Last week the blog discussed standards, and the who, what, where, when, and how of standards. Where does one go if someone wishes to know what “standards” are currently in place or exist? As of now, nowhere. Standards in the bottle world are incomplete or non-existent.   There is no source or place a person in the bottle world could go to get an answer that a majority in the bottle world would accept.

This week the blog turns its attention to pricing. Just as we see the lack of standards, so too is the issue of pricing. Here too there is no source to determine the proper price of an item in the bottle world. Looking at owl drug bottles being sold on Ebay, as an example, one sees the same bottle with the same conditions listed being sold for different prices. In effect there is no rationale as to how these prices are determined and requested. A glaring example is the one wing triangular cobalt Owl drug poison. One such example of this bottle appears on Ebay every day. Whether the sizing is different or the same the pricing varies from example to example. The individual selling the item determines its price no matter if that item is a duplicate of some other seller’s item and has a totally different price.

It is not the role of the blog to correct each and every item placed on Ebay in the Owl Drug category, or other categories, however, this blog will share with the audience when a situation is so bad or a member of this blog audience brings the item to the blog’s attention to comment on or needs clarification as we have done in the past. The blog’s role is to inform and educate.

Returning to the subject of pricing, one wonders if the buyer just accepts what the seller states as the price no matter whether it is reasonable or fair. It seems, that the only way that the price is considered too high is if that item does not sell. If at an auction, Ebay or otherwise, an item is put up for sale, the only fair pricing would be if the item started to sell at $9.99 and then the bidding would take it where the buyer(s) wanted it to go. Setting an arbitrary price is one that is left to the seller to determine whether it is fair or not. Often items are being sold at unbelievable prices that have never been appraised at their proper value. So now what is the difference between an appraisal and a manipulation of price? Experts in various fields of collecting make appraisals.   A furniture appraiser does not appraise jewelry, glassware, china, tools, or toys. He or she is specifically an expert in generally one area only. When an item is part of two or more areas, the appraiser will ask other experts in the field for their opinion and will come up with a joint appraisal. A perfect example can be seen on the TV show – Antiques Roadshow. For those of you who have not seen the show, catch a program or two. It will be very informative.

Legitimate appraisers always provide written documentation of the item they have examined and that appraisal is written on official stationery. The information contained in an appraisal is: description of the item; the artist; the maker; the manufacturer; the age of the item; rarity or common; and a range of value. The reason a range of value is given such as $2,000 to $4,000 is because no person can determine the exact value of an item. An expert must give a range because there are too many factors that can influence the price outcome when the item is put up for sale at an auction.

Manipulation of price refers to any person who puts a price on an item regardless of age, condition, rarity, description, quality, or maker. He alone determines the price based on what he thinks he should get out of the item. There is no thought given to the true value of the item itself. In many cases the individual has no idea what the true value is even when it is pointed out to him. In the Owl Drug category there are many items that have never been put up for sale and therefore their true value has never been established. This is one of the reasons why this category of collecting is so unique.

In the history of Owl Drug there were two glass companies that provided glass items for the Owl Drug Company of San Francisco. Of the two companies, the one company most used was W.T.Co., an abbreviation for Whitehall Tatum. As long as the Owl Drug Company was headquartered in San Francisco, Pacific Glass and Whitehall Tatum Glass Company were the two primary glass manufacturers. When the Owl Drug Company headquarters was moved to Chicago, Owl Drug changed glass manufacturers to Owen Glass. Owen Glass used a diamond embossed emblem with the letter I in the middle of the diamond and a numerical figure. These emblems are found only on Owl Drug items made in the Midwest. These items are much rarer with few of them produced.

DISCLAIMER: All information contained within this blog is copyrighted and the sole property of the Owl Drug Collectors Blog. Reprinting or reproducing any of the information must receive prior permission from the Owl Drug Collectors Blog.

The world we live in today is greatly affected by technology and in some sense it controls much of our lives. Each day we see or learn about new technological advances. It seems there is no end to the changes we see and will continue to see. As bottle collectors our bottle world has also changed dramatically.

Let us look at some of these changes that have occurred. The cell phone has allowed people to be in contact with one another and conduct buying and selling of bottles and collectibles from all over the world. The Internet and the introduction of websites and blogs allow us to read articles, view upcoming events, research subjects of interest, purchase and sell merchandise, and connect with people throughout the world. Face book and twitter have opened avenues of communication older generations never thought about and in some cases do not know how to use or refuse to use. Years ago you had to be present to participate in auctions. Today you can view the items up for auction on line, watch how the bidding takes place, place your bids on the cell phone and then watch to see the final bids and whether you have won or not. Another technological advance is the “SQUARE”. For someone in business, it has eliminated the need for electrical credit machines and printers. Instead a seller no matter where he is located, particularly if he is at a show or auction, can process a credit card transaction using the Square. It is especially convenient because buyers no longer have to carry large sums of money with them when trying to buy collectibles.

