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October 17, 2017, 01:34:07 pm
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An agate bottle from Australia

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Author Topic: An agate bottle from Australia  (Read 243 times)
Boletus
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« on: August 04, 2017, 01:55:32 pm »

Dear all,

I would like to share with you the images of another bottle I found in Australia on a recent trip.
It is 6,7 cm in height, agate, and came with a modern stopper which I didn't photograph.
Well, I guess enough said, as always please let me have your thoughts and comments.
I am listing quite a few photos this time because I think that they are needed to give the right idea of the shape and transparency.
Best regards and thanks in advance
Frank


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« Reply #1 on: August 04, 2017, 03:47:40 pm »

Frank,
This looks like an interesting bottle, pilgrim flask style?
I really like the last picture highlighting the stone's figure.
Congratulations!
Rube
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« Reply #2 on: August 04, 2017, 04:03:16 pm »

Wow Frank,
thank you for posting this bottle, I am interested in hearing the opinion of others, you know that I was quite excited about this bottle when you show it to me.
Dear all, Frank lives at about one hour and a half from me, and we met two weeks ago. He did bring a few bottles, and I did really like a cinnabar lacquer one and two agate bottles which are both old in my opinion.
This is one of them.
The bottle itself is very pleasant to see, but when I did introduce a LED light inside it… well, guys, another World! The agate of this bottle is extraordinary. The last two pictures here give an idea, but I think that the pictures have been taken in counter light, which is not exactly the same than illuminating from the inside.
This bottle is surprisingly different from one side to the another.
The side with the dark area has many layers of different tone color, more then what is possible to appreciate in the picture here.
While on the other side, it has the nicest botryoidal pattern that I have never seen. Very noticeable, not faint as it is usually seen.
The bottle is very well hollowed.
Dear Frank, we did talk a lot about many things during our meeting, and I forgot to ask you one thing.
I was surprised to hear that you found this bottle in Australia. Unlike you, that have spent some years in Australia, I have never been there and in my ignorance about that interesting land I must admit that I would never suspect that it was possible to find Chinese antiques in such so far land.
Then what I forgot to ask you was if it is common to find Chinese antiques there. In other words, how you did find it, was it a very rare chance or is it possible to find antique Oriental art in Australia?
Kind regards
Giovanni
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« Reply #3 on: August 04, 2017, 04:44:52 pm »

Dear Rube,

thanks for that, much appreciated!
I have tried my best to pay justice, with my photos, to the details of the stone.

Dear Giovanni,

what can I say... thank you!
Your appreciation of this and the other two bottles means a lot to me.
This is definitely one of those objects that really need to be seen in person to be appreciated because of the qualities of the stone.
Yes Australia is a very special place, and also one where it is possible to find treasures of Chinese antiques due to the British heritage but also to the early immigration of Chinese people to Australia.
As far as snuff bottles are concerned, I believe it is a great place where to find good examples, although as always there are also heaps of recent/modern ones.
In any case, let's say that unlike Italy, in there you can find snuff bottles in almost all antiques shops I have been to, with a number of perhaps close to the 50-60 examples in some antiques centres that are very popular over there.
I stayed one month this time around, and could not stop browsing antiques shops everyday.
How did I come by it...? That is probably the best part of the whole trip!
It is a story that should be properly told, as should all stories involving treasure hunting!
Perhaps I should take on this challenge and try to write something about this, in my own personal way, hoping that the result will be of interest to you and all the other members of the forum.
Time to think, who knows... let's see what happens!
I'll get back to this topic soon, cheers and ciao
Frank
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« Reply #4 on: August 04, 2017, 05:00:15 pm »

Hey, that is not fair from you! Just when I am going to sleep. How can I sleep now? You make me curious! Grin Grin
Giovanni
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« Reply #5 on: August 04, 2017, 10:11:48 pm »

Nice bottle Frank..

Not so sure the botryoidal pattern is as unusual as it may seem.. With the exception of the banding showing, which I have not seen together with botryoidal examples, it seems pretty common as botryoidal agate goes..

