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American Bottle Auction - Vintage Bottles

General Auction Rules

Conditions of Sale: When the auction begins, you can view all the items being offered in our full-color catalog or at and bid by computer, phone, mail or fax.   You can also view the bottles in our showroom, we just ask you to call ahead to make sure we are here.  Usual absentee auction rules apply. No items will be mailed before full payment is received.  Auction closes for each lot, individually, or until there are no bids on that particular lot for 10 minutes at 7:00 p.m. Pacific.  That is, if a bid is made within 10 minutes of the end of the auction, i.e. 6:50 p.m., a new clock starts for that item only and a new 10-minute clock will reset anytime another bid is entered.  That not only prevents “sniping” an item but also gives everyone equal opportunity to make their best bid. An item will continue to run as long as a bid is made within that 10-minute time frame. Please remember to refresh your computer on your bidder page to have the exact time an item ends.   
Return Policy: American Bottle Auctions has a very liberal return policy. That is, we guarantee that any bottle we sell is what we say it is. Every effort will be made to depict the bottle as near to the true condition as possible. If there is any variance or discrepancy from our description, an item can be returned within three days of receipt of the bottle for a full refund including postage and insurance both ways.  We just ask that you please notify us before returning a bottle via email or a phone call.  We will not refund a bottle if an invoice is paid after 21 days of receipt of invoice. Final say on returns on any item is the ultimate decision of the auctioneer.  Invoices are emailed and sent out generally the day following the auction. We will void the return policy under these circumstances unless it has been previously discussed with the auctioneer. As we will make every effort to present a bottle as to its true condition, we also ask that you as a bidder make every effort to know exactly what you are bidding on.  With our updated grading system, multiple full-sized color photographs, streaming video and ability to see it in person, we feel it is as much your responsibility to know what you are buying as much as it is our responsibility to present it.

Dug Bottles: A bottle that is dug can be as pristine as a bottle found in a small towel inside a chest in an attic, in other words, perfect.  We will try and mention if a bottle is NOT dug but since most bottles are dug from the ground, we will only talk about bottles that were never in the ground if need be.  If you have any questions please let us know.

Bidding: You can view on the internet or call anytime up to closing time and find out what the current bid is. A lot of customers will also give a “top bid”; meaning that is the limit you will go. This can always be “upped” depending on your disposition.  If you have a “top bid” of $350.00, for example, and nobody else wants to pay more than $250.00, the item will go for $275.00 plus the 12% buyers premium. We will not disclose the amount of the “top bids” or number of bidders or consignors at any time during the auction. Bids not in correct raise amounts will be rounded down.  We do ask that bidders without a computer not wait until the last minute to call and ask for multiple individual bids. We also ask that potential bidders not call in the last few minutes for descriptions or further information regarding a particular bottle or bottles. Please be aware that we can only help you if time allows.  Please also note, we do not disclose the number of bidders on an item or who the buyer or seller is.  Please do not ask, as the right to privacy in both buying and selling bottles is our duty as an auction house.  Some items have the previous owners named for reasons of provenance and a better understanding of their history and are noted in the catalog and online descriptions. 
Callbacks: There are NO CALLBACKS for any item in the auction.

Non-payers:  Any winning bidder who does not honor their bids, that is to say, does not pay for their winning lot(s), will be disqualified from bidding in any further auctions. American Bottle Auctions reserves the right to disallow anyone from bidding or participating in the auction. If you need more time to make a payment, please let us know in advance. If you need more time in paying for items you’ve won, we will work with you as long as we are notified in advance.

Reserves: Reserves are rare but some items do have reasonable reserves for this auction.  At no time will we divulge the reserve price.

Buyer’s Premium: There is a 12% buyer’s premium on any item you purchase. This amount will be in addition to the purchase price of an item after the hammer price.

Terms: Full payment is requested within 7 days of the receipt of the invoice. We understand people are busy so we will be relaxed about receiving payments.  An 8.75% sales tax is required for California residents, unless they have a resale permit and submit a signed card. Shipping and insurance via either U.S. mail or Federal Express will be added to the total. Please let us know if special shipping conditions are needed. Everyone is invited to view the items in the auction during normal business hours with an appointment. Bids below the printed minimum will not be accepted.

