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Collecting Vintage Glass Bottles

Updated on May 25, 2018
Virginia Allain profile image

Collecting has been a lifelong passion for Virginia and her collections range from ephemera to tins and Hall china.

Bottles on the windowsill at a Shaker Village.
Bottles on the windowsill at a Shaker Village. | Source

Collecting vintage bottles

Milk bottles, medicine bottles, wine bottles... these are only a few of the vintage glass bottles that collectors look for. This page is here to help anyone who is starting a collection of glass bottles and for established collectors.

Included here are examples of different bottles to look for and hunt the stores, fairs, exhibitions and swap meets. For readers who like the vintage look but prefer the reproductions, you will find some good reproduction glass bottles to use for storage and decoration.

What to look for when buying antique and vintage bottles - hints and tips

Some tips to help you when you are searching for genuine vintage glass bottles.

  1. Before the 1880s the lip of a bottle would show up as irregular, would have a crude shape and a seam.
  2. Machine production of bottles started around 1920. You can tell by looking at the base of the bottle which will be smoother and with a larger ring than those before this date.
  3. Bottles produced between 1930 and 1960 generally had painted labels, earlier bottles would probably have the label embossed within the glass.
  4. Always look at the bottom of the bottle. Often you will find a patent number and you can check the dates against patent registers. There are many available online e.g. Trade and Registration Marks
  5. Study the trends via collectors magazines and online forums. A good example of how things change is the recent interest - and therefore increasing value - of milk bottles.
  6. The value of your item will depend on it's age, how good a condition it is in, how rare or difficult to find it is, the color, labelling, and design. Many collectors specialize in one type of bottle which is probably the best way to build a credible collection.
  7. The first recorded glass bottles in America are from the 18th century.
  8. Bottles which were machine made date from the 1920s and can be recognised by having 2 side seams from top to bottom.
  9. Hand blown glass bottles pre 1860 will have a mount point, a molten scar in the center where the glass has been broken off after it is finished.
  10. The lip of the bottle might help give it's age. Before the 1800s the lip had to be fashioned by hand so would be rather crude and irregular. After around 1850 they became more tapered.

Antique Bottle Guide for Prices and Identification

Antique Trader Bottles Identification and Price Guide
Antique Trader Bottles Identification and Price Guide
It's good to have one of these guides on your bookshelf for checking your latest discoveries. You can get this right away for your Kindle or order it in book form.

Other Useful Resources

Educate Yourself About Bottles With Auction Sites


Learn More About the Value of Old Glass Bottles - Browse the Rare Ones on eBay

Don't you love the colors in these antiques! Some are blue, others green or aqua, there are brown and clear glass bottles.

Looking at auctions where collectors and dealers have bottles for sale gives you an idea of what to look for. You start to learn what makes certain ones more valuable than others. Train your eye and pick up knowledge by browsing on eBay.

Colors of vintage glass bottles - What the color tells you about an old bottle

Bottles and vases collected by my mom.
Bottles and vases collected by my mom. | Source

You Can Collect Ink Bottles

These make a great collectible for a writer or a teacher. My sister displays hers on her bookshelves.
These make a great collectible for a writer or a teacher. My sister displays hers on her bookshelves. | Source

Green, Blue, Amber and Clear Bottles

  1. Vintage beer and ale bottles tend to be dark green glass - sometimes called black glass because it is do dark. Before 1800 all brewers used this color glass. Thereafter you started to get other colors like dark amber and lighter greens.
  2. Between around 1870 and 1930 bottles for medicine and poisons were usually cobalt blue in color. Often poison bottles would have the word "posion" heavily embossed on it - you can see an example of this by following the link -- Peachridge Glass
  3. Old apothecary bottles were generally blue with embossed labels.
  4. Bottles with contents for drinking like milk bottles and later soda bottles tended to be clear, many of them with painted labels. These are highly prized in their local areas even by non-bottle collectors. Great nostalgia Item.

My Sister Collects Ink Bottles

My sister's a writer and a collector. She combines those two interests in her collection of vintage ink bottles. Ink bottles bring to mind the old school stories where little boys dipped the girl's braid into their inkwell.

It's fairly easy to find a variety of ink bottles at yard sales and estate sales. Some are quite old and some are more recent dating from the 1950s and 1960s. You'll find square ones, round ones and other shapes too.

I like the ones with advertising on the lid. You'll find names you recognize like Carter's and Scrip.

To display them, you can line them up on a narrow shelf or along the windowsill. They look marvelous on a bookshelf in front of the books.

You can read more about them here: Antique Ink Bottles - Collector Information | Collectors Weekly.

Bottles Collected by My Family - Photos by Virginia Allain

My mother is a casual bottle collector. She chose this one as the label is of a local business from years ago.
My mother is a casual bottle collector. She chose this one as the label is of a local business from years ago. | Source
This bottle appealed to Mom for the vivid blue color.
This bottle appealed to Mom for the vivid blue color.
From my sister's ink bottle collection.
From my sister's ink bottle collection.

Get Inspired by This Wonderful Collection of Milk Bottles (YouTube Video)

What Kind of Bottles Do You Collect?

Vote in the poll

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Warman's Field Guides Bottles: Values & Identification

How old is that bottle? Is it valuable or extremely rare? These are the questions that come to mind when you turn up a bottle at a yard sale or find one half-buried in the soil. Here's the book to help you determine this information.

Vintage or Reproduction?

Vote in the Poll

See results

Beautiful Bottles at the Shaker Museum in Kentucky


© 2012 Virginia Allain


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