You mention being very well hollowed.  Are the walls thinner through out the body than that around the neck ?

It looks fairly modern to me... But indeed a very pretty example of botryoidal agate carved snuff bottle..

Congratulations !
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« Reply #6 on: August 05, 2017, 02:55:21 am »

Dear George,
as said I did handle this bottle. When Frank put it on the table, at first glance I thought that it was modern, because of the handles.
But then I pick it up and I can guarantee that it is an antique bottle. Very well hollowed, with a superb patina, impossible to replicate.
As for the botryoidal pattern, it is impressive, believe me. It is almost invisible under normal indoor light, but then when I introduced the LED light into the bottle, the first face that I saw was the one with the circular band, very nice, really very nice.
Then I did turn the bottle to see the other side, and boy, it was totally unexpected. The pattern, which I think you know is usually delicate, with light contrasting tone, on Frank’s bottle has a strong contrast. The border of the cells is dark, it seems that the borders within the cells did absorb some infiltration from soil substances.
Like you, I have never seen those two different patterns, banded and botryoidal, on a single bottle.
To me it is simply exceptional.
Kind regards
Giovanni
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« Reply #7 on: August 05, 2017, 03:21:37 am »

Dear George,

thank you!
Probably I didn't do a very good job in taking the photos, in showing the wear and patina but it really feels like an old example.
Yes the inside is well hollowed, better than what the neck may suggest.

Dear Giovanni,

Ha, what can I say...?
Thanks very much mate!
I'm sorry to have raised your curiosity last night... but I wanted to write a proper rendition of the story, for an idea that I have in mind... I promise that before you'll go to sleep, tonight, you'll have some bedtime stories to read! I hope you'll like it!
Back to the writing desk now!
Cheers and ciao!
Frank
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« Reply #8 on: August 05, 2017, 05:57:09 am »

Frank,

I notice that your nice bottle lacks a stopper and spoon, and can be strung.
Will you add these, or just let it be natural, how you found it, letting the
agate speak for itself?  I have never heard the term botryoidal agate before, but when I look at your bottle it reminds me of bubbling caramel, and it makes me really hungry, again congrats!

Giovanni, I bought a bore light that you'd use to look inside the barrel of a gun for rust and
pitting, but it's too large for peering inside most snuff bottles.  Do you have a recommendation
for a type of light that suits this purpose?

Cheers,

Rube.



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« Reply #9 on: August 05, 2017, 06:21:10 am »

Dear Rube,
I too have an optical borescope, found at a flea market, but it has a diameter of 6 mm so it is not suitable for all bottles.
I have also a video camera, very small, which allow me to take pictures, but this one has a diameter of 8 mm, so it can just allow me to inspect the bottle from outside, through the opening.
Again at a flea market, I have found a couple of years ago a stereo microscope. It is a superb device, designed for eyes surgery. The big advantage of this device is that allows me to inspect small objects at a great distance.
So I can introduce into the bottle a small LED, connected with two very thin wires. That way I can light the bottle inside and inspect it through the microscope. I can’t inspect totally the inside, just let say about the lower half of the bottle, but I do that in three-dimensional way, with good lighting.
Anyway, just the LED, even at naked eyes, is a good help.
Dear Frank, I am really interested in reading what you are writing down.
Kind regards
Giovanni
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« Reply #10 on: August 05, 2017, 11:17:46 am »

Geez Giovanni,

That's pretty high tech, I'm impressed!

Cheers,

Rube.
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« Reply #11 on: August 05, 2017, 11:28:32 am »

Dear Rube,

I think I'll leave the bottle as it is, unless I find a stopper that really suits it, which I doubt will happen anytime soon.
I like the bottle just as it is now.
Thanks again
Frank

Dear Giovanni,

are you ready? I'm almost there!
I really hope you'll like it...
Cheers
Frank
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« Reply #12 on: August 05, 2017, 12:01:52 pm »

Dear Giovanni,

here is your bedtime story, enjoy it, I hope you'll like it!