Goals and plans of action should be important aspects in everyone’s life. As parents we try to encourage our children to set goals and have a plan of action for their education, how to accomplish it, and work toward what position they want to attain. As adults we should try to set goals for the next year, the next five years and so on. Some people don’t label these goals as plans of action but instead call it “a bucket list” or something else.

As bottle or collectible collectors we too should have plans of action. This plan will help you decide what to buy, how to buy, when to buy, and where to buy. It will allow you to categorize the different areas of collecting that you are interested in. As part of the plan you should establish a monetary limit per item as well as what condition of the item is acceptable. For example the cost of most of the items would be less than $50.00 and would be in mint or near mint condition. Using this plan of acquiring these items should not interfere with the family and its budget. It would allow the family to continue as it had without severely, if at all changing, one’s life style. There should not be a severe impact on the family at all. It should be similar to setting up a savings plan.

Documents relating to drug companies, such as the Owl Drug, Sun Drug, Rexall, Liggett, United, and Walgreen to name a few, are extremely important. This documentation plays a paramount role in the companies’ startup, incorporation, leadership, policies, practices, procedures, takeover of other drug companies, and even in their disappearance. The failure to include documentation in one’s collections, if available, makes the collection incomplete. In most drug categories documentation is available and can be found.

Using the Owl Drug Company of San Francisco as an example, the following document, known as document #460, clearly identifies many of the major officers both of the corporation and the board of directors. You can see their names and positions in the letterhead of the document as well as the presence of the signature of RE Miller, principal leader of the company and one of the original founders of the Owl Drug Company of San Francisco. It is unique and is defined as a historical document.



A closer examination of the aforementioned document shows a unique letterhead know as the “flying owl”



This picture of the “flying owl” was the first symbol used by the Owl Drug Company of San Francisco to bring attention the Owl Drug store and its products. It was first used in 1892 and disappeared in 1906. After 1906 the “flying owl” was replaced with another symbol. The lettering displayed in this picture disappeared in 1906 as well. The “odd O” in the word Owl was written this way to prevent others from copying or faking it for use in other products that could be sold. At first glance the O may look lie a G but on closer inspection it is definitely an O written in the old English manner or style. Nothing was left to chance; it was all planned and designed according to their specifications. The sole purpose of these designs was to catch the attention of the customer and have their products and company’s name become part of the consumer’s memory. It was definitely an advertising strategy.   This design, like the document before, has been identified as a historic entity.

For those of you who have plans of action for collecting, it is essential for you to periodically update those plans and make the necessary changes. Don’t forget to include documentation and advertising items in your acquisitions.

DISCLAIMER: All information contained within this blog is copyrighted and the sole property of the Owl Drug Collectors Blog. Reprinting or reproducing any of the information must receive prior permission from the Owl Drug Collectors Blog.

Last week the blog posted a Tribute to Arnold Palmer, a golf and philanthropic legend, on his death.   Mr. Palmer had an enormous impact not only on golfers, the golf game, but also on people in general. He is considered the most important and influential golfer and individual spanning the 1960’s until his death on Sunday October 2, 2016. For those who keep track of the decades, Mr. Palmer’s influence spanned 5 decades, a record that will be hard to match or surpass.

On Tuesday 4 October 2016, the golf channel to which he was a co-founder, aired a memorial service in his honor. The service was held at St Vincent Basilica Parish at St Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa. Latrobe was of course Mr. Palmer’s hometown.   Family and close friends and associates of Arnold Palmer filled the Basilica to capacity. Some of the people present included legends of golf, business associates, PGA officials, member of the press, some government officials, and members of the golf channel. Many gave speeches about Mr. Palmer and their associations with him. Some of the most moving and heart warming speeches were given by Annika Sorenson, Jack Nicklaus, Jim Nance, Charlie Mechem, Tim Finchem, and Peter Dawson of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, Vince Gill, and last but certainly not least Sam Saunders, Mr. Palmer’s grandson. The audience shared laughter and tears as individuals got up to speak. Vince Gill played his guitar and sang “You’ve Got A Friend”. He told the audience that he was told by Mr. Palmer that he was his favorite singer, but then said that since Mr. Palmer was hard of hearing, he probably never heard the words of any song Vince sang.

As a golf enthusiast, I was very moved by the speeches and stories told by so many of Mr. Palmer’s family and associates. What Arnold Palmer did for golf and for his philanthropic endeavors will last much longer than his lifespan. He is truly a legend in every sense of the word. His generosity and caring about all people, common or otherwise, places him in a very special place and serves as an example for others to follow.

Switching gears, let us turn out attention to the bottle category of medicines. Medicines tend to be a less popular category among bottle collectors. Some examples of companies that specialized in medicine were The Owl Drug Company of San Francisco, The Sun Drug Company of Los Angeles, Rexall, an national and international company, and Walgreen’s just the name a few. Not only did these companies specialize in medicines but they also expanded the product base to complement their medicines. They had and still have a huge impact on the drug industry and the country in general. Each of these companies started as corporations as opposed to being family owned, single owned or partnership. As the years progressed and changes to the drug industry occurred, many of these single owner drug stores went out of business or were gobbled up by the larger drug corporations.