Visa, MasterCard or American Express: American Bottle Auctions accepts any of these credit cards for faster and easier payment at no extra cost.  We also accept PayPal, and checks are not held for any period before shipping.  We have honest customers.
Although we try and capture the color of the glass as closely to the bottle as possible in our catalogs, we do recommend viewing the bottles on our website or in person for a more accurate and detailed view.

Minimum Raise Amounts       

$1.00 to $250............$10.00 $250 to $500................$25.00 
$500 to $1000..............$50.00 $1000 to $2000........$100.00
$2000 to $5000...........$200.00  $5000 to $100,000..…...$500.00

Remember-We Don’t Do Callbacks on Any Item.
Everything ends at the published closing time or until no bids are made for 10 minutes on a particular lot.


General Grading: American Bottle Auctions grading goes by a number system, which coincides with the condition of a bottle. When you read a description, we will talk about the condition of the bottle in detail and then assign a grade number to it.  For instance, it might say, “this bottle has some light stain and some minor high-point wear and grades an 8.”  This number reflects the things we talk about and any flaws or distractions from a bottle being perfect.  The condition number falls between a 1 and a 10, with a grade 10 Attic Mint being the best.   A grade number can fall in between such as an 8.5 or sometimes we will say 9.3, and you can generally go by the grade number as being in the neighborhood of what condition we feel this bottle falls under.  We will have a minimum of three experts examining each bottle in this sale.  We will examine every bottle under 10-30X magnification and in bright indoor and outdoor light. 

Grade versus Value: You can take two bottles, both grading a Mint 9 but one might have loads of whittle and a great color while the other is a rather plain aqua with no whittle.  While we take into account the whittle and color in the estimated value, the grade would be a Mint 9 for both bottles.  A bottle may be in perfect condition but have a weak strike or no whittle.  Some bottles just don’t come with whittle or rarely stray from the same color.  A slightly chipped bottle can have tons of whittle and a great strike but the chip really hurts it. In only the rarest and most desirable of bottles does a bit of damage not affect the value a great deal.   The bottle can be professionally repaired, but in some circles repairing a bottle does just that, mark it as a repaired bottle.  A small ding or flake doesn’t bother some collectors and some cringe at the thought.  In addition, some people are searching out those slightly damaged or repaired bottles as they can be had for less and often you can’t tell the difference from a perfect example. Provenance is another factor that can affect the value of a bottle.  Was it in the collection of the late Charles Gardner?  Even a bottle previously owned by a well-known active collector can increase the value.  The grade assigned does not take whittle or crudity, provenance, rare colors or variant rarity into account.  The grade is only dependent on the condition of the bottle. 

Grading a Bottle: We will talk about condition, color, crudity, and special features like a drippy top or evidence of extreme crudity, but it all comes down to stain, scratches, small chips or large chips to determine a grade.  Essentially the grade is the degree from what a perfect 10 bottle would be.  We take a bottle, start out with a grade 10 and subtract from there depending on the particular flaws to that piece.   How can a bottle with a chip be Mint?  Well it isn’t but instead of us saying a bottle is a grade 3 because of the chip or other major problems like a crack, we will occasionally grade the bottle without the chip or crack and then say for instance, a grade 9.4 with large chip.  Without the chip the same bottle would simply be called Mint 9.4.  We do this as we believe it’s up to the buyer to determine the “degree of hurt” the chip causes.  Just because we don’t think it’s that bad, some people would consider it a catastrophe.   It’s rare that a bottle has it all and you can expect to pay more, sometimes much more than the regular book value or “going rate” of a typical Near Mint bottle when bidding on a Mint example.  We suggest you read the overall description, then use the grade number and check out the streaming video and pictures to make a decision when bidding on a bottle.  The computer is much more informative when making a decision. We will discuss as many factors as possible in determining the grade.


Average (grade 1-5)— Very poor condition, scratches, small flakes off the glass, a fair amount of stain; not a great bottle. We rarely sell a bottle in this condition except when they are rare and or have historical or great monetary value. There’s an Average condition grade 5 and an Average grade 2. The difference could be pretty dramatic.  An Average grade 5 could be a fairly decent bottle but will certainly have some problems. Sometimes if a bottle is extremely rare, a grade 5 might be the best you’ll find.
Good (grade 6-7)—A decent condition bottle. Probably a couple scratches, a pinhead-sized ding on the base and maybe some minor stain, it is visibly pleasing at first glance but not a great bottle. It could be a bottle that should or could be cleaned to improve it, and we’ll mention that on occasion. Good grade bottles are generally decent bottles that might have a very small chip, crack or radiating potstone. Please note that some bottles, like soda or beer, tend to be in lesser grades due to the amount of original use they had.

