In America alone 40 billion glass bottles are produced every year. We use them almost every day and recycle them when we’re done and don’t really think about where they came from or how they’ve changed over thousands of years. A little understanding of the history of glass bottles just might turn you into a collector. So here is a brief history of glass bottles and why they should be appreciated:
Glass bottles were first created in Mesopotamia in the 7th century. Legend has it that glass was discovered by Syrian merchants who were shipwrecked on an island where they burned plants from salt marshes (creating natron) on top of a sand pit. The burning of natron and sand created molten glass.
The techniques for making glass have been lost and reinvented throughout history, but all used some sort of ash and sand. Glass production seemed to have ceased until the Roman ages, where glass vessels were found storing wine and water. Craftsman spent their entire lives learning the art of glass blowing to create useful and beautiful vessels. It wasn’t until the Renaissance that the art of glass blowing took over. The most prized glass was produced in Venice. Venetian glass blowers were given the highest status among craftsmen in the 14th century. Even today Venetian glass is considered some of the finest in the world.
It was in 17th century England where glass production took off. Heavy, lead glass replaced the fragile, elegant Venetian glass. Lead glass was more durable and lasted longer, thus expanding its use for consumer packaging.
In the mid 1800s the continuous basin furnace was invented, so that production could run non- stop, along with a two-person mold press, making custom embossments possible; opening up production for merchants of all type. This was a huge advancement in production, cutting down time and labor.
By 1899 7.7 million glass containers were produced in the U.S. But it wasn’t until 1904 that glass bottle production really took off. An American inventor, in Toledo Ohio, named Michael J. Owens designed a machine that would manufacture 2,500 bottle an hour. This revolutionized the glass manufacturing industry and created tremendous growth in the beverage and pharmaceutical industry.
Across America glass bottle factories opened, creating access to packaging for all types of businesses. By 1919, 22 million glass bottles had been produced. Pharmacies, beverage companies, grocery stores, beauty products, herbalists, chemical companies, doctors with “patent medicines”(a.k.a snake oil salesmen) all had their own bottles produced. Most merchants in towns across America had some kind of embossed bottle stating the company’s name, location and contents of the bottle. These bottles served as packaging and advertising, becoming more intricate in design as production evolved.
The glass bottles made in America during this time are popular among collectors today for those reasons. By 1960 the production of glass bottles turned into a larger scale operation and small custom production ceased. Glass bottles became more widely used for beverages and different forms of packaging became cheaper and more convenient for other merchandise. Glass bottles are now a less sought after packaging material making them not as popular for merchandising and collecting.
American made bottles from the 1700s-1940s are wonderful items to collect. They are a beautiful piece of American manufacturing, design, and consumer history. There is an enormous amount of information available on these bottles. There is the Federation of Historic Bottle Collectors , The Society for Historical Archaeology, The Medicine Bottle Nexus and even the Little Rhody Bottle Club and so many more blogs and websites to dive into and research your findings.
Nostalgia has an excellent, always changing collection of bottles to check out. These photos are just a few of the bottles that can be found in the shop, so come in and explore!
When buying a print, you should look for a few identifying characteristics to determine if it was digitally printed or printed on a press. Digital prints are much more popular these days for high production and can produce beautiful quality images. But a print done on a traditional printing press has a much finer quality and holds more value than most digital prints.
1. The first and probably the easiest way to identify a print is to look at its edges. Most fine art printmaking techniques require ink to be transferred to a block or a plate and then run through a press. The pressure from the press will produce a characteristic rim around the edges. Usually the edges will not be wiped clean of ink, so you might be able to see a faint line. This process is specific to printmaking, so it is a sure way to identify if the piece is an original or a digital print.
2. The pressure from the printing process will sometimes produce an embossment. Embossing is when an image or text is raised from the paper. You can tell if an embossment is made by feeling with your hands (not really recommended, since you may transfer dirt or oil from your hands on to the print) or by turning it at an angle to see if there are any raised edges. Digital prints cannot replicate this quality.
3. Look closely at the lines, they will have varying levels of intensity in terms of the ink displacement. The depth of the lines can be adjusted, resulting in darker or lighter printed lines, in the same line. Look along longer lines to see whether or not they become darker in the interior.
4. Some prints will have raised lines. With intaglio, etched or engraved prints, lines are carved into a plate or block at varying degrees to depict depth and shading. The plate is then rolled or wiped with ink, filling the lines. When the inked plate goes through the press the ink is transferred to the paper and the darker, deeper lines will be thicker and raised in comparison to the lighter areas in the image.
Both methods of printing produce different qualities, which may lend better to one image over another. Digital prints are often less expensive since they are commonly used for larger production and require less skill. They also produce a lesser line quality and do not last as long as a press printed image. When buying a print printed on a press you are buying a piece of art that was hand produced by the artist, or an assistant, done in a technique that dates back hundreds of years. You are not only buying a piece of art but also a piece of history.
Sometimes the most mundane things can hold a lot of value. Everyday objects tend to hold a lot of sentimental value to many people, when those objects become obsolete or out of date they can become extremely valuable and worth a lot of money. When starting a collection, it’s always best to go with your heart, chances are if you love it someone else out there probably does as well. Here are ten things you might have never thought would get top dollar.
1. Guitars- Ok guitars aren’t that mundane, but they are often overlooked. Guitars that were made before 1960 can be worth thousands of dollars. But those can be hard to come by, usually a well-made guitar with hold its value and its function. So maybe that guitar you buy today might be worth something… someday.
2. Star Wars Memorabilia- This Darth Vader probably won’t fetch thousands of dollars. But if you are lucky enough to come by any memorabilia from the first movie, in 1978, you might get lucky, like the Boba Fett, from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, that went for more than $27,000 at auction.
3. Record players- Talk about nostalgia, the record player is huge part of so many people, over 40, lives. Because they were so prominent before 1980 and are kind of antiquated today, there is still a huge cult following. If you are lucky enough to come across one that actually works, buy it because they just don’t make them like they used to anymore.
4. Old Games – Another antiquated cult following, board games! Finding a full set of a popular board game, or even an obscure board game is a lucky find. Since so many board games come with tons of pieces, finding a full set can be super valuable. Some games can be worth up to $1,500.
5. Comic Books- OK most of us know that rare comic books, from the silver age, can be highly collectable and worth several thousands of dollars. But did you know there are comic books from the 90s that are worth a couple thousand dollars?
6. Vintage Costume Jewelry- All those fake pearls and plastic cuffs from the 1920s-1980s might have some value. Certain jewelry lines like, Renoir and Elsa Schiaparelli can garner a pretty penny these days. Even if they don’t have value, they sure are pretty.
7. Vintage Luggage – A beautiful set like this could go for hundreds of dollars to the right collector. Color, material and preservation are all things to look for in a good collection of luggage.
8. Lunch Boxes- Metal and plastic lunch boxes are long gone, now a days kids bring little cooler bags with them to school, void of any fun or substance. Which is why those who care, cherish a great vintage lunch box, for its pure pop culture nostalgia.
9. Old Advertisements- Some vintage signage and advertisements can go for astronomical prices. Depending on the subject matter and the condition, ads from newspapers, magazines, boxes, or signs can still score a few hundred dollars from the right buyer.
10. Typewriter- Unfortunately typewriters are a thing of the past, the precursor to computers, they are no longer needed. But they are still beloved by those who have used them in the past and those who wish to experience the tactile magic their literary heroes experienced. Depending on the make and color a great typewriter can go for hundreds of dollars.
Looking for these more items like these? Check out all of our retro and vintage goods at Nostalgia Antiques & Collectibles.
Written by guest blogger, Siri H.