On of the problems bottle collectors of medicines deal with is the fact that there are so many examples of products, besides glass, these corporations produced or had produced for them. Thereby knowing what to collect, and how to collect can make it very confusing and difficult. A perfect example is the selection of Rexall products on sale on Ebay alone numbering in the thousands. Which ones do you choose? That choice can be very difficult if you do not know the history of the company and when the item was produced. Obviously the earlier items can be more valuable and tend to be.

Another example was shared several weeks ago with the blog. The document announcing the acquisition of the Sun Drug Company by the Owl Drug Company is very important in the history of both companies. Having this document in one’s possession adds significantly to any collection of medicines, particularly to Owl Drug or Sun Drug collectors.

Another dimension that adds to the confusion of what medicines to collect is the addition of medicines produced by companies of other countries, such as the Great Britain, Australia, Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands to name a few. Most American collectors of medicines have little or no knowledge of foreign medicine producing companies and therefore are unable to classify them within their own collections.

One example that confuses people is the Warner Safe bottles and go-withs . These bottles are collected here in the States as a separate category, a category unto itself. The fact that Warner Safe items are part of the medicine category is often dismissed or disregarded by American Warner Safe collectors. Many of the Warner Safe bottles were produced in other countries such as Australia, Germany, Great Britain, and Pressburg, Hungary. They tend to be the scarcest, most valuable, most popular, and most collectible. The Pressburg Warner Safe office lasted only 2 years, making these bottles more scarce and therefore more valuable. The reason why Americans collect these bottles and why people from other nations collect them are different. Americans tend to collect these bottles because they are scarce and more valuable while people from other nations collect them because they are symbols of their own counties, are examples of nationalism and view history and antiques from a different perspective.

In the weeks ahead we will discuss more features about the medicine category. In addition to bottles, we will highlight other products, go-withs, advertising, and historical insights.

 DISCLAIMER: All information contained within this blog is copyrighted and the sole property of the Owl Drug Collectors Blog. Reprinting or reproducing any of the information must receive prior permission from the Owl Drug Collectors Blog.

Last week we addressed the Owl Drug Theatrical Cold Cream that sold on EBay for $170.00 and did a thorough analysis of the item. Lo and beyond an identical Owl Drug Theatrical Cold Cream tin appears on EBay for sale this week with an opening price of $50.00 see photos to follow. The description is very scant as you can see from the following: “ Up for auction is an old Owl’s Theatrical Cold Cream Tin American Stopper Company.  MEASURES 4 1/4 INCHES WIDE BY  2 3/4 HIGH  See pictures for condition. Fresh from estate sale.“Has some dents,scratches, rust etc…. Selling as is”.



If one compares the cold cream tin that sold on EBay last week for $170.00 with the cold cream tin that is currently up for sale this week, what could one say based on the information presented? Are the characteristics of both items about the same? Yes. Are the conditions of both tins about the same? Yes. Should the price of this newest tin bring about the same price as the one last week?

The answer should be yes as well. As of this writing there are still no bids on the item with a little more than 1 day left to the auction. Does that seem strange? Wonder why there are no bids? Are potential buyers waiting to place bids as the auction nears its end, so as to get it at a price cheaper than $170.00 as the one that sold last week? The blog will let our readers know what the final results turn out to be and will do more analysis at that time.

We would like to acknowledge new readers of the blog from South Africa who have joined us this week. They join readers from other parts of world who have found the blog and the topics we present and discuss, informative, interesting, stimulating, and engaging. Your input and comments are always welcome. If there are any topics you wish to have the blog present that we have not touched on before, please do not hesitate to contact us and let us know your interests or ideas.

We encourage South African readers to share with the blog and its readership the types of bottles of South African origin and whether there are bottle clubs and bottle collecting activities. One of our major goals is to encourage participation from readers from around the world. Their input to the blog is very important. How others collect from other parts of the world helps the blog tailor our topics and information not only in the United States but around the world. We will be happy to share that information and give you a plug so that other readers can get in touch with you.   Those readers from other countries are also encouraged to share their country’s unique bottles and bottle collecting activities. Bottle collecting is a worldwide activity and we at the blog recognize it, encourage it, and promote it.

Several weeks ago the blog discussed briefly and cited an example of a historic document.  The example given announced the acquisition of the Sun Drug  C0mpany by the Owl Drug C0mpany of San Francisco, bringing the two companies together as one company under the direction of the Owl Drug Company leadership.  This document was of a historic nature, labeled as such and giving it landmark status.   Once a document has been labeled as historic, its monetary and historic value increases.  It says to the collecting world this document is important, special, and unique and as such belongs in a special place.

Should not bottles also be classified not only by category but also by their uniqueness and special qualities? Museums today have collections that have been donated so that the public can view, understand, and appreciate the collection’s  uniqueness and special qualities.  Was the  Gardner collection a mistake to have been put up for auction? If Charles Gardner were alive today would he have put his collection  up for auction or done something else?  Let us know what you feel or think.  Love to hear from you.