Dear all,

this is just a little experiment, or as they would call it in the Contemporary Art World, a "performance" or, even better, an intervention "site specific".
It is an attempt to add another angle to the world of snuff bottle collecting, where instead of sharing just the photos, size, material and possible date of an example, we also share the story that lead to its discovery and acquisition.
I hope it works, you'll be, as always, the judge.
Here we go! (in the next post...)
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« Reply #13 on: August 05, 2017, 12:16:35 pm »

Every tale needs a title, so we’ll call this one: “The ones that got away... and the one left behind”, or “The half-full, half-empty glass”.
Here is how this tale could begin...
 
“What is a bright, warm, sunny Winter day in Brisbane? Nothing special... it’s just another day in Paradise”.
That is what the protagonist of our story, a Tribal Art collector and soon-to-be snuff bottle enthusiast must have thought when he stepped outside of his father-in-law’s house early in the morning, as he was about to begin his very tough, daily routine of hunting for artefacts in the aforementioned city. (Yes, I know, it is a tough job but someone has to do it, and, by the way, for the sake of story-telling, from now on we will call him “Frank” although that may not be his real name)
The plan today included a visit to one of Frank’s favourite places in Brisbane: an antiques shop in the Woolloongabba area, a real hunting ground if you’re after the quirky, the rare and the unusual.
So, after a few unsuccessful stops in other antiques and second hand shops, Franks finally found himself in front of the familiar roller door that he remembers so well; right in there, waiting for him, there’s the owner of the place, a witty and humorous antiques dealer who is very knowledgeable on Tribal Art as well as other areas like Asian Art and collectables. (Again, for the sake of story-telling, from now on we will call him “Adrian” although that actually may be his real name...)
 
“Good day Adrian, how are you mate?”
“Frank my brother, so good to see you, do you have a lot of cash on you?”
“Never enough my friend, never enough for you!”... and after the usual hand shake and hug, Frank eagerly walked in.
 
The store was exactly as Frank remembered it: a large, 200- 300 square-metre warehouse, an ex factory unit with very high ceilings and no skylights, very dark, stuffed with old furniture and glass cabinets, with that unique smell of what’s old and stale: the smell of treasures demanding to be found! Frank was more than happy to lend a hand with that if needed...!
He walked straight to this particularly long and narrow desk right at the entrance, which is normally the place where Adrian displayed most of his Tribal Art pieces, let’s say the average ones.
This time there were unfortunately no interesting artefacts to be found there, and after a short examination of a large collection of Highlands shields (from Papua New Guinea, not from Scotland...), Frank placed his last hopes of finding something exciting in what he knew as the last resort: the dealer’s private office, a place that was off limits for the average customer, but that through the many years of doing business together Frank had acquired the privilege to gain access to. (Well, at least this is the way Frank liked to see it... he’ll never know if this was true or not!)
Again, no luck in there too... apart from a rather interesting but expensive Solomon Islands ceremonial wand, from the Fleishmann collection, there was nothing really worth buying.
(... and that feeling of disappointment that Frank knew all too well begun to grow in his spleen...)
 
“My friend, I don’t know, I’ll have to think about that one... please let me take a look at your Asian Art pieces as well”.
“Of course mate, you know the way”, said Adrian.
So Frank left the office and went straight deeper into the darkest area of the warehouse, right at the bottom left, just after the Italian section. (Yes, Adrian liked Italian antiques too!)
As always there were plenty of interesting pieces, Chinese porcelain vases and plates, Cinnabar boxes, Japanese Inro and netsuke, but apart from a really intriguing (but too expensive for Frank’s pockets) Meiji period ivory netsuke of an Oni carrying a large pouch on his back, nothing really exciting was to be found there.
(... and that feeling of disappointment almost reached the dangerous zone...)
 
“Look mate, any chance you have some good old snuff bottles to show me?”
“Ha! Funny you should mention that because as a matter of fact later this afternoon (it was around 11 am at that time) a private collector is going to bring in a few bottles he needs to sell for personal reasons... would you like to be the first one to see them, by any chance? No worries if you don’t...!”
(... and that feeling of disappointment... What feeling of disappointment? I’m in treasure-hunting Heaven right now!)
 
