EXPO 2012: Seminars, sales boost Reno antique bottle show

Michael Polak

RENO, Nev. – As the clock ticked down to the 1 p.m. grand opening on July 27, 2012, excitement ran high for the much anticipated three-day bottle extravaganza known as EXPO 2012 in Reno, Nev., at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino. A crowd of 600 dealers from the United States, Australia and England, along with 160 “early bird” attendees could barely wait for the show to start.

EXPO 2012 antique bottle convention

The backlit Gazebo Bottle display was a crowd-gatherer.

Within minutes, as the dealers set up their tables, there was a flurry of activity as deals quickly went down between buyers and sellers. There was something for everyone. Over the next two days, an additional 300 to 400 buyers joined the bottle buying frenzy.

Along with the thousands of bottles for sale, there were also reference books and materials, trade cards, advertising materials to compliment the bottles, rare and scarce postcards and many unique associated collectibles.

Along with all of the fine bottles and displays, there were also a few notable individuals attending the show: Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors members Ferdinand Meyer (president), Bob Ferraro (first vice president), Jaime Houdeshell (second vice president), John Pastor (director-at-large and also past FOHBC president and current publisher of “Antiques Bottle & Glass Collector” magazine), Jeff Wichmann of American Bottle Auctions, Jim Hagenbuch of Glass Works Auctions, Norm Heckler of Heckler & Co. Auctions and Fred Holabird, president of Holabird-Kagin Americana and author of “Nevada History Through Glass.”

Every four years, the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors (FOHBC), in conjunction with a local bottle club, sponsors this showcase bottle collecting event. During the in-between years, the FOHBC sponsors the similar “National Show,” which is a scaled-down version of the EXPO.

This year, the daunting task was set for Reno Bottle Club and Show Chairman Marty Hall, along with past Federation President Richard Siri. They exceeded all expectations.
The show was such a huge success, that when Sunday rolled around, there wasn’t a dealer or collector who wanted to go home. There was plenty of fun for everyone and they didn’t want it to stop.

milk glass display

There was nothing sour about this dairy bottle sales table.

Steve Hubble

Steve Hubble, J.H. Cutters Shoot-Out winner.

The planning actually started about two years ago with the intention of having the best EXPO ever. When the event opened, show offerings boasted a total of 300 dealer tables, nine educational seminars, 23 exceptional individual displays, a stunning Gazebo Bottle display, the Antique Bottle and Glass Shoot-Out one evening, and an awards banquet the next.

Norm Heckler hosted the cocktail party and the Antique Bottle and Glass Shoot-Out focusing on three categories: J.H. Cutter’s Whiskey bottles, Drake Plantation Bitters bottles and Umbrella Ink bottles. Collectors who wanted to participate entered their bottle into the appropriate category and a panel of three judges for each Shoot-Out decided on the winner. The winners, who each were awarded a plaque, were Steve Hubble for the J.H. Cutters Whiskey, Jim Jacobitz for the Umbrella Ink and Ferdinand Meyer for the Drake Plantation Bitters. It was a fun time for judges and entrants alike.

Ferdinand Meyer

Ferdinand Meyer V, Drake Plantation Bitters Shoot-Out winner.

The awards banquet had 160 attendees. The highlight of the banquet was guest speaker Warren Friedrich, author of the book “Early Glass Works of California,” who gave an excellent presentation on the “Early Glassworks of California” from 1859-1899.

Friedrich was also one of two inductees into the 2012 FOHBC Hall of Fame. The other inductee was John Sullivan. There were also many awards given out to the various bottle clubs for categories such as Best Newsletters, Best Show Posters and Best Articles.
The main focus behind the FOHBC’s EXPO is to not only offer great quality glass and collectibles to collectors, but also to provide a forum to educate and inform the collectors and all attendees on various aspects of the hobby. This is accomplished by the presentation of seminars and a large number of displays.

antique bottle display

Swirls, Whirls, Twist and Twirls display by Dyane Anthony.

Jim Jacobitz

Jim Jacobitz, Umbrella Ink Shoot-Out winner.

The seminars included “Values & Investing,” by Fred Holabird; “The Label: A Wealth of Information,” by Eric McGuire; “Grace Bros.: The Company and its Products,” by John Burton; “EC & M Insulators,” by Dennis Bray; “Altered Glass Colors,” by Dwayne Anthony; “San Francisco Beer and Western Sodas,” by Tom Jacobs; “Hutchinson Sodas,” by Ron Fowler; “Bitter Bottles,” by Ferdinand Meyer V and Sheldon Baugh; and “How to Dig Bottles in the Year 2012 in the West,” by Tom Quinn.

The presentation of the displays were some of the best I’ve ever seen at any show. I enjoyed a first-hand review since I was recruited as one of the judges to determine the best display in various categories. It wasn’t an easy job since the displays covered all aspects of collecting, such as E.G. Booze Bottles, rare Fire Grenades, Cigar and Tobacco Jars, Swirled Bottles, Hutchinson Bottles, 50 State Hutch Sodas, Early Heinz Bottles, Kidney Bottles, USA Hospital Bottles, Hair Bottles, Black Glass, Dairy Bottles, Nevada Bottles, EC & M Insulators, Western Bitters, Poison Bottles, Pot Lids (Rex & Joanna Barber from Australia) and Miniature Bottles, just to name a few.

While all of the displays were great, one of the more spectacular displays that attracted a lot of attention was the Gazebo Display by the Northwestern Bottle Club. The Gazebo, which featured every type of bottle imaginable, is set up for collectors who want to display their bottles in a non-competitive setting.

Mike Polak (left) author of “Antique Trader Bottles Identification & Price Guide,” 7th Edition (see page 20) and Fred Holabird with his book, “Nevada History Through Glass” (available through major booksellers at $24.95, or at 877-852-8822 or 3555 Airway Dr., Ste #308, Reno, NV 89511). Holabird wrote the forward for Polak’s 7th Edition and is president of Holabird-Kagin Americana auctions.

In summary, the overwhelming consensus from the dealers and buyers is that the EXPO 2012 is the best EXPO experienced by all in attendance over many years, and will set the bar high for future shows. Marty Hall and the Reno Bottle Club, Richard Siri, and Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors deserve a big “thank you” for a job well done.

Michael Polak is known as the “Bottle King” for good reason. With nearly 40 years in the hobby and with a personal collection of more than 3,000 bottles, Polak is a leading authority on bottle collecting in the United States. He has written more than 10 books on bottle collecting and has contributed numerous magazine and newspaper articles on the subject. He is a member of the Los Angeles Historical Bottle Club, San Diego Antique Bottle Club, Las Vegas Bottle Club and the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors.

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