DISCLAIMER: All information contained within this blog is copyrighted and the sole property of the Owl Drug Collectors Blog. Reprinting or reproducing any of the information must receive prior permission from the Owl Drug Collectors Blog.

We continue our discussion of fair market value this week, especially as it pertains to an item that has never been put up on the market before. How does one establish a fair market price? Using the example shown below that was recently sold on EBay.




The description of the cold cream item as presented by the seller follows: “Description: Cool, old tin of Theatrical Cold Cream from The Owl Co. out of San Francisco. Patent is 1906. Has some typical signs of use, wear, and age. Measures approx. 4 x 4 x 3. I haven’t been able to remove lid, if you can there are a few dents you could likely take out.”

Having seen the photo of the item, the following is the bid history that occurred on this item. As you can see the starting price of the item was $9.50. The final sale price was $170.50.  Item number:162172713974

Bidder Bid Amount Bid Time
Member Id: e***b( 256)    US $170.50 Aug-25-16 18:00:38 PDT
Member Id: e***b( 256)    US $170.50 Aug-25-16 18:00:01 PDT
Member Id: r***r( 1300)    US $168.00 Aug-25-16 18:00:46 PDT
Member Id: r***r( 1300)    US $160.00 Aug-25-16 18:00:42 PDT
Member Id: r***r( 1300)    US $155.00 Aug-25-16 18:00:28 PDT
Member Id: r***r( 1300)    US $140.00 Aug-25-16 18:00:24 PDT
Member Id: r***r( 1300)    US $125.00 Aug-25-16 18:00:21 PDT
Member Id: r***r( 1300)    US $110.00 Aug-25-16 18:00:16 PDT
Member Id: r***r( 1300)    US $100.00 Aug-25-16 00:39:41 PDT
Member Id: r***r( 1300)    US $25.00 Aug-19-16 02:56:00 PDT
Member Id: e***b( 256)    US $20.00 Aug-25-16 17:03:53 PDT
Member Id: e***b( 256)    US $18.00 Aug-25-16 06:28:17 PDT
Member Id: h***h( 3271)    US $17.00 Aug-23-16 14:44:45 PDT
Starting Price    US $9.50 Aug-18-16 18:00:58 PDT


As we analyze the description to the final price, several things stand out. The description gives you some indication of the condition of the item. He states ” Has some typical signs of use, wear, and age. Measures approx. 4 x 4 x 3. I haven’t been able to remove lid, if you can there are a few dents you could likely take out”. This description therefore, indicates the tin is not in mint or near mint condition. A potential buyer should take into consideration the condition of an item when bidding and how much one is willing to pay for this item presented.

Another important fact that the seller failed to provide in his description was where this item fits into the company’s history. Was it produced in the early, the middle, or at the end of the company’s history? That information adds to the rarity, the importance, and the ultimate value of the item. The final winner of the item who paid $170.50 apparently is relatively new to EBay due to the number of hits his profile reflects at 256. Why did he buy this item? Perhaps he is a tin collector, owl drug collector or something else, but we don’t know really why.

The seller of this item whose profile shows only 40 hits on EBay is also relatively new to EBay. A view of his selling history indicates he primarily sells automobile metal emblems. Where he picked up this Owl Drug tin we could only speculate. He probably had not idea of what the item was, its rarity, its historic value or any other elements that would make this item valuable. The final price probably surprised and pleased the seller especially since it sold for so much.

The following is an example of 2 Owl Drug Theatrical Cold Creams tins as seen in Volume I of The Owl Drug Handbook, page 153.  If you look at these two tins and compare it to the one shown above, any reader can begin see the vast difference and what we are talking about.


Given the facts presented about the seller and the buyer of this item, can a true fair market value be established on this item? No it cannot. Today too many items with similar characteristics are sold daily, thereby distorting the fair market value and what an item is truly worth. Unfortunately, others will use this sale as the standard to set so-called fair market value prices of similar items. This is exactly how the black Hostetter Bitters bottle that originally had a price of $100 several years ago, now has prices ranging from $400 – $500, and now one is priced for sale at $750. The lime green Hostetter that we highlighted last week is up for sale for $1795. Who would believe that such a price would be asked given its description presented on EBay?

If we extrapolate from the information presented about so-called fair market value and what people are attempting to sell their bottles for through different venues, we can expect that certain categories of bottles will no longer be available for the average collector to purchase. Who would have ever thought that the Hostetter Bitters category would take a turn like this?

There are those in the Owl Drug category who sell on Ebay on a regular basis who have attempted to capture that category as well. Listing items with incorrect and misleading descriptions, altering the authenticity of the bottles, and overpricing the bottles at values unrealistic to the real value of what the item truly is. Numerous examples have been shared with this audience this year and in past years, showing and explaining the attempt to capture or manipulate the market. If the item is presented properly and accurately, the price will follow and be true to the actual value of the item and not be manipulated or captured to exorbitant and realistic levels that we see too often today.