So, after deciding to set the meeting at 3 pm that afternoon, Frank left the place with a lighter heart, an empty stomach, and a big expectation for what was awaiting him later on.
The light outside seemed even brighter, now it was time to go and get some food (Chinese restaurant of course!) before facing the next adventure!
At 3 pm sharp Frank returned to the warehouse where Adrian was waiting for him with a cunning smile on his face: “Mate, if you gave me another five minutes I could have finished the bottles I was carving for you in the back of my shop!”
“No worries mate, if you’re that good you can carve some for me anytime you want!”... and after the usual hand shake and hug, Frank moved toward the back of the large desk at the entrance.
Adrian soon joined him with what appeared to be a small packet made of embroidered silk. He put it on the desk and unrolled it open, unveiling six or seven snuff bottles: a blue overlay snowflake ground glass bottle, a green jade one, perhaps two agate ones (Frank seems to be a little vague on that) and perhaps one in porcelain and one in enamel over brass.
Unfortunately that is as precise as Frank can be in regard to that event, we must forgive him... perhaps all those years of fast-lane living and too much drinking have now taken their toll.
 
Now, this is a good time to diverge a little from the main story and learn a bit more about Frank’s interest in snuff bottles: as we know he’s a long-time knowledgeable collector of Tribal Art and artefacts and of other collectables (Netsuke included) but he is not a connoisseur of Chinese Art and certainly not of snuff bottles.
So where does his interest come from?
Is it something that happened by chance, by the fortuitous, random encounter with some examples which unleashed an interest that eventually grew to a passion?
Or is it perhaps something even deeper, on a more unconscious level, a lingering feeling, something that has always been there but never really revealed itself until now?
Deep somewhere in his memory he has this image of his father sitting behind the desk in his study, saying to a very young Frank (he must have been four or five at the time) “Look at this small spoon I’m carving, out of ivory, is for my little jade bottle”. Frank remembers that his father treasured that little jade object, and perhaps that is the spark of his very personal connection to snuff bottles.
Or perhaps there is another episode that could have influenced the unconscious: in 1988 (or 1989... please remember Frank’s memory is a little week...) when he was about twenty-one or twenty-two, he went to China on a month-long tour with an International Ballet Company, and clearly remembers a magical place in Shanghai called “The Mandarin’s Garden” (need I say more about his memory...?) where there was a small antiques shop from which he bought a little present for his father. (Could it be possible that he remembered his father’s passion for small Chinese objects?)
From the very little he and the shop owner could understand of each other, Frank remembers that the object was described as something like “a bottle for perfume or essence...”
The small object was a ceramic bottle, of pillar form, and of light green/aquamarine colour. It most likely was a snuff bottle, and Frank now wishes he’d be given the chance to have another look at it.
Whatever the episode that branded Frank’s unconscious (the first, the second, or perhaps both?) it is important to underline that even though Frank’s passion is evidently genuine and intense, his knowledge isn’t sufficient enough to avoid banal mistakes when judging the age and quality of a bottle.
This had to be made clear now because of what is about to happen...
 
