Unusual Carolina Collectible
Recently, I took a pre-prohibition whiskey advertisement to a restoration shop for some long needed repairs. While I was there, I struck up a conversation with a gentleman who was just hanging around the shop and he noticed my UNC wrist watch and asked me if I had attended Carolina. I answered in the affirmative and then he told me of an item he had found at a back yard sale and given to one of his friends who had attended UNC. He described the item, a whiskey decanter, and gave me the name of the individual to whom he had given it. This was somewhat embarrassing to me since I worked for the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control for over 20 years and I had never heard of a decanter such as the one he described.
Since the current owner of the item lives in Ashland which is nearby, I gave him a call to try and learn more about it. He confirmed that he had the item and agreed to provide me with a photograph which I had enlarged and put on display at the BBQ we held to celebrate receipt of our Virginia UNC License Plates. I then proceeded to try and secure one of the decanters by contacting my ex-cohorts at the Virginia Dept. of ABC. They informed me that the decanter was never sold in Virginia so we had to try and contact the distillery that produced it. "Old Commonwealth 1979' was inscribed on the bottom of the decanter along with the words "Collector's Limited Edition" and "Genuine Cumberland Porcelain."
We were unsuccessful in locating Old Commonwealth Distillery and we suspect that some major distillery produced the decanter under another name. We have been unable to verify this.
At any rate, I discussed the matter with Dave, my former boss and current traveling companion, and strongly hinted that he might be able to locate one through his influential North Carolina friends in the ABC system there that he knew from his days as Chairman of the Board for the Virginia ABC Department.
A couple of weeks later, he called me and asked me to come over, that he had something for me. I went to his house and received one of my more treasured Carolina collectibles. A distributor in North Carolina had found one somewhere in a warehouse and Dave said it was now mine. It even had the contents and tax stamp on it, and Dave wouldn't accept any payment for his find. I did finally persuade him to take the contents for his personal use since I am primarily a beer drinker and the contents did not add to the value of the decanter.
The decanter is absolutely beautiful as you can see from the photograph at the end of this article. We didn't photograph all of the panels so I will describe them briefly for you.
You can see the Old Well occupies the front panel but the other 3 panels are attractive also. They are Ramses and the interlocking NC on one, Kenan Stadium on game day on another, and the Bell Tower on the third. All are in beautiful color and tastefully presented.
I have met only one other person who has ever heard of the decanter and he says he bought one in N.C. when they were on sale there in 1979. Before I located mine, I spent a lot of time on the internet unsuccessfully trying to locate one. While I never saw one for sale, I did find one person who was trying to locate one for himself. They have never heard of it in the General Alumni Office but they did tell me about another decanter that I will try to locate when I get the details. It has the '82 NCAA Basketball Championship and the '83 Gator Bowl win on it. I hope to see it in the near future.
The decanter ranks high among my Carolina collectibles but I still can't figure out how knowledge of it it eluded me for so long. Looks like one of my friends in N.C. would have notified me of it when it came out. Maybe my friends don't go to the ABC Stores there as often as I thought they did and I am convinced that it was never put on sale in Virginia. This surprises me when you consider that we have over 10,000 UNC alums in the Commonwealth. If I discover any others floating around, I will let you know. If it is a warehouse find, we'll all be rich.