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Box of many old, dirty, bottles

GABatGH

Member
Apr 21, 2014
12
3
My wife and I were at a church flea market today, and in the middle of all the usual stuff was a cardboard box filled with obviously old, very, very, dirty bottles. Some of them still had dirt, as in soil, encrusted on them, while others looked like they might have been sitting in a barn for the last eight or ten decades. The box was priced at three dollars. It was half price day. We bought the box.

There are thirty three bottles, ranging from a tiny vial with a stopper with markings that looks similar to a syringe, to a tall amber bottle over a foot tall.

While we know antiques, bottles are out of our purview. We know that many old bottles have very little value, but on the other hand a seemingly non-descript bottle *might* be extraordinarily valuable. I just don't know what to DO with them. Some of them seem to still have original contents, albeit in a now caked or dried syrup form. Do I rinse the bottles with just plain water? Just the outsides or the insides too?

Is there an online guide to follow with procedures for newbies?

Thanks!!!
 

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nhpharm

Well-Known Member
Apr 24, 2007
2,468
113
The Major's Rubber Cement bottle is probably the best one...I've always liked those. Worth maybe $5-10.
 

CanadianBottles

Well-Known Member
May 24, 2014
3,245
113
Yeah unfortunately it doesn't look like there's anything of much value in there like Nhpharm said. Nondescript bottles pretty much never have extraordinary value - there's got to be something interesting about them to make them desirable to collectors. The $5-10 value would be after it's been cleaned, not many people want bottles to come with the original dirt.
 

GABatGH

Member
Apr 21, 2014
12
3
My original post wasn't about value - it was about what to DO with the bottles. Like I said, some of the bottles, one small three inch bottle in particular, still seems to have its original contents, now in a solid form (maybe it was a powder) which is slightly smaller than the interior length and width of the bottle, but only a half inch tall (or so). Another taller bottle had some sort of liquid in it and the bottle had been on it's side for many years. I think there might have been a cork, which partially deteriorated so air got in it so the liquid evaporated to a syrup, which then dried. Do these 'original contents' need to be maintained? Should they just be washed out?

Since posting the first message I've read a few articles and watched a number of videos on cleaning dug up bottles. I've seen a variety of methods of cleaning, from bleach to clr to tumbling with copper shavings. Nobody mentioned bottles with original contents.
 

sandchip

Well-Known Member
Sep 1, 2008
5,098
113
Georgia
I would clean the Major's bottle, but honestly, I would not invest any time in cleaning the others. I'd try soaking it in warm (not hot) dishwater for a bit and see if that gets the dirt to turn loose when scrubbed with a dishrag or old toothbrush. If you don't have a bottle brush that will fit down into the neck, I would empty half or so of the soapy water and put about a half an inch of coarse sand in it, put your thumb over the top, and shake it around for a while. I always sit low to the ground in the yard over the lawn, in case the bottle slips out of my hand. Hasn't happened in decades, but better safe... If the soapy water isn't cutting the contents, then I would try filling with denatured alcohol, then naptha (lighter fluid), trying different solvents until I find what will cut the residue. Same procedure with each solvent: fill, soak, sand/shake, rinse... As a last resort, soaking in muriatic acid, same procedure, has worked well for me for years. Of course, be careful with the stuff. If you're not comfortable with handling any of these solvents, leave the bottle dirty. If the contents on the Major's are original, then I'm leaning towards naptha which readily dissolves rubber. Oh, and never put an old bottle in the dishwasher.
 

GABatGH

Member
Apr 21, 2014
12
3
I would not invest any time in cleaning the others.
So you're suggesting the throw away the other thirty two bottles? The box cost me $1.50 for 33 bottles. Even if I sell them all for $1 a piece, that's a 2,100% profit. If two or three of them are worth $5 or more, then so much the better. I have the means to sell them, but not the knowledge on how to prep them properly.

A few neem notable to my untrained [in relation to bottles] eye, like this little vial that I previously mentioned. I raised the contrast on the pic to see the markings better. As there's something in there and we haven't a clue what it is, we did *not* open it.
20200717_082229.jpg


Two of these bottles with the little handles
20200717_082414.jpg

Here's the little one with the solid contents, which are a whitish-pink
20200717_082551.jpg

This is the one with the liquid that went to syrup and then dried. I thought it had a cork, but I think it's just the stuff in the next gone solid.
20200717_082814.jpg

This one with the bands and the pattern between them
20200717_083001.jpg

And lastly this little guy that says Pyrex on the bottom.
20200717_083101.jpg
 

bottledan

New Member
Apr 22, 2020
4
3
With all due respect there would be no point in cleaning them since they are not collectible bottles. These are the type of bottles that bottle diggers would leave behind or bury back in the hole.
 
Hi there. Did anyone ever mention about the vial you posted the photo of? That’s pretty neat. I guess true collectors doesn‘t give it any monetary value but to me it’s a 10 on the interesting. As a novice who just loves old things like this, my husband is an antique that at times wonder his worth lol , I’d not throw that away. I’m sure someone like me would be willing to take it off your hands for at least a dollar or so profit. maybe all would be worth a few cents. I’d never throw anything away, if nothing else give it away to someone who has an interest. But as I said I’m not into it for resale.
 

TomFawls

New Member
Jun 10, 2020
4
3
My original post wasn't about value - it was about what to DO with the bottles. Like I said, some of the bottles, one small three inch bottle in particular, still seems to have its original contents, now in a solid form (maybe it was a powder) which is slightly smaller than the interior length and width of the bottle, but only a half inch tall (or so). Another taller bottle had some sort of liquid in it and the bottle had been on it's side for many years. I think there might have been a cork, which partially deteriorated so air got in it so the liquid evaporated to a syrup, which then dried. Do these 'original contents' need to be maintained? Should they just be washed out?

Since posting the first message I've read a few articles and watched a number of videos on cleaning dug up bottles. I've seen a variety of methods of cleaning, from bleach to clr to tumbling with copper shavings. Nobody mentioned bottles with original contents.
Hate to be the contrarian here, but I'd clean (well, "rinse" would be more accurate) them all to get the loose dirt off them, then post them on eBay. Do the more interesting ones individually, and the less interesting in lots of 3 to 5 bottles. Price them initially between $5 and $9.99 (buyer pays shipping)...assuming they're all of the value folks here have said.

You won't rich, but you will likely sell snough of them at those prices to more than recoup your $3 investment.

Just a suggestion.
 

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