Collector's Corner: Shot Glasses
By Michele Alice
$1,325 for a shot glass? It's possible, especially if it's pre-Prohibition.
Before the passage of the Constitution's 18th Amendment (the "Volstead Act") which banned in the United States "the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors" beginning in 1920, hard liquors like whiskey were much more accessible and popular than today. Thousands of small and large distilleries dotted the country. There were barrooms, saloons and dealers everywhere, the only exceptions being those states like Kansas that became "dry" at various times. A consumer could even purchase liquor through the mail direct from a distillery!
Needless to say, competition was fierce, and many shot glasses were distributed at little or no charge as advertising pieces. Mass produced of thinner glass than those today, these pieces were not intended for heavy use and easily shattered, transforming survivors into rarities. Of the estimated 10,000 to 20,000 different shot glasses produced between the late 1890's and 1920, just 3,500 designs are still known to exist. The shot glass that recently sold at an online auction for $1,325? A circa 1910 Old Kentucky Home Club.
By the time Prohibition was repealed in 1933, most distilleries had either closed, converted to other products, or been absorbed by competitors, and the Golden Age of decorated shot glasses had long since ended.
Shot glasses are still being produced as advertising pieces for companies like Jack Daniels to commemorate events like the Kentucky Derby, and as souvenirs of places like Walt Disney World, but because they are much more plentiful in general they have values to match. In the secondary markets, most contemporary specimens, even in pristine condition, sell for just $1 to $10.
There are exceptions, however, for which collectors are willing to pay much more. These include cross collectibles like Coca-Cola shot glasses, Art Glass pieces made by companies like Tiffany, and "firsts." One particularly valuable first is a 1987 Kentucky Derby valued at over $1000.
Interested in learning more about this popular collectible? Check out the resources listed below.
And finally, an update to a previous column, Silver Coins on the Great Melts of 1979 and 1980: it appears to be happening again. For details, check out this piece by David C. Harper for Numismatic News: "Record Highs Bring Out Silver Sellers" - link.
The pre-Prohibition Collector's Resource Site - link - Great site has lots of info and pics. Check out "Shot of the Week," a glimpse at recent online auction results; the databases of dealers, distilleries, brands, and glasses; and the scans of Barbara Edmonson's books (Old Advertising Spirits: Glasses, and Historic Shot Glasses: The Pre-Prohibition Era) both now out of print. Also features "The Common Stuff," a regular column by Dick Bales.
"Sacramento Shot Glasses," by Steve Abbott - Link to PDF file - Article includes lots of pics of vintage whiskey advertising glasses.
Shotglass.org - link - Informative site includes "Displaying Your Collection," "What Is a Shot Glass?" links, more.
About the author:
Michele Alice is EcommerceBytes Update Contributing Editor. Michele is a freelance writer in the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts. She collects books, science fiction memorabilia and more! Email her at makalice @ adelphia.net eBay ID: Malice9
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