I probably receive more questions about bottles than any other single item, simply because they are what most people find. Often someone will dig up a contour or "hobble skirt" bottle from the 1920s and immediately assume they've struck gold.
They're often disappointed to learn that even the earliest of the contour bottles are not terribly valuable because the bottles were produced in the millions. The standardized contour bottle was patented in late 1915 and became more prevalent as bottlers phased out the straight-sided bottles that preceded the famous design. Petretti's
Rare Hutchinson Bottles
The toughest bottles to collect are the early Hutchinson bottles, the first bottles for
The Hutchinson bottles derived their names from the metal stopper device used to seal them. The stopper contained a seal at the neck. To open the bottle, the consumer punched down on a metal loop in the stopper, which broke the seal and made a popping sound. That's what gave "soda pop" its name. After the turn of the century, the Hutchinson stoppers were gradually phased out and replaced by bottle caps or crowns.
Between the phasing out of the Hutchinson bottles and the phasing in of the familiar contour bottle, bottlers used a wide range of straight-sided bottles that were generic for both the soft-drink and brewing industries. Petretti's guide calls this era a "gold mine" for collectors. You can find an enormous variation in the sizes, colors and markings of bottles. The straight-sided bottles can vary in value from $25 up to around $400, depending on the condition and the uniqueness. Amber-colored bottles, sold widely in the South and Midwest, tend to be more valuable than the clear or light green or flint straight-sided bottles that were more common in other parts of the country.
In the early 1900s, The
Until the early 1960s, the town where the drink was bottled was embossed on the bottom of contour bottles. Many of us remember playing the "distance game" when we were younger; the person whose bottle carried the name of the most distant city was the winner. Many collectors are intent on getting every variant of those bottles. Veteran collector John Thom of Woodstock, Ga., has accumulated bottles from 1,200 of the 1,450 different towns he has identified that bottled
"The last 250 are extremely tough," John reports. "I bought one from Lancaster, S.C., and at that time nobody had ever found one from there. I paid $25 and today it's probably worth $400 to $500."
John started collecting bottles about 25 years ago when he was digging at a home site and found several old Coke bottles from the 1940s. His collection has grown to include some straight-sided bottles and even some Hutchinson
Today, John says he buys bottles mostly at different
Return of Embossing
In a special reintroduction in 2000, The
Atlanta, Ga., was chosen because it is the hometown of
In a future column, I'll discuss the topic of collecting commemorative bottles that were issued to honor championship sports teams and to mark other memorable occasions.
Phil Mooney is the director of the Archives Department.
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