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Collecting Antique Bottles

By Edited Oct 9, 2015 3 8

Antique bottle hobby

When you begin to collect antique bottles you will be surprised by the variety of bottles that are available to you. The bottles do not have to be very old either and many Pepsi and Coca Cola bottles are of antique vintage particularly because of their unique shape alone. Bottles are collectable and can return a profit if you know the difference between modern glass bottles and those of older vintage. The real pleasure from this hobby is in the collecting and displaying on your favorite antique bottles. Glass is my preferred bottle material as a collector but a few collectors specialize in the pre glass era where ceramic bottles were commonly used. 

Expert guide to bottle collecting

What to look for as a bottle collector

The bottle’s shape is what attracts some collectors, other are intrigued by the age of a particular bottle, but my preference is for the color as a display of beautifully colored glass bottles is a joy to behold. Other factors affecting a bottle’s status will be its condition and the year of manufacture. 

How to start collecting antique bottles

Antique bottle selection
There are several places to begin your collecting hobby. For instance, it might be as simple as digging in the garden and unearthing a buried bottle or two. Other good places you might discover antique bottles would be by the seaside as they sometimes get washed in with the tide. Old ground which may be derelict or deserted can be a good hunting ground for bottles. When searching for discarded glass bottles great care is required and you should wear appropriate protection equipment which at the very minimum is a strong pair of gloves. Your own safety is paramount but with the correct tools and clothing you will also avoid the disappointment of breaking a rare bottle upon finding it.

Colored antique bottles

Antique bottle selection

Recognizing different types of antique glass bottle seams

Information is available when you examine a bottle and it is possible to tell whether it was free blown or manufactured on a bottle machine. A free blown glass bottle will never have a seam at the sides or around the bottle’s shoulder. If the bottle does not have a seam it will indicate a date pre the mid 19th century especially if the bottle is not evened out and has a slightly non-regular shape. Later bottles were spun to get the glass to spread evenly. Bottles that contain a seam indicate that they have been made in a mold and often the seam will stop short of the top of the bottle as the top section get attached afterwards. A 3 piece mold will yield yet another type of bottle without seams at the bottom but with seams from the bottle shoulder upwards.

Cleaning glass antique bottles safely

Several chemical cleaners are available and the main tool to use in conjunction with these cleaners will be a bottle brush. There is not any need to buy expensive cleaners at all really because old fashioned soap and warm water works really well. In addition to this you can boil-clean a glass bottle. Another tip, when cleaning a bottle, is to put some sand in the bottle (not too much) with the bottle about one third full of water. Stopper the top and shake the bottle and the sandy water will act as an abrasive and assist with the interior cleaning. The bottle’s exterior can be cleaned with a good scrubbing brush. 

Finally, if you do decide to start an antique bottle collection, I am sure that you will find it a most enjoyable hobby. The most important thing is having a hobby of some kind. If old antique bottles are not to your taste you could try something different such as postcard and postage stamp collecting or a hobby of collecting thimbles or sewing buttons. 

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May 13, 2011 2:31pm
The colored antique bottles look like stained glass in your picture.
May 13, 2011 3:27pm
Thank you for your comment. I have many clear glass antique bottles but I especially like colored glass bottles. I do have some stained glass which I display but glass in the bottle form is just more exciting for me. Even the non-antique bottles are pleasing to look at and I have a collection of small perfume bottles too because of the unusual glass shapes that are available in this format.
May 13, 2011 5:57pm
I have a collection of old milk bottles in a wood carry case that were from years ago. My grandfather was a milkman, he used the case or crate? I also have a collection of very old canning jars. You are so right about pleasing to the eye as well as remembering times gone by. Now everyone says recycle, but back a long time ago we really did do it.
May 14, 2011 8:18am
Thank you revisiting and your interesting comments regarding your grandfather. I used to work a milk round many moon ago before plastic ruined everything. But all is not lost as many people are reverting back to glass bottles, particularly new mothers who now opt for glass baby bottles in preference to the possible dangerous plastic ones and the associated BPA concerns. It is so much easier to boil clean a glass bottle too.
May 27, 2011 5:03pm
I love glass objects, vases are mt favorite but I do like your glass bottles.
Jun 3, 2011 10:36am
Thank you Erinblakes for your comments. Glass is a beautiful medium whether its stained glass, vases or bottles. I love all glass artifacts and I like the strength that glass offers despite its fragility if you drop it.
Sep 11, 2012 7:55pm
Hi Tom,
We found a bunch of old bottles in the woods behind our house a few weeks ago. We just repainted our bathroom, and it's gray and white. It needed some color, and I remembered my Mom used to put colored water in pretty and odd shaped bottles when I was a young girl. So I tried it, and it really added that splash of color the room needed. And it didn't cost a penny!
Sep 12, 2012 12:08am
Excellent, this is exactly the way to go with home decor. the bottles are so pretty. I love colored glass and many of my windows have witch balls (friendship glass balls) in them along with colored glass bottles. The light reflections on a sunny day are spectacular. Thank you, Jean, for dropping by.
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