Near Mint (grade 8-9)—At first glance, the bottle appears Near or Almost Mint. Upon closer examination there may be some scratches, some minor stain or small flaw including a miniscule flake or an in-making radiating potstone the size of a pinhead.  Near Mint bottles can exhibit wear and can have some typical light scratches or minor highpoint wear. A Near Mint bottle is a good condition bottle that could be cleaned.  As we say, Near Mint can fall in between categories.  There might be a pretty significant difference between a Near Mint 8.1 and an 8.9.  

Mint (grade 9-10)—A great looking bottle, no real flaws. At first glance it appears as an Attic Mint bottle.  A Mint bottle can possibly have just the most minor scratch or just a bit of wear.  A number of bottles we sell are Mint bottles primarily because that’s what our customers are looking for. Most Mint bottles should be considered top specimens.  Rare bottles in this condition are usually quickly bought up and often the only question is the price. Once again, there could be a decent amount of difference between a 9.1 and a 9.8 grade Mint bottle, but you’re talking small differences in a super condition bottle.  Both are generally perfect but one might have an impeccable pristine look while another isn’t quite as striking. Small areas of wear, a few very light scratches that are difficult to see can also be called a Mint bottle. A small area of stain, a bit of wear, a light scratch, either way, a Mint bottle is a great condition bottle.   

Attic Mint (grade 10)—Perfect, no cleaning, possibly found in an attic. Possible original label. Undisturbed by time. We almost never call a bottle Attic Mint unless it’s been found in a house or somehow protected by the elements. Attic Mint bottles are usually an absolute top specimen strictly regarding condition.   In other words, two bottles that could be considered Attic Mint could vary in crudity and color but as far as condition, they would both be considered equally Attic Mint.  You can go into a supermarket today and find a brand new bottle that isn’t Attic Mint.  They are a very special condition bottle and very difficult to find.  


Shipping Info

It is important to remember that a $10 whiskey bottle costs about the same to ship as a $1,000 whiskey bottle. The reason is simple. We use the same materials to pack both bottles. Both bottles weigh about the same. The charge for an "Adult Signature Required" is $2.75 for each (required for insurance purposes). Assuming that they're going to the same destination, the shipping cost is the same. The only difference in shipping cost is the insurance, which in this case adds up to $3.15.

Here's an example. Let's say that each of the above bottles is being shipped from our office in Sacramento to Gorham, Maine. We would ship each via Federal Express 2nd day air, as we do with all bottle shipments east of the western states. We choose this 2-day service because the package arrives faster for the customer (shipped by air) and has less chance of being damaged than during a long truck trip (if sent Ground). Let's say each package, after wrapping and boxing, ends up weighing 4 pounds. The estimated shipping costs would be as follows:

- Packing materials (we use only NEW boxes and packing materials for best protection)
- Federal Express 2nd Day shipping charges
- Federal Express "Adult Signature Required" (proof that it arrived, protects us and the customer)
- Insurance (the only difference.... $0 for the $10 bottle and $3.15 for the $1,000 bottle)

Total cost for each of the two shipments:
$18.80 for the $10 bottle
$21.25 for the $1,000 bottle

The buyer of the $10 bottle actually will pay more for the shipping, in this example, than for the bottle. For the $1,000 bottle buyer, the shipping cost is only about 2% of the cost of the bottle. So, when buying a bottle, please be aware that the shipping charges are completely unrelated to the value of the bottle(s) bought.

We ship bottles to western states via Federal Express Ground, which is quite a bit less expensive and arrives in about the same time as air. If you don't live in a western state, and the shipping charges would be a problem, please contact us and ask that your bottles be shipped Ground. This will save you some money, but will take longer to arrive and be a bit less secure.

Of course, as you add more bottles to a shipment, the shipping charges rise because of the increased weight and size. Also, when packages are transported via air, boxes beyond a certain size are charged substantially more.
After an auction closes, we must estimate the shipping costs in order to generate invoices. Because of our experience in this area, we are usually quite accurate with our estimates.

We put extra effort and care into our packing and shipping. This attention to detail has paid off over the years with thousands of successful shipments.

We hope that you have found this information useful. By all means, if you have any problems with shipping (financial or otherwise), please contact us and we will work with you to resolve them.



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