DISCLAIMER: All information contained within this blog is copyrighted and the sole property of the Owl Drug Collectors Blog. Reprinting or reproducing any of the information must receive prior permission from the Owl Drug Collectors Blog.


August 11, 2016

Several weeks ago the blog shared an Owl Drug Company document with the blog audience that announced the acquisition of the Sun Drug Company by the Owl Drug Company of San Francisco.


Apparently the blog audience and others did not consider this document to be important or have any value since there were no comments, discussions, questions, etc. Now if this document were to appear on EBay in the Owl Drug category and had a $10,000.00 price, what do you think would occur. All of a sudden there would be a lot of people trying to understand this item, especially at this price. Viewing what was written in the description, they would stop and ponder why it was priced at that level. But perhaps not! Most people believe that the only value in Owl Drug items is in the bottles or the glass. They have been so conditioned, over the years, by so many who consider themselves experts or the Owl Drug guru, they have failed to even study what Owl Drug and the Owl Drug Company was and is all about.

Five years ago the Owl Drug collectors blog came into existence, extensive research on Owl Drug took place and new ideas, new discoveries, and new concepts were introduced to the bottle world and the bottle hobby. The result of such was that the bottle hobby did not know what to do or how to respond or react to these new ideas and concepts, etc. In the past people who collected Owl Drug thought the only importance of Owl Drug were the company’s bottles, especially the poisons. Low and behold over the past 5 years  a plethora of Owl Drug items including  go-withs, official documents, advertising, newspaper articles, pictures, postcards, signs, stationery, and many more types of information were introduced that have been long overlooked until the blog came on the scene. The following are examples of some the Owl Drug items that we speak of follow in these photos:




Even today most people still concentrate on the glass. Check out Ebay or other venues and one will see very few items are displayed other than glass. Many of these items are misidentified, compromised for their historic authenticity and monetary value, and overpriced. When the seller of such items is questioned as to the condition of the bottle, such as has it been altered in any way, the question is never posted and the seller never answers the question directly or in writing. The failure of sellers to answer these questions occurs not only in online sales but also occurs at bottle shows and at bottle auctions. To Fred Hollabird’s credit, at his latest auction for the FOHBC Sacramento bottle show , his auction catalogue on page 2 states the following: “Collecting these Western items isn’t easy. Collectors will tell you that if you are a condition “freak”, you’ll never get the bottle you want, unless it has been professionally conserved (polished, scratches and chips removed). This is especially true with many of the Western bottles, and is evident here in the sale. We have unique examples of pieces that are not mint – but they are unique or nearly so, and represent a rare opportunity of acquisition.”

First and foremost, those who “professionally conserve” glass in the bottle world are neither professional or conservationist. They are not trained by an institution but tend to be self-taught by trail and error.  They are not required to  have any license by any state or locale to practice this type of work. Conservation, according to institutions that conserve glass objects, such as the Corning Museum, the Smithsonian Institution. Colonial Williamsburg or any other custodian of historical artifacts that include glass objects, etc. must do so with the understanding of using practices and techniques of a minimal intervention to the item. “Minimal intervention refers to not removing or altering any glass object that would compromise said object such as removing any glass from the interior or exterior of the item”. Bottle cleaning machines are not even part of the process of glass conservation, they are in fact negative to the process and barred from being used in the process by known institutions. These machines are found only in the bottle world, per se and nowhere else. They were introduced and never properly evaluated as a positive or a negative effect on the item itself or the hobby as a whole. Most people never questioned the validity or reliability of these machines and the results that occurred from them.

The two Owl Drug photos that follow are 2 examples of bottles. The first example has been altered and can been seen as lot #1062 in the Hollabird auction.


The second example has not been altered.


If one compares the 2 two photos you can notice immediately that the embossed striking of the birds are very different. In the first example the embossing of the birds has been partially removed from the glass indicating that these bottles have been altered in some form. The second example shows the strong embossing of the birds on each and every bottle indicating the bottles were not put through an altering process.

Using these two examples and the phrase “professional conservation” used by Fred Hollabird, he would have concede that the first example did not enhance the bottles but in fact compromised the bottles’ historic authenticity and their monetary value. The idea or attitude that altering a bottle does not compromise a bottle is ridiculous. If in fact altering a bottle is a fantastic and enhancing process, why do sellers continue to hide it, deny it, or both?

DISCLAIMER: All information contained within this blog is copyrighted and the sole property of the Owl Drug Collectors Blog. Reprinting or reproducing any of the information must receive prior permission from the Owl Drug Collectors Blog.

First and foremost, the blog wishes to extend our sympathies and well wishes for a fast recovery to Ferdinand Meyer, president of the FOHBC and his family as well as all those in the path of the floods in Houston, Texas. We recognize and sympathize with you Ferdinand in having to move one’s collection due to circumstances beyond your control as a result of Mother Nature.

