Collecting Old Bottles

The various types of antiques being collected seems to change with the times, however, bottles always seem to be a favorite. This could be due to the fact that there are so many different varieties of bottles…

  • Perfume
  • Liquor
  • Medicinal
  • Figural
  • Bitters
  • Barber
  • Soda

…so there is a collector bottle for just about everyone. Whether you like displaying a bottle collection in a cabinet, using one or two of them as an accent, or maybe even taking colored bottles outside and decorating a ‘bottle’ tree (popular in the south) – bottles can be a source of affordable enjoyment.


If you are considering collecting bottles, here are a few tips to help you identify older bottles you may come across.

Three-piece Molds – these bottles were made in three (3) pieces so look for these mold marks: bottom below the shoulder in one piece, above the shoulder in two pieces.

Imperfections – including dents in the glass, crooked necks, bubbles, lines in the glass, etc. These imperfections are desired by collectors and add to the value.

Inside Thread Marks – thread marks on the inside of the top of the bottle usually indicate a whisky bottle as these threads were used to hold a hard rubber cork.

Applied lip or “laid on ring” – was a ring of glass laid and pressed on to the cracked off neck of a jar or bottle.

Kick-up bottom – the bottoms of bottles, i.e., wine, were pushed up to make stacking them easier when shipping.

Blob seals – one of the more popular bottles as they had a blob of glass where the company could display their name, product name or date.

Whittle marks – caused by blowing glass that was too cold to flow smoothly into the mold.

Buying / Selling

If buying and/or selling antique bottles there are other considerations to take into account, i.e., number of bottles manufactured, shape, age, etc. Below are a few more tips to help understand the desirability of an old bottle….

Limited Editions – Words used – sometimes loosely – to imply a limited issue. How large the company and true to their word with regard to number is what you have to look at. If there is a limited edition of 100 bottles and sales are quick, so the company decides to ‘re-issue’ the bottle in the thousands, you can see how this would affect the price.

Token Issues – Usually issued in small numbers for an event or commemorative occasion. Most of the time these issues are for personal collecting only – not resale.

Brief Issues – Usually quality bottles focusing on dramatic event or eye-grabbing name.

Figural Bottle – Just like it sound, bottles that resemble the figure of a person, thing or animal. Figural bottles that do not look like what they are supposed to be have little value, as do these bottles that are regional, i.e, San Francisco cable car, as they have limited appeal and resale value. However, some figural bottles retain value due to their broad appeal like animals, birds and those that focus on nostalgic subjects.

Unusual shape, color or contents – Some bottles are collectible because of color. Older bottles exposed to the sun will turn amethyst in color. This is due to the use of manganese in the glass. Collectible colors in order of desirability are aqua, amethyst, yellowish tints and pinks. Similar to figural bottles, bottle of unusual shape can be buildings, cabins, animals, etc. whose contents may have been bitters, barber shop lotions or toilet waters, and even poisons.

Mold Seams – are an easy way to determine the circa age of a bottle. The list below is a quick overview.

If the mold seam stops . . .

at the shoulder – circa 1800

between shoulder & top of neck – circa 1875

nearly at top of neck – circa 1890

at top of neck – circa 1900

at top of bottle – circa 1910 and later


Old bottles can still be found at reasonable prices at flea markets, trade days, garage sales, estate sales and some antique shops. Or if you have access to land where old houses once stood, or land is being cleared for construction, old bottles are often found by those willing to take the time to do a little digging. Bottle values can range from $2-3 to hundreds depending on the material and use.   A good reference guide is a must and there are many excellent, affordable guides available at Amazon


5 comments to Collecting Old Bottles

  • Mike Maberry

    I have over thirty boxes of vintage bottles that were just recently recovered
    from the Zavalla, Texas area.
    I’m wanting to sell them all in bulk.
    $500.00 will buy them all.
    Mike Maberry
    Lufkin, Texas
    936 676-0354

  • scott

    Anyone have any east Texas bottles for sale?

  • Sharon Kratz

    I am in the process of removing my mother’s substantial bottle collection from a shack, buried in the woods of east Texas. How do I find a reputable dealer who can help me understand the bottles’ value and find a proper placement for them? I can think of nothing finer than to have some of them donated to a museum. Any help appreciated.

    • David

      Sharon – some bottles are quite valuable. The best thing to do is first get a reference guide/value guide and see what the values are. Re finding a reputable dealer – talk to several before you do anything. Donating to a museum is always nice – especially if you can take a tax write off. David

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