Jim Beam Collectors Edition Decanters

Jim Beam Collectors Edition Decanters

In an effort to help the non-collector or novice, I’m going to dedicate this article to the infamous Jim Beam Collectors Edition decanters. I receive many inquiries regarding this series that Beam made in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, and are the most common of the Beam decanters.

In 1966, Jim Beam introduced what was to become one of their longest running collections of bottles. They were called “Beam Collector Editions”. They ran from 1966 to 1986. Each year Beam would introduce a new “collection” under this heading. The first was a series of four different bottles with paintings from famous artists. The bottles were boxed in a simple but colorful box with an open front so that the painting on the decanter was visible. The bottles in the first series were coated with a velvet or felt-like material that was blue with the
painting in the middle of the bottle and a label under the painting. These were pint size bottles with a blue plastic lid that screwed off. They were ugly to say the least but in 1966 the hobby of bottle collecting was enjoying significant growth, with Beam and other bottle clubs popping up everywhere.

Liquor store shelves were well stocked with these decanters and many of the store owners were collectors themselves. This had a huge bearing on the popularity of the hobby at the time as the distributor reps (many of them collected also) would get the owners excited about new intros and the owners would pass this excitement onto their customers. This, in turn, had a direct impact on the prices that the decanters were bringing at that time. The “Collector Editions” were inexpensive and the dealer could buy them in quantity, create a nice display near the cash register and price the pint bottles at $5.95 to appeal to his customers. It was a great marketing ploy. But like many other things in life, you get what you pay for. The contents of the decanter were still the high quality but the container was cheap. Today, some 30 some years later, these bottles (full or empty) still aren’t worth any more than when they were introduced.

Each series is known as a “volume”. There are over 80 bottles in the entire collection. Volumes 1 & 2 (1966-67) each contained 4 different paintings and are valued at $4.00 each. Volumes 3 & 4 (1968-69) each continued 8 different paintings and are only valued as $4.00 each. Volume 5 (1970), 6 different paintings, is valued at $3.00.
Volumes 6 through 11 (1971–76) include paintings as well as pictures of birds (‘74), fish (‘75) and wildlife (‘76). These are valued at $3.00-5.00. Later volumes included pictures of dogs (‘77) and waterfowl (‘80), with similar values of approximately $5.00. The last several years were devoted to duck stamps (‘84-’86) and these have a slightly higher value of $7.00-8.00. For easy reference, you can find the year in the bottom on each bottle. The list price is taken from “Mario’s Price Guide to Modern Bottles” current edition (July-Sept. 99).

So now you know the story of the Beam’s Collectors Editions.


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