Welcome to the hobby of antique bottle collecting

Shortly after submitting my report highlighting the events of the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors July EXPO 2012 for Antique Trader magazine, the editor called and left a message offering me an opportunity to write a column for the magazine on antique bottle collecting. That was an offer I couldn’t refuse, and I responded with an immediate “Yes!” My experiences with the hobby of antique bottle collecting have not only been interesting and educational, but a heck of a lot of fun. And, having fun with your hobby is what it’s all about.

Michael Polak antique bottles

Bottle Treasures Uncorked by Michael Polak

Bottle collecting as a hobby has always been strong, and it continues to grow stronger gaining more popularity with a wider spectrum of antique collectors. Because of the increased growth and popularity, there is a never-ending amount of exciting news, current events and fun happenings with bottle collecting. The purpose of this column will be to report and keep the collector updated on all of this information, while having fun at the same time.

My introduction into the hobby of antique bottle collecting began in 1974 with a digging trip to Tonopah, Nev., often referred to as the “Queen of the Silver Camps.” During its heyday from 1902-1907, Tonopah ore averaged $18 to $30 million a year, and from 1915-1923, it was still at $6 million a year. While digging in a deep hole in the early dumping grounds, I found a “Tonopah Drug Co.” bottle, along with about 200 other bottles over three days; I was hooked. Since then, it’s been great fun for 38 years with my main focus being on Nevada – specifically bottles and associated items from Tonopah and Goldfield, Nev.

Tomopah Nevada bottle

Tonopah, Nev., Drug Co. bottle with trade token.

My book, “Antique Trader Bottles Identification and Price Guide, 7th edition,” was recently published in August 2012. In addition to writing for Antique Trader, I have also written and contributed articles for Writers Digest, Scouting Magazine and Nevada Magazine. I’m a strong supporter of all bottle clubs, and belong to the Los Angeles, San Diego and the Las Vegas Bottle Clubs, along with the International Perfume Bottle Association and the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors.

You may be interested in: Antique Trader Perfume Bottles Price Guide

Some of my past activities included serving as the public relations director for the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors, Western Region news editor for Bottle & Extras magazine published by the and special contributor to the “Antique Trader’s Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide.”

While this column’s main focus will be on bottles, it will also cover bottle-related “go-with” collectibles, such as trade cards, advertising materials, bottle tops and enclosures, reference materials and documents, post cards, tokens and much more.

For this first column, I’ve included two photos of examples of Tonopah and Goldfield bottles with go-with items. The Tonopah example is a “Tonopah Drug Co. – Tonopah, Nevada” medicine bottle (circa 1902-1913) along with a token that reads: “Tonopah Drug Co. – Tonopah, Nevada” (front) and “Good For 6 1/4 cents In Trade” (back).


Goldfield bottles accompanied by related collectible token and room key tag.

The Goldfield example shows three medicine bottles (circa 1900-1910): “Paregoric,” “Sweet Spirit Of Nitre” and “Comp. Cathartic Pills” from the “Cannan Drug & Jewelry Co. – Goldfield Hotel –  Goldfield Nevada” with a token that reads: “Cannan Drug & Jewelry Co. – Goldfield, Nev. (front) and “Good For 6 1/4 cents In Trade” (back) and a solid brass room key tag that reads: “Goldfield Hotel – 100 – Goldfield, Nev.” The Goldfield Hotel, built in 1907, operated through the 1940s. Besides being a lot of fun, these types of go-with items increase the overall value of a collection and add educational and historical perspectives.

The column will also include information about bottle clubs shows and sales, upcoming auctions and pricing results, current and future special events at other venues such as museums and ongoing news from the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors. And, there will be plenty of digging and diving adventure stories for the serious treasure hunters. Sounds like a lot, but hey, there’s great stuff happening in the world of bottle collecting.

My goal has always been to encourage a positive influence on the hobby of bottle collecting for everyone – beginners and experts alike. I want to make this column everyone’s column, so I want to encourage as much input as possible from all collectors about anything associated with the hobby of bottle collecting.

You can always contact me by e-mail at bottleking@earthlink.net, and be sure to visit my website at Bottle Bible. Since my first edition, I’ve always autographed my books with these words: “Have fun with the hobby of bottle collecting.”

Let’s keep having fun.

Michael Polak has collected over 3,000 bottles since entering the hobby in 1974 and is the author of the “Antique Trader Bottles Identification and Price Guide, 7th Edition.” He previously served as Public Relations Director for the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors and is a contributor to a variety of antique publications. Polak can be contacted at bottleking@earthlink.net.

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You may enjoy Mike Polak’s latest book:

antique bottle pricesAntique Trader Bottles Price Guide, 7th edition
In This Bottle Collection Guide You’ll Find:

  • Over 700 full-color photos from the 19th and 20th centuries & over 50 bottle categories
  • NEW 7th edition info: black glass and hawaiian bottles, top 10 destinations for bottle collecting, and a profile on the Central Nevada Museum
  • Soda, Perfume, Barber, Beer, Flask, Avon, Bitters, Medicin, Jim Beam, and MORE bottle categories

Order your copy from KrauseBooks.com today!