last, and we were now in front of the shot glasses. His collection amounts to over 850 glasses that jostle for space in three large, double glass-doored wall displays, each holding three wooden shelves [Figure 4].
“I had everything in here custom-built to my own design” Ken remarked, and his keen sense of what makes a good display was readily evident: the array of glass was stunning. Each of the shelves within the cases supported four long stepped tiers. Ken had crafted these tiers himself and covered them with black felt to provide optimal contrast between etched labels and background. Individual tiers were slightly deeper and taller than a standard glass and were capped with a fluorescent fixture that spanned the length and width of the shelf. Thus, each glass was illuminated perfectly by the light overhead and even the glasses with worn labels were easy to read. Not that there were many with worn labels: virtually all looked to have been freshly minted and I asked Ken if he upgraded frequently. “No” he replied, “but if I have one with a weak label, I indicate that with a W in my book (see Figure 4) and then replace it if I get the chance.”
One of the main reasons for visiting Ken was to sit down with him and hear a little about the history of his collection for a future edition of Random Shots, so I asked how and when he’d got bitten by the shot-glass bug. The question seemed a little ridiculous, given that we surrounded by priceless pre-pro treasures of every description, but he was good natured in his reply. “Well I got started with bottles with Warner’s Safe’s.. ” (I’m paraphrasing extensively here) “ …. and then I bought many of my shots from John Thomas. Most of my shots came from other collections. I got a bunch from Bergseng. He was from the Portland area. I bought many from Barnett over time”. During the course of our later discussions, Ralph Hollibaugh’s name came up several times as being a source of some of the rarest shots exhibited here.
Bottles and Extras
Figure 5a: A Cupid Rye from Hyman & Son of
Figure 5b: A rare enamel trasfer glass from Eugene Hoch & Co., of Louisville
Q: “Do you find many glasses at shows?” A: “Many’ve come from shows but it’s getting difficult to find glasses that I don’t already have any more. I got three at this one” (referring to the FOHBC National in Reno). Indeed he had. The best was an unknown Cupid Rye that he’d snatched from under my nose during the first afternoon [Figure 5a]! Ken also mentioned that he had picked up several glasses on his way down to the show: one turned out to be an exceptionally rare enamel transfer from Portland [Figure 5b]. The man clearly has a golden touch when it comes to hunting
glass. Q: “How about eBay?”
Figure 6: One of Ken’s rare eBay wins.
A: “I don’t mess with eBay — don’t have the time.” Upon my return to Philadelphia, I checked my databases and noted that, indeed, Ken had only won four glasses on the auction site in the past five years. The last had been a few weeks ago: a rare Cutter variant that had triggered a bloody bidding war the moment it listed [Figure 6].
Q: “What’s your favorite glass?” At this point, we both stand and step back over to the lighted displays with their rows of delicate enamels and label-unders. Here were the many of the glasses that appear in HSG and OASG: the labels that were painstakingly copied free hand by Barb Edmonson. Here’s a Royal Stag, a Rothenberg Mendle’s
Gamecock, an original Truog-designed Crow Whiskey from Lapp Goldsmith Figure 8c. of Louisville [Figure 7a-c]. These are the glasses that inspired us as neophyte
Figure 7a and 7b
collectors. I’d be hard-pressed to name a favorite among such a group and decide to let Ken off the hook and instead ask which was the most valuable. He had to think about that one. A: “I picked up most of good glasses in the early days so I’m not sure which cost the most.... He pulled the black-etched Old Buck from the display case [Figure 8a]. “I traded Richard Siri three Cutter back-bars for that one.” I’m not sure what the current Cutter-to-Buck conversion factor is, but I suspect we’re talking hundreds of dollars. “Maybe the Thomas Taylor or the Pioneer Bear? They were expensive” [Figure 8b, c]. My pick would probably have been one of the many rare label-unders. He had two different Red Top Rye variants: the last time I’d seen one of those, it was being felled on eBay for $660 and change. Then there was a Lovejoy & Co. from Hawaii. Not a fancy glass, but I’d hate to have to calculate a snipe ”