Collecting Antique Bottles
My first experience with antique bottle collecting occurred in Panama. Actually it was the Panama Canal Zone during the period of 1970 through 1973. I was stationed at the Naval Security Group Activity Galeta Island in the Panama Canal Zone. A coworker showed me his antique bottle collection. The bottles were over 100 years old and were handmade. Made by a craftsman who used a blow pipe to make each hand blown specimen. That in itself was fascinating, These bottles were manufactured in a sweat shop environment when men and children worked in difficult conditions from sun up to sun down. I have always been interested in old things and the history behind them. These old bottles had some very interesting stories to tell.
Collecting Antique Bottles Books
The handmade bottles were crude and showed many imperfections. No two bottles were alike. Even the bottles that were of the same type had variations. It was easy to see the advances in the bottle making technique. The older bottles being very crude and the newer bottles becoming more refined through the end of the 1800's.
The oldest bottles had an unfinished lip called shear top or sheared top. The bottle was cut or sheared from the blow pipe after the blowing process was complete. When the glass was hot it had a consistency of leather. It those old days of early 1800's back into the 1700 and 1600's the bottles had the sheared lip. Those old bottles are beautiful to me. Each lip wrapped with a ribbon of glass the purpose of which was to hold the wire which kept the cork in the bottle neck.
Black Glass Case Gin Bottle
The older bottles were are called black glass. The glass usually isn't black but very dark greens and dark browns that are so dark that you can't see through them. The bottles made during the mid 1800's were more colorful. Some were beautiful cobalt blue, ambers, and emerald green.
Blob Top Soda
That introduction to Collecting Antique Bottles turned into an enjoyable and satisfying hobby for me. The hunts for old bottles took me into the jungles of Panama. I saw exotic birds, many snakes and tarantulas, coati mundi a raccoon like creature, and one time I even saw an ant eater. I walked for miles through the jungle to the sites of old homes and towns. After 100 years the jungle takes everything back. The bottles had sunk into the ground two or three feet, and sometimes it was difficult to find any signs that people had lived there.
I collected about 3000 antique bottles during the rest of my time in Panama. Each bottle has a story and I can remember where I found each one. I haven't been bottle hunting since I left Panama in 1973. I started my own Collecting Antique Bottles Website but haven't been bottle hunting since I returned to the United Sates. If I could find a good spot now I would like to try it again. It is exciting like finding buried treasure.