Q. What is Bottle Collecting about?
A. Bottle collecting in its modern sense in UK started around 1970 when individuals began hunting out Victorian and Edwardian rubbish dumps which were then readily available, and carefully dug out the glass and ceramic bottle, jars and pots that still survived underground. The range and variety of printing on ceramic and stoneware items, and the beautiful crude, bubbly handmade glass items, often with embossed names and logos was attractive and intriguing, and collections of beautiful, fascinating and often valuable antiques could be made for nothing other than a bit of research and some hard digging. The treasure hunting thrill of digging away to expose who knows what? added to the enthusiasm. It began as a lucrative and fascinating working man's hobby.
Q. What is ABC Magazine about?
A. ABC (Antique Bottle Collector) Magazine started many years ago as a hobby led alternative to other publications that were around. It has been resurrected in it's current format by Mark Nightingale the well known international bottle collector and dealer with a background in print, design and marketing. It aims to encourage, educate and enthral collectors from all parts of the globe and to generally promote bottle collecting to an uninitiated public.
Q. Could I collect bottles? and what's the best way to start going about it?
A. Literally anyone can still find beautiful, collectable and sometimes valuable bottles either by finding their own dumps and digging them, or by attending the many and various bottleshows that are held throughout the year in all parts of the UK and in most other bottle collecting countries. Many antique shops have stocks of bottles but often have little knowledge and highly inflated values, so we recommend attending a local show where you can meet other collectors and speak to dealers. Bottle collectors are mostly very down to earth (pun intended) and are usually happy to show you their collections and pass on knowledge. There is plenty of literature on bottle collecting, all of which will be worthwhile reading, and of course there is ABC Magazine! There are also many bottle collecting groups on the internet, facebook in particular where you can participate and learn. Do learn as much as possible before you start buying.
Q. Where else can I find bottles?
A. Finding bottle dumps is an art in itself but several of the basic books give advice how to do this. Ebay has plenty of bottles for sale but it is too easy for a beginner to buy something that is not worth what it might finish at, that might be damaged and not described well, or be a fake, or there may be problems with delivery etc. We recommend you do not go onto ebay until you have learnt enough about what you like. Traditional auctions often have bottles included in their sales, but again usually with little real knowledge, and caveat emptor (buyer beware) is the watchword. Auctions specialising in bottles are becoming more popular but they tend to serve those already experienced so we would not recommend until you know something about what you like. Professional dealers usually are safe to buy from as they have reputations to keep and know that you may become a regular buyer if you are kept happy and enthused. You can often find these online, on facebook gorups or at shows.
Q. What is it worth?
A. The commonest question we get asked. It depends on a combination of several factors, not all of which are necessarily logical. Age, rarity, desirability, condition and beauty are all factors, but the oldest items are not always the most valuable, and sparkling mint condition is not always the most desirable to some collectors. Local bottles are always popular with local collectors who often become very knowledgeable about their social history, and sometimes a rather plain but very rare local item may command a very high price ...locally!... but take it away from its area and many will not recognise its rarity or value and disregard it. Museums do not give valuations, and equally are not often very knowledgable. Specialist aucton houses have it usually in their best interest to give you a good valuation if they are aware, and equally most dealers will give a reasonable valuation,but obviously this should be balanced with the potential disreputable dealer just out to make a quick profit by buying your rare item for a song. Successful dealers will however know that it makes sense to give a fair valuation if they know it.
Q. How old is it?
A. The second most popular question. Expert collectors using a variety of subtle criteria can identify, often within a decade when your piece may have been made. Other aspects have become available to collectors or become known over the years. ABC Magazine has regular articles giving the ages and backgrounds of many items, and Facebook forums are also probably the best way to quickly learn about your bottles with many expert collectors "on hand" to speak.