Moving a large collection is not an easy or simple feat no matter what reason it has to be done, whether it is Mother Nature, illness in a family, moving, or economic reasons just to name a few. The choice of what pieces of a collection or the entire collection to be moved is not an easy decision. Often times that collection has taken years to accumulate and each item becomes precious to the collector.

Once a decision is made as to what pieces are to be moved, the next major decision is what to do with the collection. Should the items be broken up or should the entire collection be moved? What should the collector do with his collection? Should he take it all with him, donate it to an institution or museum, or give it to ones children as part of their heritage or legacy? Of course, there is always the possibility that the children don’t even want the collection. So what does the collector do? Try to sell it or pieces of it? Do you put it on Ebay as we often see now? Do you put it in a bottle show or auction? Do you keep it and hope for the best?

As bottle collectors have aged, the question of what to do with their collections, for many, has become paramount. For the most part these collectors apparently ignore the question of what to do until they can no longer put it aside. As in the case of Ferdinand who is now forced to make a decision about his collections due to Mother Nature, others do not to know what to do or who or where to turn to for help. If they belong to a bottle club they turn to other members for assistance and guidance. Often the clubs are not structured for that kind of assistance or guidance. If the collector is a member of the FOHBC, is there a vehicle in the organization to provide that kind of assistance or guidance?

The advent of a natural disaster or family or economic crisis occurs quite often when we are least prepared to cope with the events. As collectors we should have prepared or prepare contingency plans for our collections. By doing so, when or if a disaster hits we can cope with it intelligently and successfully without trauma or undue stress. Bottle-related organizations should have avenues in which collectors can draw upon expertise in advising or guiding collectors to be able to deal with their collections during times of crisis.

People’s collections have grown and changed over the years that they have collected the items. These collections must be maintained and updated on a regular basis to reflect current condition, value, validity, and authenticity. More often than not, collections are not properly maintained, updated, or current with today’s prices and other realities.   Last week a blue cobalt Owl Drug poison was highlighted and sold on Ebay. The item was described as rare. When the seller was questioned why he considered the bottle rare, his answer was because the item was dug and it was the first one that he had ever dug or found after many years of digging. Question: is that what makes a bottle rare? In his mind it was. Since there is no universal definition of rare in the bottle world, this seller’s answer is as good as any. Therefore, how the seller prices his bottles is just as acceptable since so many others do the same. The other examples highlighted last week where the prices were $1795.00 and $5795.00 fall into the same realm of sales – there is no uniformity or standard for rarity and prices.

As a result overpricing occurs due to the lack of standards or accurate conditions, rarity, or value present. Bottles for sale often stay on Ebay and other venues for weeks and months at a time never selling because of their price and inaccurate descriptions and conditions. This is defined as “bottle stagnation”. Since they stagnate on these sites for months and even years at a time, they contribute to the creation of a pool of unwanted bottles and strangle out legitimate bottles and other items that are properly presented and for sale.

Several weeks ago the blog highlighted two documents related to the takeover of drug companies by the Owl Drug Company. A collection of Owl Drug Company items must include important documentation such as these two examples. Without such documentation an Owl Drug Company collection is a limited collection that is lacking in substance and importance. It fails to give a complete picture of Owl Drug or even other categories of bottles. Is a collection just a collection of glass?   In the weeks ahead we will further examine what constitutes a collection.

DISCLAIMER: All information contained within this blog is copyrighted and the sole property of the Owl Drug Collectors Blog. Reprinting or reproducing any of the information must receive prior permission from the Owl Drug Collectors Blog.

Last week while surfing the Internet I ran across a triangular Owl Drug poison bottle. The seller stated the following in his description: UP FOR AUCTION IS A RARE OWL DRUG CO. COBALT BLUE POISON BOTTLE NO CHIPS OR CRACKS. I asked the seller the following question: is this a dug bottle/stain inside and outside? what makes it rare? color, condition, size. explain. The following was his answer.   “I dug bottles most of my life in California and have personally collected owl drug company items and out of all the common bottles to dig a cobalt owl poison is hard bottle to dig or even find”.


Unfortunately many in the bottle world overuse the term “rare” in describing their bottles for sale to the point now that the term “rare” is so liberally used that a potential buyer has to question the validity of the “rare” claim. The definition of “rare” is the following: “marked by unusual quality, merit, or appeal; distinctive; superlative or extreme of its kinds; seldom occurring or found; uncommon”. When one refers to bottle collecting the term “rare” has the same definition as above but qualifies the term by noting that 5 or fewer of the item has been found.

Within the Owl Drug category the term “rare” is continually overused and misused. Sellers quite often fail to identify the true condition of the bottles, other than showing them in photographs or stating that there are no chips or cracks. They fail to alert any potential buyer that the item has been altered, thereby changing its historical authenticity and its monetary value forever.   When the seller fails to identify the bottle’s true condition as being altered, he misrepresents the item to any potential buyer.

