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Classifying Antique Bottles


This section helps the collector with some of the conventions used to classify antique bottles. To classify a bottle, you need to know it's Category, Color, Condition, Rarity, Age, and be able to match it with the same bottle in a collector's guide book. It can also help to know the company that produced the bottle. And ultimately most collectors want to Understand how Bottles are Valued - this page also has good classification information.

I've also provided a Glossary with some terms used to describe bottles. If you're a novice collector listening to an expert, the discussion will sound strange till you learn some of the "bottle talk" terms in this Glossary.


Category

This section covers info on the following categories that collectors classify their bottles into. While these categories use to be described on this single page, I'm in the process of creating dedicated pages for each category. This work is about 85% complete. To see the latest/greatest list of categories, go to the main page. The only categories listed below are the ones that do not have a dedicated page yet.

  1. Colognes, Perfumes, Scents, and Toilet Waters
    See Wendy Poch's newsletter article on distinguishing these categories. See Reggie's Cologne & Perfume bottles, Larkin Company.

  2. Cosmetic
    See Reggie's Cosmetic bottles.

  3. Sealed
    Sealed bottles have an applied glass seal on the shoulder or side of the bottle. The seal is a molten glob of glass that has been stamped with words and/or symbols.
    See Reggie's Sealed bottles, Rob's Blackglass bottles.

Degree of Rarity

Rarity indicates how many specimens (or examples) of the bottle are available, and not how many were made. For example, many glass Target Balls were made but since they were intended to be destroyed (by shooting them in the air), not many are available. Rarity is typically used only when classifying expensive bottles like historical flasks and bitters. The following terms were taken from page 490 of McKearin's 1971 book on "American Glass" which classifies the rarity of flasks:

The above scale of rarity refers to the bottle irrespective of color. For a given bottle or flask, some colors will be rarer than others.


Dating Bottles

The first way to determine the age of a bottle is to check the mold seams running along the sides of the bottle. If the seams stop before the lip, then the bottle is BIM (Blown In Mold) and probably dates before 1910. If the seam runs through the top of the lip, then the bottle is ABM (Automatic Bottle Machine) and dates after 1903. If the bottle has 3 mold lines (one horizontal completely around the shoulder, and two others from base to this shoulder line), then it was made between 1820-1870. If the bottle has a pontil, then it dates before 1870.

Please note that these are general guidelines for dating a bottle.

If the bottle has a registration number (e.g. "R27500"), then it's English in origin and the manufacturing date can be determines from a table located at the Odds and Ends page of Simon Denby.


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