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Box of many old, dirty, bottles

GABatGH

Member
Apr 21, 2014
9
3
I'd clean them all to get the loose dirt off them, then post them on eBay. You won't rich, but you will likely sell snough of them at those prices to more than recoup your $3 investment.
My thoughts are similar. I've got all of them that had no contents and no closures, two thirds of them, soaking in a water/bleach bath. The others I'll clean one by one as needed, taking care regarding their corks or caps.

As for eBay, I'll pass there. When we sell on eBay we lose about thirteen percent between eBay and PayPal fees. We will put the better bottles in one of our antique mall cases, and the rest will come with us to the flea market for the tables.
 

relic rescuer

Member
Feb 2, 2016
15
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!!!
$3? Holy cow! Looks like for my collection, I'm going to have to give away...
 

American

Well-Known Member
Nov 17, 2017
56
8
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!!!
 

American

Well-Known Member
Nov 17, 2017
56
8
When my kids, who never really got in to bottles, have tried to buy me bottles , like for a birthday present, they usually get me things that look like this grouping. I secretly put them in the recycle bin. But hey, you only spent $1.50 - you could probably find that on the ground in front of a hot dog stand.
 

Dogo

DOGO
Apr 8, 2020
97
18
Central NJ
I would mix a strong solution of trisodiumphosphate (TSP) in a bucket of water and soak them for at least a week, Then rinse and brush out any remaining dirt. To sell bottles you will have to find someone who wants them. Most collectors wont. The saleable bottles need to be identifiable or a pretty color to be of interest.
 

sandchip

Well-Known Member
Sep 1, 2008
4,915
83
Georgia
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...
Yeah, 2,100% profit sounds great, IF you can find anyone to buy them. All good profit on paper if your time is of no value. Even if you value your time at the current minimum wage, and I would assume that you value your time at more than that, then when all is said and done, if you actually keep track of just how many man hours you spend cleaning, hauling, displaying, etc., not to mention overhead whether you rent a booth or run your own antique mall, you will most likely find that you would suffer a 2,100% loss, if you're lucky. I've collected bottles for over 45 years and no telling what the combined years of experience here at ABnet would total, but when we tell you these things, we are not trying to shoot you down, but only trying to help. And yes, I was suggesting that you throw away the other 32 bottles.
 

embe

Well-Known Member
Jul 14, 2019
204
28
Ah, man...I'm looking at the other side of the coin here and imagine how nice they'd look displayed on a shelf or windowsill, and you can still have that memory of the time you & your wife picked them up at the flea market.
 

Bohdan

Well-Known Member
Jan 14, 2019
65
8
Slocan Valley, BC
You are right to ignore $$$. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Clean them as well as you can. Preserve any paper labels intact if you can (they always add interest). Try simply soaking the bottles and contents. Water - acetone - lacquer thinner - varsol - try them all if necessary. Immerse them in a container OUTDOORS & away from curious children & pets. Rubber gloves, etc.. I've been digging and collecting since the early 70s and "value" some in my collection just because I happen to like them - even though they apparently aren't "worth" much $$$. Don't put too much faith in 'experts' who will look at your collection and immediately see only a lack of $$$. Enjoy, learn and start collecting.
 

sandchip

Well-Known Member
Sep 1, 2008
4,915
83
Georgia
You are right to ignore $$$. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Clean them as well as you can. Preserve any paper labels intact if you can (they always add interest). Try simply soaking the bottles and contents. Water - acetone - lacquer thinner - varsol - try them all if necessary. Immerse them in a container OUTDOORS & away from curious children & pets. Rubber gloves, etc.. I've been digging and collecting since the early 70s and "value" some in my collection just because I happen to like them - even though they apparently aren't "worth" much $$$. Don't put too much faith in 'experts' who will look at your collection and immediately see only a lack of $$$. Enjoy, learn and start collecting.
I'm wondering to whom you are referring. Who is right to ignore $$$? The owner here is talking about turning a 2,100% profit, not the aesthetic beauty of the bottles. I've never professed to be an "expert", but new members do reach out to veteran collectors here for guideance in various aspects of this hobby. Yes, I'm into my 5th decade collecting bottles and have a few goodies, but I also have bottles proudly displayed that wouldn't bring a dollar if I tried to sell them. I too started collecting bottles for their beauty in the early '70s, not for what they might be worth monetarily, which is apparently the owner's primary concern here. I only advised him that if he's after a big return on his investment, to not waste his time.

I might add that I've never made negative comments on anyone finding beauty in even the most common bottles. That was not the issue here, but instead "$$$", to which I responded with a constructive comment. If you find his bottles desireable, that's perfectly fine. If so, I would advise you to contact him immediately in order to buy them before they fly off the shelf.
 
Last edited:

TomFawls

New Member
Jun 10, 2020
4
3
Wow, it sounds like you're doing a great job cleaning the bottles up....I'm too lazy to do that much work. :D

And I do understand about eBay; before we started looking at selling "stuff" as part of our regular income, we felt the same way. And if you're only selling a few items every once in a while, then I agree with you.

However, once the wife and I started getting serious about selling, we did some research and realized that while eBay does take their cut from every sale, their service does two things that we either couldn't do for ourselves or would pay much more for from private vendors:

1. They let us reach tens (or maybe even 100's) of thousands of potential buyers with a single posting on one site - something that we were unable to do using our own website or FB marketplace or similar sites (where you've got to post to each forum); and

2. Their systems do a lot of the administrative tasks one must do when running a retail business...saving us a lot of time and aggravation.

Anyway, good luck with your hunting and selling!

Tom

My thoughts are similar. I've got all of them that had no contents and no closures, two thirds of them, soaking in a water/bleach bath. The others I'll clean one by one as needed, taking care regarding their corks or caps.

As for eBay, I'll pass there. When we sell on eBay we lose about thirteen percent between eBay and PayPal fees. We will put the better bottles in one of our antique mall cases, and the rest will come with us to the flea market for the tables.
 

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