Back to the main story.
So there is Frank, with those six or seven bottles in front of him and not enough knowledge to say right away which one could be a good one, if anyone at all.
The clock starts... now.
To be honest, his initial impression was good, those examples were by far the best he had seen in his trip, but again that was just an impression and nothing more.
Unfortunately that day he didn’t have a loupe with him (never really had one before) and could not rely on more objective facts, that is if he would have been able to recognise them anyway!
Basically, his initial excitement now turned into pressure... his heart pumping, his eyes tired, well... you know the drill.
“Oh boy, what do I do now... that one on the left seems really old, or perhaps the one in the centre is the best, at least that one is made of precious material... but who am I kidding... I thought it would have been easier.... Yes honey, I’m coming! Bloody hell, I have to go now... what should I do... Perhaps I should... Yeah I heard you the first time, I’m coming”!
The momentum is gone.
It is a little like when re-emerging from a deep dive underwater you open your mouth just a fraction too soon, and instead of your long-awaited breath of fresh air you end up swallowing salty water that then goes straight in your stomach and lungs, clearly clouding your judgement, to use a euphemism... Not a pretty thing!
Am I exaggerating a little...? Perhaps, but this is story-telling after all!
Anyway, it will give you an idea of Frank’s emotional state. A wreck. Not a happy camper at all.
“Look Adrian, I’m sorry but I must go now... if possible I’ll try to come back with more time on my hands to take a second look at the bottles and then decide...”
“Yes mate, but I have to tell you that later on today I have a couple of interested collectors coming to check these bottles, therefore I cannot guarantee you that they’ll be here when you return”.
“No worries mate, I’m sure you can carve another three or four just for them, to keep them happy!” With that said, Frank left, perhaps thinking: “Yeah mate, nice try with that one! The oldest trick in any dealer’s book, trying to put pressure on a client mentioning some mysterious interested collector who should come next...”
Well, that’s probably what he thought while walking to the car where his wife and father-in-law were waiting for him.
 
One week went by since his visit to Adrian’s shop, a week full of nice Tribal Art finds, including a marvellous pair of 19th C. Solomon Islands dancing shields, which came out of a second hand shop.
But that’s another story.
Instead, Frank couldn’t stop thinking about those bottles, searching all the possible information on internet that could help him be more prepared for what he called “the next round”!
Well, little did he know, there wasn’t going to be a next round!
That day Frank decided to go back to Adrian’s place to see the bottles once again, and after some delicate but intense moral suasion to convince his father-in-law to give him a lift back to the shop, he found himself once again in front of that familiar quirky smile, by the roller door.
“Mate, you should have called me to let me know you were coming, I didn’t have the time to carve anything new for you my friend!”
“Ah, that’s alright... I guess I’ll stick to the ones you made for me last time... Are they still there on the back of the desk?” Frank asked while quickly heading towards the inside of the shop.
“Mate, unfortunately I have sold those bottles to the people who came after you that day, they said that they were very good and bought them all... except one I think”.
(... and that feeling of disappointment is now back with a vengeance, for its second round, looking great and in good shape...)
 
Ok, what can we say... that happens right? Frank, eat a spoon of cement and get on with your life... didn’t you say that that was “just another day in Paradise”?
“Hey Frank, can you hear me? Anyone in there? It’s your brain reminding you that Adrian said that there is probably one bottle left from that group... Hello? Do you copy?”
Even though the warehouse by now looked even gloomier than usual (or perhaps exactly because of this) Frank suddenly woke up from his state of self-pity, and decided to go on living. (Frank is a bit melodramatic you know...)
“So which one is the one they left behind? This agate one? Yes? Ok, let’s take a good look at it, not only do I have the time today, but I also bought a loupe too!”
Needless to say, making another long part of the story short, Frank studied this bottle for half-an-hour, carefully holding it in his hands, feeling the warmth or “mana” of it. (This is the exact word Frank used, taken from the world of Tribal Art which may be translated as “power”, “intrinsic spirit” or something like that, related to an object and the psychic energy it inherited from its owners)
The conclusion of this week in Frank’s life as a snuff bottle collector (and of this story as a whole!) is that he obviously ended up owning that bottle, an object he now likes very much and that is growing on him together with his passion for snuff bottle collecting, an object that became the first find in that trip, and perhaps the second bottle he ever bought, after the ceramic one in China, a long time back.
 
So, what did we learn tonight, Greg...? (Unnecessary quotation from a TV show...)
Is the glass half full or half empty?
How do we rate Frank’s first real experience with the world of snuff bottles? Can we say that it was a very exciting time?
Or should it go down as a mistake, just an error in what is called “the learning curve”?
Why did the other couple buy all the bottles except one? Was it because it is a modern bottle which ended in the group by mistake?
Or is it possible that perhaps that couple actually left the best one out, by mistake? Were they really knowledgeable collectors... or not?
And do all these questions matter in any way?
Probably Frank’s answer to this would be summarized simply with one expression: “Boia d’un mond leder!” (Try to google that one!)
 
