Make Money Collecting Things Bottles

About how to make money collecting old bottles, where to buy and sell bottles for your collection.

How to Make Money Collecting Things


Glassmaking developed in Egypt around 2500 B. C. By 1500 B. C. the Egyptians were making bottles out of glass. The bottle had become a popular container for wine by the 16th century. In America, bottle making came relatively late, in the mid-1700s.

It is easy for bottle collectors to limit themselves to certain types of bottles, because there are so many. Ink, wine, beer, milk, whiskey, patent medicine, syrup, perfume, and soft drinks all come--or came--in distinctive bottle designs. Whiskey bottles alone could keep a collector busy for a lifetime. Or one can specialize in snuff jars, mason jars, case (4-sided) bottles, miniatures, decanters, or figural bottles. Many collectors hunt only the decorative Jim Beam Bottles or Avon bottles. Avon (a cosmetics company) has manufactured enough bottles since 1900 to fill an encyclopedia.

Color, particularly amber, dark blue, and dark green, usually enhances a bottle's value. Any chip, scratch, crack, or discoloration depreciates its value.

Warning: Beware of high-priced reissued "antique" bottles.

Where to Look for Old Bottles

A bottle hunter hangs around excavations. Glass does not decay or rust, so a bottle that's been buried for 200 years can look almost like new after it's been cleaned. People have long taken bottles for granted and dispose of them unceremoniously wherever they go. In short, you can find bottles everywhere--building sites, junkyards, dumps, basements, attics, garages, along roads, in forests.

How to Build a Modern Collection Free

Dig and hunt, then trade. Old garbage pits and outhouses are great bottle mines. Specialize early, or else your house will fill up with bottles.

Prices (1977)

A "First National Bank of Chicago" bottle--from the Jim Beam "Customer Special Series"--sold for $3,000; a Fenner's Cure medicine bottle--amber and 11 in. high--sold for $27; and beige Avon Rolls-Royce bottles were going for from $6 to $8.

Where to Sell Bottles

Antique shops are always in the market for good bottles, but you'll probably fare better if you sell directly to another collector (and so will the collector).

American Bottle Collectors Association

P.O. Box 467

Sacramento, Calif. 95802

Bud Hastin's National Avon Club

Box 9868

Kansas City, Mo. 64134

Chinese Snuff Bottles Society of America

2601 North Charles Street

Baltimore, Md. 21218

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