Published: March 4, 2003
Mebane Collection Brings $2 Million at Glassworks
EAST GREENVILLE, PENN. — The second portion of the highly anticipated Bob Mebane absentee auction closed February 17 with strong prices posted across the boards. Mebane, who began collecting during the mid-1960s, was referred to as a “second generation” collector, i.e., the second wave of great collectors that followed in the footsteps of glass collecting pioneers such as George McKearin. This second generation included the likes of Charles Vunno, Paul Richards and Charles Gardner, as well as the late Bob Mebane and his wife Beka.
Mebane amassed his nearly 1,000 prime examples of historical flasks, inks, bottles, stoneware, advertising and candy containers between 1965 and the early 1980s during a “time when great examples could be found at what (in hindsight) were reasonable prices,” according to the catalog. His collection has been referred to as “one of the last great old-time collections.”
The depth of the glass collection was astounding with 178 flasks in rare molds and colors, 275 inks — many of which were also in rare colors — and 83 choice bottles. Glass collectors were out in force with bidding coming from around the world. While the flasks and American bottles attracted a great deal of attention from throughout the United States, the auction house reported a large number of bids from Europe competing for the prime selection of black glass, and a grouping of English flasks went back to the motherland.
The auction was divided into two sessions closing four months apart. Auctioneer James Hagenbuch commented, “We would have never seen the same prices realized across the boards had this been a single session auction; there was just too much quality stuff. There were pretty much the same participants involved in the bidding for both sessions,” he said, and the extended break gave many a welcomed period to recuperate from the heavy spending that occurred during the first session. The first 490 lots of the auction realized $1,041,700, and the smaller second session brought in an impressive $995,500. All prices include the ten percent buyer’s premium.
The top lot in the second session of the Mebane auction was a half-pint Lafayette/bust of Lafayette – Masonic arch flask in light apple green that carried a $25/35,000 presale estimate. The flask was described as the “only known example” and when discovered, in time for the revised McKearin book, it was attributed to the Mt Vernon Glassworks. The Glassworks catalog disputed that, however, claiming that “except for the profile, nothing else about this flask matches the Mt Vernon group, nor does it match the Lafayette flasks from the Coventry Glassworks.”
Hagenbuch stated that the “unusual herring bone sides” were one of the key rdf_Descriptions that soured them on the McKearin/Wilson attribution as well as the physical makeup of the flask. “The glass itself is not from either of those glass houses,” he stated. “The color and the thick heavy glass does match that of the sometimes referred to, ‘two-pounder’ sunburst from Keene, N.H, Glassworks.”
Regardless of where the flask was manufactured, the color, rarity and the near perfect condition of the flask had collectors from across the nation poised for serious action. Bidding on the flask was brisk with it selling at $44,000, to a New England collector, establishing a record price paid at auction for the flask.
Numerous records were set throughout the sale including a Jenny Lind calabash in cobalt blue that sold well above the $5/7,000 estimates bringing $14,300, a Wheat, Price & Co. flask in medium emerald green brought a record price of $26,400, and an eagle/sun-burst in tobacco amber made a record at $39,600.
Other top lots from the auction included a bust of Washington/sheaf of grain half-pint flask in cobalt selling at $37,400, a deep purple amethyst Masonic arch/eagle flask sold at $39,600, and a Success To The Railroad/locomotive flask in deep emerald green was knocked down at $15,400.
Scroll flasks in rare and unique colors also performed extremely well with a deep cobalt scroll (GIX-2) selling for a record price of $17,600, a deep emerald green scroll flask (GIX-13) went out at $8,800, and a dark amethyst pink scroll (GIX-14) established a record price paid at auction of $19,800.
The inks proved exceptionally popular with Hagenbuch commenting, “As in the first half of the auction, the colored inks and master inks brought a lot more than we could have ever expected.” The highlight of the inks was the gallon-size Harrison’s in a vibrant cobalt color, dark at the base fading to a brilliant blue in the center and then dark at the top. “This was one of my favorites from the collection,” stated Hagenbuch, “it has been ever since I watched it sell at the Gardner sale in 1975 for around $4,000.”
The cobalt gallon-size Harrison’s was one of two offered in the auction, with a wide-mouth example having been sold in October for $33,000. “This was one of the bottles that was heavily talked up,” said Hagenbuch, “and even though the wide-mouth was unique, it lacked the appeal of this bottle.” Bidding on the lot ended at $40,700.
Other master inks sold included a Jones 12-sided open pontil bottle in deep olive green selling at $15,400, and a smaller pint-sized example also in olive green brought $6,600.
The top lot of the regular inks was a Harrison-Tippecanoe clear figural log cabin ink made for William Henry Harrison’s 1840 Presidential campaign selling at $11,550, a dark olive puck-shaped ink with embossed motif of a man on a horse sold at $11,000, and a drape pattern cone ink in deep cobalt realized $9,450.
The highlight of the black glass was a rectangular-shaped bottle with beveled sides and a seal marked “JNO, Jackson, 1751,” that sold for an impressive $16,500, purchased by an “overseas agent bidding on behalf of an American client.” A black glass “onion” seal bottle dated 1720 also did well, bringing $6,600.
There was a group of bottles in the $4/8,000 price range that brought strong prices. “Like the first session, many of these bottles sold very high simply because there are more players involved at this level,” stated Hagenbuch. “There were also significant prices paid because anytime you get a definitive collection like this, you will get a premium price.” Included was a bust of Washington/sailing ship flask in light sapphire blue that was estimated at $4/5 ,000, yet realized $9,900, a pint-size eagle/eagle flask in medium cobalt estimated at $4/6,000 that brought $9,900 and an eagle-Liberty/oak tree flask estimated at $1,8/2,800 that went out at $8,250.
One of the great rarities from the Mebane collection was the North Bend/Tippe-canoe cabin-form bottle in a deep emerald green. These bottles were originally made for the Presidential campaign of William Henry Harrison in 1840, but according to legend, fell victim to the temperance movement and but a few survived. Most of those examples have had a corner knocked out so that the alcohol contents could have been drained, as was the case with this example. In otherwise good condition, the bottle was bid to $34,100.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm