Collecting Jim Beam Decanters for Investment

Collecting Decanters for Investment

In the last two columns we talked about identifying bottles and determining values. It therefore seems fitting to talk about this hobby from the stand point of investment.

There are several reasons we collect things but it seems like it always comes down to,”how much is this worth?” We all like to get good deals on our purchases, but what is agood deal? I’ve always felt that the best buy is the one where both parties are satisfiedwith the deal. I don’t mind paying a little more for something if I really like it or if I think
it could increase in value over time. Most collectibles do. But how does this relate to collecting bottles? In the sixties when clubs and bottle stores were popping up every where, the values of bottles were continually going up. There was so much interest in some bottles that the distillers began reissuing popular ones that were bringing high prices. This would eventually have a negative effect on these bottles because suddenly the market was saturated with them. The old supply and demand thing. Many decanters that commanded medium to high prices began todecrease as the distillers made more and more. Interest began to decrease as well. It’s my belief that many of the bottles in this
category then are great buys today.

One example of this is a decanter that Beam made in 1959 in their “Trophy” series called the Ram. As I was only nine years old at the time, I don’t recall the cost of the bottle when it was introduced but it was probably around $10.00. It’s really a neat bottle — a stylized design of a Ram complete with a thermometer in the curve of its horn and
a calendar from that year mounted to the base of the bottle. I understand that when the bottle came out it was not very popular and stores had a hard time selling it. Due to its unpopularity, Beam didn’t make very many of them. In checking an old Beam price guide from 1976, Beam lists the bottle at $160.00. In 1980 the bottle listed for $150.00;
in 1995 for only $48.00; today it lists at $40.00. I have only seen one of these bottles in my 27 years of collecting and that’s the one in my collection. To me, this bottle is a great investment. History will repeat itself and this bottle will become in demand again. Then the price will go back up.

Another interesting bottle is Beam’s “Crystal Smoked Genie”. This bottle was made in 1964 under their “Glass” series. Like most of the Glass series bottles, they were inexpensive when issued. Thousands and thousands were made. I’m not sure if Beam fashioned this bottle after the early TV series “I Dream of Genie” but in looking back at their 1976 book, “JIM BEAM BOTTLES”, they do mention the TV show. I’m relatively sure that this bottle could have been purchased off the self full of Jim Beam for $5.99 in 1964. Beam’s 1976 book describes the bottle and lists it
for $8.00.

Regardless of whether or not Beam made the bottle from the TV show, the popularity of the show has had a very positive effect on the collectability of the bottle. In 1995 it listed for $20.00 and today it’s at $44 .00. This is a fairly common bottle that has more then doubled in value in the past four years due to increased interest in the old TV show. This interest has carried over to two other bottles in the Glass series as well: The “Teal Blue Crystal” bottle made in 1973 and the “Ruby” (the best looking one of the three) in 1980. Again, these are common bottles but the prices are increasing as a result of the interest in the “Smoked Genie”. The Teal lists for $27.00 today and the
Ruby for $10.00. I think all three of these are good investments and they make a great looking set.

Beam’s “Wheel” series (cars, trains, wagons, etc.) have always been good buys and have shown the most consistency in holding their value than perhaps any of Beam’s other series. Many of the Wheels decanters are worth several hundred dollars. They are gorgeous bottles. Of all the distillers that made Car bottles, Beam has the best. The value of these Car decanters should continue to show a slow but steady growth. In 1974, under the series heading “Beam Organization” they introduced the first of 21 decanters for “Ducks Unlimited”. Bottles in this set range in price from
$30.00 to $295.00. These bottles fall in a class of their own when it comes to art. They are BEAUTIFUL.. I understand that part of the proceeds from the sale of these bottles went to the Ducks Unlimited organization. The combination of beautiful art and a great organization has insured the future of investing in this series. I understand that Beam is introducing a new bottle this year for Ducks Unlimited. This will be the first decanter Beam has produced in four years. If you get the opportunity to buy one, do it. You won’t regret it and you might start collecting the whole series.

There are other good investments in Beam series bottles too. Another one is Beam “States”. In 1958 Beam made the first State bottle to commemorate our 49th state, Alaska. The decanter is called the Alaska Star. It is in the shape of
a star and at the points there are symbols of the state’s industries. This is a nice looking bottle and has an interesting history as well. In 1964, when an earthquake devastated parts of Alaska, many collectors lost their bottles when the tremors hit. Because this was a very collectable bottle from the start ($78.00), Jim Beam reissued the decanter in 1964-65. It’s my understanding that if you owned a broken Alaska bottle and sent Beam a piece of it, they would replace the decanter at no charge. This is one of the few examples where a bottle was reissued and still enjoys a good
price. Today the decanter lists at $36.00. I think this is one of the most popular of the “States” bottles and will go up in value. Other bottles in this series that are worth hanging on to are the 1959 Colorado bottle, the Hawaii 1959, the Idaho 1962, Kansas 1960, Montana 1962, North Dakota 1964, West Virginia 1963 and Wyoming 1964. These bottles were all fairly limited edition decanters and will continue a trend up.

This is a great time to be collecting bottles. There are many great bottles out there that are not high priced, but as interest in the hobby continues to grow, as it seems to be doing now, they will start going up in value. If you don’t have a book for pricing, get one. I recommend “Mario’s Price Guide to Modern Bottles”. It only costs $6.00 and
you can carry it in your pocket. You can order one by sending a check to Mario Latello at: 146 Sheldon Ave, Depew, NY 14043. 

Other Columns
Bottles 101
Determining Values
Collecting Decanters for Investment

Jim Beam Collectors Edition Decanters
Other China Decanter Bottle Makers

Jim Beam Related
Jim Beam Overview