What’s new with antique bottle collecting

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Michael Polak

About Michael Polak

Mike has collected more than 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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Have fun with the hobby of antique bottle collecting.

Quite often I’m asked, “What’s new in the world of bottle collecting?” In one word, everything! The hobby never gets old and there is always fun news to report. There are over 500 bottle and glass clubs across the United States and Canada, averaging 25 to 30 active members, with numerous international clubs in Australia, England, China, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Scotland, and the Netherlands, to name a few. There are also approximately 15 to 20 antique bottle shows every month sponsored by various bottle clubs.    

antique hair tonic bottleSeventy-five clubs, with approximately 1,000 collectors, are members of the largest bottle organization, the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors.    Recently, the Federation sponsored the National Bottle Expo, held every four years, August 8-10, 2008, at York, Pa.  A large crowd of buyers enjoyed 416 sales tables and 32 displays, represented by 35 states and six countries (Canada, England, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, and Scotland), with 625 dealers. The FOHBC also sponsors a National show every year.  (Membership information is available at www.fohbc.com.)  As you’ll read, bottle collecting news is making the headlines everywhere.    

During October 2007, 2,400 bottles of Jack Daniels whiskey, some as old as 100 years and valued at $1 million based on the value of the bottles, were seized by Tennessee officials. The whiskey was being sold without a license and may be poured down the drain. One bottle dating back to 1914 with an unbroken seal has an estimated worth of $10,000. The whiskey is being stored in a Nashville vault until the courts resolve the issue.     

George Washington’s whiskey still is back in business after a 200-year hiatus. On March 30, 2007, George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate officially opened a $2.1 million reconstruction of the original distillery on the exact site location from 1799. Washington did not age his whiskey as distillers do today, so Mount Vernon director James Rees compares it to “white lightning.”    

On July 5, 2006, a rare Bogardus Glass Target Ball, part of the auction of Alex Kerr’s collection (Kerr Glass Company) that included 10 target balls, sold for $17,000. A Target Ball is approximately 3 inches round of many colors and design, manufactured in the mid 1870s, and were used by marksmen like Annie Oakley.      

During recent construction in Los Angeles, an 1885 Chinese cemetery was discovered which has yielded many medicine and opium bottles. In Ventura, California in July 2007, archaeologist excavated a 130 year old outhouse, and found a pistol dating to the 1800s, a bowie knife, and several whiskey flasks.       

Finally, on February 6, 2007, and February 10, 2007, the Travel Channel aired a half hour segment of the series “Cash & Treasures” devoted to bottle collecting. The focus was the Saratoga, N.Y., 2006 Bottle Show, the National Bottle Museum at Ballston Spa, N.Y., and bottle digging. The audience had an opportunity to share the excitement of finding and understanding the treasures.

In summary, the future of Antique Bottle collecting is looking good. Its popularity is growing and has brought an overall greater awareness to antique collectors.

Now, check out some old bottles, and “Have fun with the hobby of antique bottle collecting.”

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Have fun with the hobby of antique bottle collecting.
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Have fun with the hobby of antique bottle collecting.
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Have fun with the hobby of antique bottle collecting.
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Have fun with the hobby of antique bottle collecting.

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