There are numerous examples of this misrepresentation; one such example is item #37148160284 being sold on Ebay. The seller makes claims about this item stating that he believes his claims to be true. Where is the documentation to validate these claims? Not by this seller. Where is his research, information from a noted institution or government agency, or published books? The seller may claim that the 1968 Jensen book is his source of validation. The Jensen book has been proved to be incomplete and inaccurate. It is not based on historical records, agencies, or company documents. Therefore it is not a valid source from which to make any claims from.   The seller also states that he believes that this item was only sold in the 1128 Market Street store. He has no records to support that belief. In fact the item was sold in other Owl Drug stores outside of San Francisco and there is documentation to proof that fact.

Two additional examples shown on Ebay have staring prices that are somewhat expensive. The question one must ask is what makes these 2 examples worthy of these “buy it now” prices? Are the sellers giving any potential buyers enough justification to warrant these “buy it now” prices?


Item m# 231985872052 Hostetter “Buy it Now” $1,795.00


Item # 231985831268 Myers Rock Rose “Buy it Now ” $5,795.00

In the weeks ahead we will be discussing what makes a valid collection in 2016 and beyond. What should a potential collector and potential buyer look for? What questions should they be asking? And certainly what price range should be acceptable?

DISCLAIMER: All information contained within this blog is copyrighted and the sole property of the Owl Drug Collectors Blog. Reprinting or reproducing any of the information must receive prior permission from the Owl Drug Collectors Blog

There are many myths that have swirled around the bottle world for many years about the Owl Drug Company of San Francisco. Stories have been circulated about this company without proper research and verification of fact versus hearsay. In the past those who collected Owl Drug bottles and products used the Jensen book as their main source of information. The information provided in that book was, in many ways, inaccurate and misleading beside the fact that it was incomplete.

As an Owl Drug collector for many years, I realized that the information about this company and its products was incomplete and undocumented It became quite apparent that proper and thorough research needed to be done so that us Owl Drug collectors could learn more about the company and products we were collecting and loved. The motivation to do extensive research, and eventually write books about what we learned is exactly why the 3 Owl Drug Handbooks became a reality.

Despite the numerous attempts to discredit the blog and its director, no one else has ever produced information or books about Owl Drug, its history, its products, its leadership, its policies, its growth and takeover of other drug companies that has been supported by proper research, factual information, documentation, and photographs.   There are some who profess to be experts in the Owl Drug category but who cannot provide proof or verification by documentation of what they present or discuss. The blog has provided numerous examples of Owl Drug that have been put up for sale in various venues that cannot be substantiated with documents or proof of the claims made or the prices requested. Are buyers or potential buyers expected to accept whatever a seller claims without any test or verification that is acceptable to all?

Within the Owl Drug category of collectibles there are subcategories such a glass, paper goods, beauty products, products for the home, advertisements, policies, and various forms of documentation. Documentation plays a paramount role in the Owl Drug Company, its incorporation, its leadership, its policies, practices, and procedures, its takeover of other drug companies, and yes, even its disappearance. Just collecting the documentation side of Owl Drug would make a significant and important collection. In fact these documents would be more valuable than collecting the “so-called” prestigious poison bottles and other bottles, considering how these bottles and other bottles have been altered or abused over the years, thereby causing them to lose their historical authenticity and monetary value.

The documents presented in this blog posting are two examples of important documents we discovered through research on Owl Drug several years ago. As far as we know we are the only ones who have copies of these documents, know where they are located and can reference them.


The second example of documentation and therefore also of direct linkage supports the historical event of Owl Drug and the acquisition of The Sun Drug Company of Los Angeles. These two companies became one company controlled by the Owl Drug Company leadership. It brought together the two largest independent drug companies into one.

The Sund Drug Co now owned by the Owl Drug Co. (LA Times 10 February 1924)

How do we measure the importance of these documents historically, monetarily, and otherwise? We measure them against other historic documents and their impact on history, culture, and people. At the time this occurred the Owl Drug Company was one of the largest employers on the West Coast. Their disappearance impacted the economies of numerous cities and states as well as the employees directly that worked for the company and the companies that sold goods and services to Owl Drug. That impact was felt primarily on the West Coast and filtered eastward.

The acquisition of the Sun Drug Company by the Owl Drug Company was during a period of major acquisitions and growth by many companies throughout the United States. The future, as proclaimed by many in the business world, was ROSIE and sure to continue to grow and prosper. 1929 came along and the stock market crashed. The impact was first felt in the East and made its way to the West Coast. The depression that followed brought an end to prosperity and the growth and even survival of many companies, including the Owl Drug Company. Like many companies the Owl Drug Company was also unprepared for what was to follow. Today we see similar events occurring not only in the United States but also worldwide.

A company’s documents, however, serve as proof of their existence and importance. As such these documents maintain a higher level of importance or value than any product produced by the company.

In the weeks ahead the blog will discuss what constitutes a valid collection in 2016 and beyond. The collection of 2016 should be very different than collections of 5, 10 or even 15 years ago. Look forward to hearing from our readers.

