German Half Post
Digger Odell Publications ©2010
They seem to be popping up everywhere. At the St Pete bottle show in Florida to the Baltimore show in Maryland, Suspicious German Half Post bottles are making an appearance in great number and variety. One was even auctioned off recently in one the major auction houses.
My first encounter with these bottles was through an email appraisal. Upon first look at the 5 pint bottle, it had many characteristics of the early 18th Century Half Post bottles, mostly of European origin. In an attempt to offer the appraisee a quality appraisal, I checked all the sources I could find which show the various forms of Half Post bottles. No where, in any of the best sources, was I able to find any examples which resembled the pictures which had been sent to me.
Something about the bottle bothered me. The look of it was just too new. More importantly, the base showed no wear at all which would have been present on any bottle of such an early age of that size and weight. I told the customer, that I had some troubling issues and asked for better photos of the base and asked about any wear or scratching. He assured me that there was wear - but it was not visible in the pictures. So giving him the benefit of the doubt, I gave an appraisal figure in keeping with an old German Half Post bottle in a great color.
Several months passed until I attended the St. Pete Bottle show in January, 2010. At the show, I saw, not one, but two examples of German Half Post bottles which except for the color, shades of light amber not green, greatly resembled the bottle which I had appraised. Having the chance to examine these bottles up close, they had an unnaturally new look- crisp and shiny appearance...and absolutely no wear on the bases. Each bottle was slightly different in color and form but enough like the bottle which I had appraised, that I concluded they were of similar origin. Not wanting to totally trust in my own instincts, I corralled, Jim Hagenbuch, owner of Glass Works Auctions and asked his opinion - which was the same as mine - that these bottles were not as old as they appear to be and were probably quite modern despite being hand blown in the German Half Post Method.
Earlier this month (March 2010), I attended the Baltimore bottle show and saw on one dealer's table two of these bottles. each a different size and slightly different form but even from a distance, they closely resembled the others. It appears that even well-seasoned dealers are being scammed by these reproductions. Given the prices I have seen marked on these bottles (in the hundreds of dollars) someone is making a good buck and probably will continue to do so as the pool of prospective bottle, antique, and flea market dealers is large - as is the pool of unwitting buyers.
If you one of see one of these large German Half Post bottles, pick them up and examine them carefully. The best clue to age is to look for genuine wear on the high points of the bottom of the bottle. While some unscrupulous scoundrels have attempted to simulate wear by either rubbing the bottle on cement, or using a grinder or similar tool, authentic wear will have a unique appearance, not easily copied. Buyers and dealers need to familiarize themselves with authentic wear by examining known period pieces, which can be found at almost any bottle show.
The lack of wear on the base of these bottles is the first and best reason to stay away.
These repro bottles come in shades of green and light amber. They have many characteristics of old bottles, including loads of bubbles, hand blown pontil marks, applied lips, all of which might lead you to mistake them for an original. All the examples that I have seen are square or rectangular and are of a good size.
Authentic Base Wear
Grinders will leave marks that appear to run in one direction or another. It will have a ground appearance. Authentic wear will show scratching in random directions and only on the high points of the base. Notice how much more wear is on one side than another.
Authentic German Half Post Bottles
Here's a European spirits bottle with enamel paint. Some repros of these have shown up but are more obvious than the big colored bottles now making an appearance.
Authentic Pitkin Flask Made in America in the early 1820-1830s. Much scratching and wear can be seen on the body of this example.
Early American pattern mold flask.