A show and sale where collecting enthusiasm is not bottled up

Event preview

43rd Annual Atlanta Antique Bottle Show & Sale

9 a.m.-3 p.m. June 8. Smyrna Community Center, 200 Village Green Circle, Smyrna. $3. Children under 12 receive a free vintage bottle. Also, free bottle and pottery appraisals. 404-538-6057.


1. You don't have to invest heavily to build a nice bottle collection. "At our show there will be bottles that are 100-plus years old for less than $10," Atlanta Antique Bottle Show & Sale co-organizer Jack Hewitt said. There will also be some that go for thousands.

2. Try to learn about bottles before going on a spending spree. You can read up in reliable resources such as Antique Bottle & Glass Collector and Bottles and Extras magazines. The Federation of Bottle Collectors has an informative web site at www.fohbc.org.

3. Rarity, condition and color are the three greatest factors in determining a bottle's worth, show co-organizer John Joiner said.

4. The world of bottle collecting is vast, so it's best to focus initial collecting in one area, building expertise before expanding into others.

5. Survey the entire bottle show before making a purchase. That way you can look for pricing on comparables and glean background from dealers. Prices are negotiable.

6. You, too, can have your own "American Roadshow"-type moment: At yard sales and even antique shops where proprietors aren't knowledgeable about bottles, it is possible to score one worth a lot more than what you pay. A friend of Joiner bought a square bitters bottle at a Macon yard sale for $1 that later resold for $12,500.

From “Antiques Roadshow” to “American Pickers,” the airwaves are as jammed as an old South Georgia barn with people who are passionate collectors of stuff. But of all the things that the covetous covet, one basic collectible with enduring appeal is bottles.

Organizers of the 43rd Annual Atlanta Antique Bottle Show & Sale, to be held Saturday at the Smyrna Community Center, say there is much to appreciate in all that functional glass, whether it’s a $5 find or a $5,000 one.

“One of the biggest reasons I enjoy collecting bottles is the historic factor,” said Jack Hewitt, who became show chairman in 1988, replacing his bottle-collecting father who ran it for a decade. “Today we live in such a disposable world where everything is mass produced, used and recycled or sent to a landfill. Bottles tell the story of how our forefathers lived.”

John Joiner, who became the show’s co-organizer in 2005, said he, too, is drawn to the history contained in bottles, but also their beauty.

The show will include pottery as well.

“It is amazing to think that items that were used every day and were fragile by nature were able to survive intact in dumps and privies,” said Joiner, a founding member of the Southeastern Antique Bottle Club in 1969. “To be able to hold something that is glass and has been around for 200 years is pretty spectacular.”

We asked Lawrenceville resident Hewitt, 53, and Newnan’s Joiner, 66, to share pieces from their personal collections that are typical of the sorts that the 50-plus dealers will show and sell during Saturday’s event.

Club bottle

Vintage: 1840s

Details: This Ohio-made bottle with its artful swirl design most likely held spirits.

Estimated value: $250 and up

Onion or captain’s bottle

Vintage: 1780

Details: This Dutch-made wine or liquor bottle is called "onion" for its shape but also "captain's bottle" because of the bulbous bottom that would keep it from sliding around on a ship.

Estimated value: $125-$150

Medicine bottle

Vintage: 1880s

Details: The bottle design for Dr. Kilmer's Oceanweed Heart Remedy was elaborate, the better to help sell the magic elixir from horse-drawn carts as they moved from town to town. But the embossed heart on the front of the rectangular bottle aside, there probably wasn't much inside that would cure problems in the long term. "It was just a good excuse to get tanked up," said Joiner, who suspects the "remedy" was nothing more than bitters.

Estimated value: $150-$200

John Ryan Cider bottle

Vintage: 1866

Details: John Ryan was a very popular cider brand, as suggested by the wide array of bottles bearing the name. This yellow-amber one is stamped "Savannah." Atlanta and Columbus were other Georgia cities where the beverage was bottled.

Estimated value: $400-$500

Schoolhouse-shaped ink bottle

Vintage: 1880s

Details: This aqua-hued bottle in the shape of a one-room schoolhouse, elaborately detailed even though small, still has remnants of ink inside it.

Estimated value: $75-$100

Miniature ceramic jug

Vintage: 1880s-1890s

Details: You can also find pottery and advertising items, such as this mini jug, at the Atlanta Antique Bottle Show & Sale. From an Atlanta establishment called the Empire, the jug would have been a giveaway item. The "Compliments of … " inscription is a hint that the liquid it contained was whisky, not vinegar, another sample these jugs frequently contained.

Estimated value: $250

Marietta Coca-Cola bottle

Vintage: 1905-1910

Details: The base of this 6.5-ounce, straight-sided bottle is inscribed "Property of Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Marietta Ga." The smaller the town where the bottling was done, the greater the rarity and the higher the bottle's worth, Joiner said. For instance, a similar-vintage bottle from Ball Ground could fetch $1,000.

Estimated value: $100

Apothecary jar

Vintage: 1890s-1900s

Details: Today it contains marbles but back in the day, this clear-glass jar held either pharmaceuticals or candy. This vintage one, featuring various patterned decorations at the top and base, is a little over a foot tall, but they can be found as high as 3 feet.

Estimated value: $250

Barber bottles

Vintage: 1880-1900

Details: These bell-shaped Victorian beauties, which likely contained after-shave and hair tonics, feature hand-painted, enameled decorations, such as the island home shaded by swaying palm trees on the green, "Bay Rum"-lettered bottle. The better to make gentlemen feel transported to some place more exotic while getting a basic trim and shave.

Estimated value: $150-$250 each

Kentucky-made eagle flask

Vintage: 1840s

Details: Eagles with stars displayed over their spread wings decorate both sides of this ornate, aqua-hued whisky flask made by Louisville Glass Works of Kentucky.

Estimated value: $200

Bitters in blue

Vintage: 1870s-1880s

Details: "Solomons' Strengthening & Invigorating Bitters" advertises the embossed, capitalized type on the side of this square, cobalt bottle from Savannah. "It was mostly alcohol and you felt good (after drinking it), so you felt like you'd been cured," Joiner said.

Estimated value: $1,100-$2,500

Soda water bottles

Vintage: 1860s

Details: These bottles featuring patriotic eagles above a shield contained, as the olive green one boasts, "Superior Soda Water." The brand was Charleston Eagle, originally found only in the South Carolina city, but the bottle manufacture was Baltimore Glass Works, a major American maker in the 19th century.

Estimated value: $500-$1,000