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Huge supply of old bottles - what do Zi do?

Chelan bottles

New Member
Jun 23, 2019
Hello Everyone,
I need some advice about cleaning old bottles. Please.

I have 85 boxes of old bottles, jars, decanters, and such. My mother-in-law had an antique shop for 50 years. She obviously liked glass. As I graze through the boxes, I see a huge variety. The half dozen or do I have learned about are late 1800s to the mid-1920s.

My request for advice is, is there any proper way of cleaning or any specific process or chemical I should NOT use? I've used soap and water with good results on a few.

Is there any special bottle(s) I should keep an eye out for? Some are very small bottles with graduations on the side. Some are wine bottles like a Garrett Virginia Dare or a Fruit Industries. One is a 1938 Ellensburg Washington Rodeo 75th anniversary. If there's an average of 20 to 30 bottles per box, there must be 2,000 to 2,500 bottles, depending on bottle size. I may get dishpan hands cleaning them all!

thanks for your help!


Well-Known Member
Sep 10, 2009
Most stuff from post 1900 probably isn't worth the time to wash it, although there will be sodas and some other forms that may be rare and have enough value. You should see if you can find someone local to look at them with you and give you a sense of what has any value. The "small bottles with graduations on the side" are medicine bottles. if they don't have a pharmacy name embossed or a label, they are very common and have little value.

Don't wash off labels. It probably goes without saying, but a label can sometimes turn a $5 bottle into a $50 bottle.

Jim G


Well-Known Member
Sep 1, 2018
Carter County Kentucky
Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola, or any other "Cola" bottles around the 1900-1910 time are highly collectible. They look something like this.


There are color variations, size variations and script location variations, but you will know one if you see one. I for one, would be interested if you have any.

I always wash my bottles in soap and water, but I don't have over 2,500. That's quite a job! I wouldn't know what to do about that.

Back to value, always, soda's are more popular, followed by embossed medicines. Not all post 1900 bottles are worthless. A lot of people collect those (me), and someone will want them.

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