Liquor bottle collecting is emerging as one of the top hobbies in the U.S. today. There are a growing number of bottle collecting clubs in every major city. So, why the big draw? It may be an attempt to rediscover our roots or an interest in the days when life seemed simpler and happier. But also, when alcohol and other antique bottles were made by hand, no two were identical. Machines were utilized prior to the 1920’s, but many collectors are not as interested in machine-made bottles. Liquor bottles made by machine were offered for sale after Prohibition. If your liquor bottle bottle is hand made it is most likely made before Prohibition. John Dewar for example introduced the first bottled Scotch, Dewars White Label.
Types of Liquor Bottle Collectors
We are all creatures of habit and it is not uncommon for collectors of liquor bottles to focus on a specific type of bottle for their collections! Many tend to focus on specific shapes or types of alcohol or by brand. Rum, Vodka, Whisley and other various types of liquors came in different shapes and sizes of bottles.
According to the historians, the first glass containers were made in the 17th Century. A craftsman would use a long metal blowpipe and scoop molten glass onto its tip. He would blow into the pipe until the bubble grew in size and formed a general shape. Free-blown bottles are rare and can be identified by the absence of seams. Years later, glassblowers began to use molds so the shape was consistent. However, these bottles had seams or mold marks up to the lip of the bottle—so they are easy to identify.
In the late 1800s, manufacturers attempted to correct the problem of clear glass having a greenish tint—so they added manganese to their glass mixture in order to produce truly clear glass. These bottles can be distinguished because their colors change when exposed to sunlight for long periods of time. UV rays have caused them to color in shades ranging from lilac to amethyst. If you find a bottle with a screw top, it is newer than those that were stopped with corks. Inside screw tops were used before outside screw tops; and a bottle marked to show its capacity was produced later than one without this label.
Where are Old & Antique Bottles Hiding Today?
Serious bottle collectors do their research so they can easily evaluate their finds. There are distinctions in bottles which make them extremely valuable—a single bottle can be worth thousands of dollars (though rare). Valuable bottles usually have distinct characteristics like their colors (i.e. cobalt and cornflower blue), embossed designs, and the shape/markings on the base or the neck of the bottle. These features help determine their origin and time frame. Many bottle collectors are interested in the very early American bottles dating from the 1700’s into the early 1900’s.