Turn Trash Into Treasure With Old Glass Bottles

Here are a few professional secrets that can help you find, identify and sell antique bottles, including where to look, prospecting techniques and how to determine the old glass bottles' value.

| May/June 1982

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    Glass bottles were often discarded in old outhouses, so start your search there.
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    Glass bottles come in a variety of shapes and colors — each with their own values.
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    Searching for old glass bottles can be enjoyable and profitable.

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As almost anyone who tries to take advantage of farm auctions, garage sales, and the like will already know, a lot of yesterday's throwaways are considered valuable collectibles today. And old bottles, in particular, are experiencing a heyday of popularity and are even arousing (partly as a result of the economic uncertainties of our day and age) the interest of investors.

Now there's a pretty fair chance that some such heirlooms might be found right in your own back yard. After all, a good many of MOTHER EARTH NEWS' readers are fortunate enough to live on the sites of old-time homesteads, some of which have a few of the original structures, which often mark prime collecting areas, still intact. Furthermore, even if your home isn't an ancient cabin or aging farmhouse, chances are that people have been living on — or moving across — your property for as long as 200 years. During that time they probably deposited their discarded bottles, tins, broken dolls, and whatnot in a number of hidden locations.


Where to Look for Old Glass Bottles

Your great-grandma likely threw her empty bottles down the most popular disposal system of her day: the outhouse. Flasks emptied of whiskey and other strong drink (taken, no doubt, for medicinal purposes) were often concealed inside the walls of barns, sheds, houses and privies.


But before you attack the planks of your home, barn, or shed with a crowbar, bear in mind that it won't likely be worthwhile to damage a usable structure . . . even if doing so does turn up a rare bitters bottle. And, of course, that rule is firmer still if you're on someone else's property. Bottle-hunting protocol demands — first and foremost — that you always obtain permission before you prospect on another's domain.

In order to find potential "bottle mines," check some topographical maps of your region to locate likely sites of original homesteads: Look for level land, available water, etc. Or explore country roads and watch for lonely standing chimneys, or the spreading trees flanking an open spot, that often mark deserted "house places." Talk to old-timers, too. Their knowledge of long abandoned dumps, businesses and farms can be invaluable.

Prospecting Techniques

Once you've identified a general locale that looks promising, you'll have to try to figure out where people might have unloaded their trash. Sometimes everyone in a community had one chosen spot at which to leave refuse. These dumps were frequently located in gulches or ravines, and often downhill from a settlement . . . perhaps to prevent seepage into wells, or maybe because it's easier to haul trash down than up.


8/19/2014 8:56:36 AM

A small historical museum interested in selling old medicine bottles, syrup bottles, whiskey bottles, etc. Do you know where I could get in touch with someone who may be interested in buying?

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