A 150-year-old blue Cassin’s Grape Brandy Bitters bottle so rare that for years many doubted its very existence has sold for a staggering $155,000 at the Part 1 sale of the Ken Fee collection of mostly Western bitters bottles, held November 29th by American Bottle Auctions.
The Cassin’s Bitters is arguably one of the greatest Western bitters blown. Made in San Francisco in 1867 and 1868, its shape was meant to resemble a cello. The first variant of the bottle had thin corners and because of the fragility of the bottle only a few mint examples remain intact today. The second variant eliminated the fragile lines of the bottle and some still survive today, although there are still believed to be only a half-dozen or so in undamaged condition.
This example, though, was a marvel, regardless of age or history, and the only example known in this unique blue color. In addition, the bottle was in mint condition with no discernible flaws, a rarity for any bottle this old but especially important for the only blue Cassin’s known to date. It was expected to do well, with an estimate of $75,000-$100,000, but the final price blew past that to bring in $155,000.
“No one had seen Ken Fee’s collection of over 300 bottles in four decades,” said Jeff Wichmann of American Bottle Auctions. “It only came to light following his death in November of 2018. I’ve been working with the family ever since.” Many of the bottles are outstanding examples that brought a few hundred to many thousands of dollars.
Part 2 of the Ken Fee collection will go up to auction online February 14th and end February 23rd.