In the end, here is where we part ways.
I wish I could tell you more about the really important part of that trip, the one and only thing Frank sought and found, the spark which turned itself into a...
But that’s another story, my friends!
 
THE END.
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« Reply #14 on: August 05, 2017, 01:07:16 pm »

Bravo Frank! 
Can't wait for the next story!

Cheers,

Rube.
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« Reply #15 on: August 05, 2017, 01:33:30 pm »

Dear Frank,

     You got the one you were meant to get.
My first reaction was that it was modern, but I trust Giovanni's 'eye' re.wear and patina. I look forward to seeing it in Sept., though the Cinnabar appeals more, just because I love Organic materials. But I collected hardstone SBs for over 20 years (1970-1991).

     Nice story; a bit 'shmaltzy' but to each his own.  Roll Eyes Grin

     Incidentally, 'Mana', or 'Qi' in Chinese, is usually understood as 'Life Energy', and it is invested in an object by the maker [or carver, etc.], and then by the person or people using it. It is also a part of Polynesian culture, and I collect Hawaiian 'Umeke' (turned or carved wood bowls), and due to my belief in this, I've bought only modern Umeke. This is in order to not remove old Mana from Hawaii - the turners I buy from are friends, and know their pieces are going off Island. With their permission, it is OK.

Best,
Joey
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Joey Silver, collecting snuff bottles since Feb.1970

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« Reply #16 on: August 05, 2017, 01:58:49 pm »

Dear Rube,

thanks for that, I'm glad you liked it!
Cheers
Frank

Dear Joey,

I'm sorry you didn't like it more, but like you say, to each his own.
Thanks for reading it!

Actually, for the sake of precision, "mana" has a very specific meaning in the world of tribal art (too long and too specific to enter that conversation here on this forum) which obviously changes angle from the different areas of the world (Africa has one, which is different from Oceanic, PNG, Australia etcetera) not to mention the "meaning" it could take outside of "tribal context". Objects with mana are not limited to those with an infused energy by the carver (like African fetish figures) but are especially those that "receive" that power through the many years of handling and tribal life usage. It's complicated... and that's another story!
Cheers and thanks
Frank
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« Reply #17 on: August 05, 2017, 04:12:42 pm »

Wow Frank, I didn’t know that you were a writer!
You really have skills to tell stories, I am amazed!
It is always nice to know the story behind each object, Joey has a lot of stories that he kindly share with us.
Now, there is a point in your story. Why those collectors did not buy the bottle?
Was them unexperienced or was that bottle the worst one of the group?
Actually, many times there are no apparent logical explications. I have bought good items for low price after the sale at auctions.
I bought for example a rare Kangxi hexagonal vase, hu form, for 100 euro after the sale, for incredible that it may seem.
So, Australia is a good hunting place. Pity it is so far. Oh well, tomorrow I will go to the flea market where Joey bought the Japanese page turner. Let cross the fingers!
Kind regards
Giovanni
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« Reply #18 on: August 05, 2017, 05:05:06 pm »

Quote
How do we rate Frank’s first real experience with the world of snuff bottles? Can we say that it was a very exciting time?
Or should it go down as a mistake, just an error in what is called “the learning curve”?
We've all been there!!!!!!!!

Frank,

The story behind the bottle was a great read in my opinion.  But I always appreciated the stories behind how snuff bottle collectors got started, or in this case the story behind a special acquisition.  We all have a few!  Thanks for taking the time to put it to words, and most importantly catalog that text with your bottle. 

Charll
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Charll K Stoneman, Eureka, California USA, Collector Since 1979.

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« Reply #19 on: August 05, 2017, 05:10:31 pm »

Wonderful story Frank... Like Charll, I also enjoy hearing stories about how we come across bottles... Thank you for sharing yours !
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