Published: December 21, 2021
SACRAMENTO, CALIF. — Part 1 of the Mel Hammer bottle collection — gathered over a 50-year span by a man who dedicated much of his adult life to the acquisition and study of antique glass — was sold in an online auction that closed December 19 by American Bottle Auctions. The offerings featured Hammer’s favorites, including schnapps and gin bottles, bitters bottles and inkwells, many boasting 9.5 grades. Hammer died on Thanksgiving Day.
“Mel was a true collector of bottles,” said Jeff Wichmann of American Bottle Auctions. “I didn’t know him as well as I would have liked, but I did see him when he made the drive down from his home in Redding to our shop in 2019.”
Leading the sale at $21,000, including premium, was a Dr Renz’s Herb Bitters, 1868-81, with applied tapered top a light lime green, standing 9¾ inches tall and graded 9.5. “When most people think of the Renz’s Bitters, they aren’t thinking of this bottle,” stated the catalog. “It’s believed this product started around 1867; however, that was distributed with a paper label only. Renz talked Charles Langley into taking on the brand as his sole agent. That was something that Langley could not only afford but would turn out to be a smart move. While it took a while to become successful, winning a silver medal at the 1869 California State Fair, Renz saw bigger things and sold his painting business to pursue a wholesale liquor dealership in San Francisco. This bottle, of which we believe there are only four with this unique style tapered top, was undoubtedly the first embossed bottle made for this bitters. Of the known examples that exist, they are all in a green hue and exhibit crudity consistent with the era. We don’t know where Mel picked this one up, he did not get heavy into some of the more early San Francisco bitters but still had his fair share. A light lime green, we don’t believe one of these has ever come up for auction and it might be a while before another does.” Watch for a review of this sale in a later issue.
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