DISCLAIMER: All information contained within this blog is copyrighted and the sole property of the Owl Drug Collectors Blog. Reprinting or reproducing any of the information must receive prior permission from the Owl Drug Collectors Blog.


June 16, 2016

This week the blog continues the discussion on “standards” and why they are important. Is there a standard return policy on goods and services in Western Europe? The answer is no. In France, for example there is a no return policy on goods. In EU countries there is no set standard return policy on goods despite an EU directive. Some countries and some businesses within these countries follow the EU directive on returns and others do not. Some small companies within these countries create their own return policies, if they have any at all. In Eastern Europe and in Asia there apparently is no return policy on goods and no literature to verify the existence or non-existence of returns for merchandise purchased. Therefore, buyers beware. The responsibility falls entirely on the buyer.

As I returned to active collecting after many years to the bottle world, I recognized that there was no uniform or standard return policy on bottles, if it existed at all. In my discussion with numerous people about this very subject, the most common answer was “beats me”. They commented that they never thought about and would not know what to do or where to go. There was no central source or location in which to deal with this problem. For example, when a person suspects something is wrong or going wrong, their first instinct is to contact the police or fire department. The 911 contact number is exactly why it was created. In the bottle world there is no such mechanism or contact point. There is no such standard for returns when bottles are purchased at bottle shows, bottle auctions, flea markets or other venues. If one inquires, what answers would one get? The same answers such as never thought about it, has never come up, or there is no return, all sales are final.

There is no standard for accurate or inaccurate labels, labeling, descriptions or conditions of bottles no matter where these bottles are bought or sold, be it bottle shows, auctions, flea markets, EBay, or other venues. Last week the blog highlighted two poison bottles, one with an accurate label and description and the other with an inaccurate label and description. These two bottles exemplify that lack of a uniform standard on bottles. The lack of standards is a common occurrence where bottles are bought, sold, and even traded.



Where should one go to get the answer as to which label is accurate and which one is inaccurate and why? Why should a person bid on a bottle if there is no documentation or proof to verify the seller’s description, condition, or general information about the bottle he is selling? Just because a person states that the bottle is genuine, but cannot provide any authentication of his claim, why should a buyer or potential buyer accept that? Is that how one should buy bottles? What protection does the buyer have? Many products produced in the US or sold by US companies, have warrantees or guarantees as well as service contracts to protect the buyer. These warrantees or service contracts run for several years or so many miles. Cars are perfect examples of buyer warrantees or service contracts provided to a buyer. If a person buys a bottle for $100.00 or more, the buyer should receive a warrantee or guarantee on that bottle for a given period of time. As such it would set a standard for future bottle purchases and avoid chaos, confusion, and misrepresentation. At the present time in 2016, there is way too much chaos, confusion, and misrepresentation in the bottle world as these triangular poison bottles point out.

Most recently the following bottle was sold on EBay for $610.00. The seller claimed it was an “attic” bottle. Where is the proof of such a claim? There is no paperwork or documentation provided to verify this claim, as you find on a car purchased from CarMax where a history of the car is provided to a potential buyer or buyer. The same history background should be available on bottles over a certain dollar value.   Where is the test and verification?


Switching gears. As a collector of West Coast memorabilia for many years, West Coast history and their different cultures have intrigued me. Most recently I have added the following examples to my West Coast collection.



Both photos show San Francisco at different times in its history. San Francisco, the home of the Owl Drug Company was also known for the many contributions of the Chinese immigrants and citizens of the city throughout the years. Most of the Chinese immigrants began to come to the West Coast in the 1860’s and 1870’s up to the 1900’s and settled in California, Nevada, and other parts of the West.

Collectors of Chinese memorabilia tend to concentrate their collections on Chinese pottery, glass, and other everyday items found in a Chinese home. There are many other items available to a collector that will add to a collection giving it more variety and importance. Many of the Chinese were lured away from San Francisco by the discovery of gold and the advent of the railroad. They worked in the mines and worked on building the railroad. As a result of these workers, small settlements were established along the 49er trail and today those settlements have become small communities, such as Colfax, Placerville, and Angels camp, just to name a few.

Like the Owl Drug Company that expanded its stores to other parts of California and to Seattle, Washington, the Chinese also moved to other parts of California and as far north as Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington leaving their mark as they moved northward. They also moved eastward to Nevada helping to settle Lake Tahoe and Virginia City. As the mining camps and train building camps moved East, so too did the Chinese workers.

For those of you who may be interested in learning more about the Chinese in America, we suggest the following books:

The Chinese-American Heritage by David M. Brownstone;

The Chinese in America, A Narrative History by Iris Chang; and

The Chinese in America: A History from Gold Mountain to the New Millennium by Susan Lan Cassel.

DISCLAIMER: All information contained within this blog is copyrighted and the sole property of the Owl Drug Collectors Blog. Reprinting or reproducing any of the information must receive prior permission from the Owl Drug Collectors Blog.