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Antique Chat: The lure of collecting bottles

With Joyce ‘Annie’ Nordsvan

Ever since living in West Ryde in the mid 1970s, where we discovered a fantastic bottle ‘dump’ in our own back yard, we have been interested in collecting bottles. There’s something about finding something from the past that fascinates people, and brings out the ‘treasure hunter’ in most of us.

I don’t have the time to dig around old tips any more, but country towns, swap meets, garage and boot sales and collectable fairs are a great source. Bottle collectors are passionate about their particular interest. Some people collect just one colour, only bottles of a certain type such as torpedo or marble (also known as ‘codswallop’) bottles, or bottles by a particular maker.

There is a huge amount of information about bottle collecting in books and on the internet to allow you to research the type of bottle you want to collect to avoid paying too much. The rarer the bottle, the more it will cost. But there are plenty of relatively inexpensive bottles available that look great displayed against a window where the sun can shine through.

Our interest led us to visit the Waghorn Bottle and Curio Collection of hundreds of glass bottles and containers from around Australia. The collection is located in the Goldfield’s Exhibition Museum in Coolgardie and was just outstanding.

The bottles cover every imagined shape, colour and size and are displayed in groups such as perfume bottles, cobalt blue bottles, medicine bottles etc. An internet search of ‘Waghorn bottle collection’ will show you images which give you some idea of the extent of the collection.

My collection currently includes a number of cobalt blue bottles including a Faulding’s Cold Pressed Castor Oil bottle; a Helidon Spa Water bottle which was a gift when I opened Annie’s; a 19th century gin bottle; a marble bottle with an unfortunate chunk out of the rim; a number of old pale blue green glass ink bottles I purchased on a recent trip to New Zealand; and a collection of purple, or amethyst, glass.

An avid collector was explaining to me that early purple glass was not made to be purple. The glass changes from clear to various shades of purple as it is exposed to ultraviolet light from the sun. This happens because of the use of manganese in the manufacturing process.

It also helps date the glass because manganese was used from around the 1860s until about 1915. Apparently this was noticed by collectors who found empty bottles which had been put up on the tin roof for storage.

Mmmm….writing this has made me quite keen to get out there and start digging again.

Till next time, Annie

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