Looking for Consignments

Holabird Western Americana Collections still looking for consignments for the FOHBC 2016 Sacramento National Antique Bottle Convention & Expo 49er Bottle Jamboree Auction.


The fabulous rare Gold Dust Whiskey (pictured above)

Of the five different embossed Gold Dust whiskies, this is the John Van Bergen variety, the oldest and first of the five. John Thomas, in his master work Whiskey Bottles of the Old West, discusses the bottle at length (Catalog number 154). Dated as 1871-1874, it is one of the oldest of the Western embossed whiskey bottles. With full face embossing, plus the pictorial nature of the bottle with a horse, and the great name of “Gold Dust Whiskey”, which renders it an inescapable part of the California Gold Rush, this bottle is absolutely one of the most desirable western bottles.

When Thomas initially published his work in 1969, there were only about five examples known. By the time the final reprint and update came out in 2002 after his death, only three more had surfaced. Thus in approximately 47 years of intense bottle digging in the West, only eight specimens are known and the bottle remains one of the best of the best.

This bottle was recently found in an estate sale in California. It has never been in the ground and never been mishandled. It has the original cork still in place, and this cork is a testament to its originality and perfection. There are no chips. There are no scratches. There are no bubble bursts. There are no flashes. There are no chunks of charcoal in the glass. There is no “case wear.” There are no chips or wear to the letters, to the lip, or to the base anywhere. It is simply perfect in all respects. On a scale of 100, this is a perfect 100.

For color and visual appeal, it can’t get much better. The bottle is very heavily whittled. It is so whittled that you can’t read the embossing from the back. The color is that “early” yellow-green we sometimes see in these really early applied top whiskey bottles. In fluorescent light, it looks green. But it really is a yellow-green.

John Van Bergen got his start during the California Gold Rush in San Francisco in the late 1850’s. In 1870, parallel to huge discoveries of gold and silver in Nevada which brought with it a massive influx of prospectors to the West (all clamoring for whiskey!), Van Bergen went after one of the popular Kentucky whiskey brands, Gold Dust Whiskey, made by the Barkhouse brothers in Louisville. The company registered the brand in late 1871. John’s brother Nicholas took over the reins in 1874, leaving future whiskey bottle collectors a tough task of finding a rare bottle that was only used for basically two years.

To put this bottle in perspective, only eight embossed western whiskey bottles date back to 1871, rendering the John Van Bergen bottle as one of the first seven embossed Western Whiskey bottles. Only fifteen bottles date back to 1872.

Western Whiskey collector Fred Kille stated when he first saw this bottle in my office “The is one of the finest of all the whiskies. Forget if you already have a Gold Dust. This is superior. You’ll have to own this one.”

Estimate $10,000- $20,000