bottlings...That's a fact in my personal dealings with folks looking for stuff...

There is a bottling out "right now", one of the Van Winkle (23 year) that collectors on this forum have paid, $200.00.

http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif Bettye Jo http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

05-23-2004, 16:33
Another criteria, though perhaps just a personal one:
I'm what I'd call a collector-imbiber -- I like to drink bourbon, too. So, except for an exceptional deal where I can really get a rarity at a lowball price, I'm really after bourbons not so rare that I'm afraid to open the bottle. In fact, generally, I try to have a second bottle procured before I open the first. I don't mind paying a premium for 'hard-to-find'. But I'm not really interested in 'impossible-to-find-another' unless it's the steal of the century.

05-24-2004, 07:39
Welcome, Robin. Your web site is a great contribution to the American whiskey community and I hope you will consider making this your second home on the web.

I get inquiries like that all the time too. Here is my boilerplate answer:

A precondition for assessing the value of anything is a sufficiently active secondary market for the type of object being assessed. In other words, the assessor has to have knowledge of recent sales of the same or similar objects in order to estimate what a future sale of the object might bring. No such secondary market exists for American whiskey, therefore it is impossible to make an accurate assessment of your bottles or of any potentially collectible bottles of American Whiskey.

This is not to say there arenít collectors. There are and consequently there is a small secondary market, but it is too small and diffused to be useful for estimating value.

Recently, a secondary market has begun to emerge on the internet auction site eBay and I encourage anyone who wants to sell something like this, or who just wants to test the water, to try listing it there. The few collectors of whom I am aware use eBay for some of their transactions.

On eBay and at the annual auction to benefit the Oscar Getz Museum in Bardstown, rare bottles sell in the low hundreds of dollars. The brand doesnít seem to matter.

05-24-2004, 12:49
On eBay and at the annual auction to benefit the Oscar Getz Museum in Bardstown, rare bottles sell in the low hundreds of dollars. The brand doesnít seem to matter.

Just remember that that money goes to help the musuem and that could also be part of why people don't mind bidding alot of money. I have seen items that were sold there sell for a considerable amount less elsewhere, eBay included. I remember in 2002 someone paid over $200 for a bottle of Pappy 23 when that particular release was still available online for $130, some places a bit less.

05-24-2004, 14:47
Thanks Chuck - I appreciate the comments and the words of wisdom from you, Mark, et al.

I did recall reading that there were auctions and tastings of pre-Pro bottlings - that's what lead me to believe that there might be a market. Perhaps it was information I picked up diuring during a visit to Bardstown -- I don't remember exactly.

Personally, I'd have to be pretty sure of the orgins of a pre-Pro bottle, particularly since reading a couple of handbooks used to guide the work of the old Rectifiers and Blenders!

But I can easily imagine that somebody somewhere collects vintage bottling and this site would seem like a natural place for them to congregate. Perhaps in time it will become so. In the meantime, logging eBay auctions may be helpful in answering the questions of those who find themselves in possession of a bottle or two.


05-24-2004, 14:59
Absolutely correct. At best, the Getz auction represents a kind of high water mark, especially for things such as prohibition-era bottles which actually do have some resale value (as opposed to autographed contemporary bottles, which have no resale value and are strictly about making a donation). In other words, no one is likely to pay more for something than what it will bring at the Getz auction.

05-24-2004, 15:11
The people who contact me are never collectors themselves. They invariably are people who found some bottles when they were cleaning out the house after grandpa died and want to know if they can now sell them and retire.

I don't think I have ever seen a pre-pro bottle come up at the Getz auction. What comes up there is medicinal whiskey bottled and sold during Prohibition. I have encountered very few genuine pre-pro bottles. One person I know who has a couple has encountered exactly what you suggest--the work of rectifiers.

I guess it depends on what you call "pre-pro." Personally, I would only call it pre-pro if it was bottled and sold prior to prohibition, not merely distilled prior to prohibition. I don't consider a whiskey to be "made" until it is in the bottle.

05-24-2004, 17:29
(as opposed to autographed contemporary bottles, which have no resale value and are strictly about making a donation).

I'm with you Chuck, you would think that a 'modern' regular ol' bottle with just a signature wouldn't fetch much in the regular market as compared to a fundraising auction, but some people pay alot over retail for that sig. I saw quite a few bottles of Wild Turkey Russell's Reserve and Wild Turkey 101 sell for near double (sometimes triple) their retail cost simply because of JR's signature on them... And the money didn't goto any worthwhile donations except someones fat wallet. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/lol.gif