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Are my antique bottles worth anything?

Is your antique bottle worth anything?

Great question! 

Antique bottles have been collected for hundreds of years. Yet, there are so many different variants of antique bottles - which makes can make it difficult to determine their value. Antique bottle values range anywhere from “recycle grade” all the way up to six figures (rumors circulate of an antique bottle fetching $200,000 in a private sale back in 2009!)

Check out this antique bottle checklist to see what your antique bottle is worth:

Are there threads around the top of the bottle?
Yes- Bottles with a “screw top” are the most commons. These bottles with threads around the mouth were most likely made in an automatic bottling machine. The first “screw top” was patented in 1858 by John Landis Mason, he completely revolutionized the food preservation industry with the invention of a glass now referred to as the Mason Jar. Unfortunately, more than 99% of “screw tops” were created after 1913 and are extremely common, holding little value. Chances are that screw top bottle has very little collector value.

No- Prior to 1913, the majority of bottles were sealed with a cork. There is a very good possibility that your bottle is greater than 100 years in age. Bottles that were made before 1913 are collectible and could range anywhere from $1-$200K. Move on to the next question if you made it this far!

Does your bottle say Wheaton N.J. on the bottom? 

These colorful reproduction bottles were made in large quantities in southern New Jersey between 1967 and 1975. Although some people collect them, there value is limited to the range of $5 to about $100. If your bottle does not say “Wheaton” on it, move onto the next question!

Is your antique bottle damaged?
Yes- The most rare of bottles hold very little value if there is excessive damage. Let’s face it, glass is fragile. A partial reason why some bottles fetch such high prices is because many other examples have been chipped, cracked, or shattered somewhere along the line. If the chips or cracks are minor, there still may be some value. If the bottle is in very rough shape - there is most likely little value.

No- It is impressive to think that an object so delicate can withstand the nature of time, making it 100+ years untouched - much like a time capsule. Condition is one of the most important factors in determining the price of an antique bottle. If your bottle is free from or has minimal dings, chips, and/or cracks, then your bottle may be worth a substantial price. Move onto the next question!

Does your bottle have embossing (raised letters)?
This is where it gets interesting! Those letters or graphics on your antique bottle make all the difference in the world as to the value of an antique bottle. Embossing gives clues to where a bottle was made, when it was made, who made it, and what it contained. If you made it this far, you are going to want to contact us here for a completely free appraisal of your antique bottle(s).

 

Extra points to consider:

The bottles that fetch the highest prices are usually unique color variations. A bottle that might sell for $150 in clear or aqua, could go for $15,000 if it is in an extremely rare or unique alternate color. Generally speaking, clear and aqua (light blue) tend to be the most common colors of antique bottles. Once a bottle starts getting into shades of green, purple, reds, etc. is when desirability and value really begins to spike. 

Certain genres of antique bottles have a larger collector base, and therefore have higher values. The two types of bottles that have historically recorded the highest prices are Historical Flasks and Bitters Bottles.

Historical Flasks: Historical Flasks have their own section in The Metropolitan Museum of art, and for good reason. These bottles are rare and beautiful examples of American history at its finest. They were mostly created between about 1810 - 1850 and feature depictions of United States Presidents, Army Generals, Eagles, American Flags, and Monuments. They come in a wide spectrum of colors. These are truly works of art and command the highest values amongst the entire kingdom of antique bottles. Collectors of historical flasks have knowledge, passion, and fight hard to complete their collections. These antique bottles are highly prized. They are true works of art. Here is a picture of an Eagle - "Liberty" And Oak Tree Historical Flask, America, 1820-1840. Extremely dark chocolate, when held up to bright light it shows a dark root beer amber, sheared mouth - pontil scar, half pint; Minor exterior high point wear, tiny open bubble on base right next to pontil.

Bitters Bottles: Bitters Bottles come in countless different shapes and forms. They also are found in an array of colors as extensive as a rainbow after a summer storm. Bitters bottles are essentially medicine bottles that are embossed with the wording “bitter” or “bitters”. These bottles at once time contained secret blends of minerals, herbs, assortment of drugs such as opiates, and often high contents of alcohol. Many of which were nothing more than a salesman’s Snake Oil. Occasionally (very rarely), they still have their contents inside. Bitters were most popular anytime from the early 1860’s through 1906. The passing of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 effectively ended the era of bitters. If you have a bitters bottle, you might be holding something with great history and great value. Be sure to contact us here.

What is the best way to sell antique bottles?

Antique Bottle Shows:
The way antique bottles have traditionally always been sold, bought, and traded for generations has been through local antique bottle shows. All across the country there are bottle clubs and bottle shows where likeminded antique bottle enthusiasts get to meet each other, show off their collections, and look for new finds.

Our website is designed to serve as a bottle show, except we are open for business 24 hours a day / 7 days a week / 365 days a year! We don't charge you $5 to be admitted at 8am nor do we charge you $30 to pack up your car at 5am to make sure your table is set up and all priced by precisely 7am.

Just like being at an actual bottle show in person, you can make offers on pieces you like. Except now, you can do it from the comfort of your own home. Scroll through our website to find exactly what your collection is missing. Unlike an auction - there is not (and never will be) a buyer’s premium! An advantage to buying through a bottle show as opposed to an auction, is that there are no public records of sale. Privacy is key to so many collectors.

Contact us here if you are interested in listing your antique bottle collection in the 21st century version of a national bottle show. It is free to list and you are encouraged to set your own prices, just as you would at an in-person antique bottle show. We charge the seller a percentage of the selling price, depending upon the bottle’s value. 

Antique Bottle Auctions:

This is a good way to sell your bottle if you are looking for a relatively quick sale. Often grouped together in lots, and only a few times per year - are antique bottle auctions. The advantages of selling at auction include; quicker sales and the possibility of multiple collectors outbidding one another to win a particular lot.  The disadvantages to auctions include regularly excessive high fees (often 15+% from the seller AND 15+% from the buyer) and the possibility of a bottle getting blacklisted (remains unsold, and thus tarnishes the value for any future sales). Bottles can sell in excess to their auction estimates, but they can also sell for substantially less than estimated if there is not a second bidder to prop up the bidding. This is why most eBay auctions are set with reserves, or why most listings are listed as “Buy-it-now.” We also offer auctions and we refuse to charge the buyer a premium! We do not see the value in punishing our customer’s for participating by charging them fees.

Curious how old your antique bottle is?
Dating antique bottles can be a challenge. But with a little bit of learning you can determine an approximate age for your old glass. This applies to antique bottles that do not have a screw top (Pre-1913).

The lip of the bottle tells a lot about a bottles age:

  • Sheared Lip - Bottle is mostly circa 1820-1850
  • Flared Lip - Bottle is most likely circa 1820-1850
  • Applied round, square, blob or double collar- circa 1840-1890
  • Early screw - Circa 1860-1910
  • Machine screw - Circa 1913-present

The bottom of the bottle also tells a lot about an antique bottle's age:

  • Pontil- A pontil is the rough patch of glass at the bottom of an antique bottle or piece of glass. This is where the glassblower broke off the blowing tube when forming the bottle. Although there are exceptions, most antique bottles with a pontil are pre 1860.
  • Smooth Base- After about 1860, the bases began to smooth out. Sometimes there are markings or stamps on the base that better help identify a bottle.

 

We hope this article helped you determine the value of your antique bottles. Should you still have any questions please contact us