Antique Beer Bottles
Antique Beer Bottles are collectible items of breweriana produced over 100 years ago.
Before 1850, beer was mostly sold to taverns by the barrel in America. After the Civil War, breweries began bottling beer for individual consumption.
The technique of glass stamping enabled the different brands to become recognizable. American breweries did not adopt the process of putting inscriptions on the bottles until 1869. The inscriptions contained information regarding the content, the producer, and the distributor. Slogans and other short advertising pieces were also inscribed. The introduction of paper labels and machine-produced bottles in 1903 put an end to embossing.
In 1919, alcohol was prohibited in the US and this adversely affected the brewing industry. Some breweries had to resort to producing non-alcoholic beverages such as soda and malted milk in order to keep going.
In 1933, when the law on prohibition was repealed, a government regulation stated that all bottles containing alcohol ought to be embossed with the warning that states “federal law prohibits the sale and resale of this bottle”. This identifying mark is especially useful in dating alcoholic beverages from 1933 to 1964.
The bottles then were mostly green while today's beer bottles are mostly brown in color. It is said that this color inhibits sunlight and keeps the beer fresh longer.
The bottles had cork stoppers until 20th Century innovations on the caps made them obsolete.
Guide to Collecting Beer Bottles
A combination of factors is considered to estimate the value of antique beer bottles and they are: (1) supply and demand, (2) rarity, (3) age, (4) color, (5) condition, (6) aesthetic appeal, (7) embossing, (8) categories (such as from which brewery or town), (9) size and shape, (10) historical importance, (11) individuality, (12) the location of the collector.
Rarity can be gauged as follows: (1) scarce- when no more than a hundred bottles exist. (2)very scarce- when no more than fifty exists, (3) rare- when twenty to forty bottles exist, (4) very rare- when ten to twenty bottles exist. (5) extremely rare- when only five to ten bottles exist. Some breweries have indeed produced very few bottles of beer as it is not uncommon for some to operate for a brief period in a certain locality and then cease production altogether.
Color is a factor because most bottles produced nowadays come in either brown or clear.
When rarity is being considered, chips and cracks would be scrutinized. Some collectors would avail of a rare bottle of any condition at a low price but replace it as soon as a bottle of a better condition is present.
For individuality, features such as misspelled names and other irregularities make the bottle more collectible. The use of hand-etched embossing, and other crude methods of putting inscriptions add value to the bottle.
Some collectors collect beer bottles based on certain categories such as by brewery, by the state of origin, by the presence of certain features on the label, etc.
Some Notable Auctions
Some notable auctions for a antique beer bottle include a Dr. Cronk flavored beer bottle offered by Jeffrey Evans and Associates and was sold for $2,400 on May 22, 2010. The sapphire-blue twelve-sided bottle with a concave base has two sides embossed with Dr. Cronk. The glass work might have been produced in Western New York from either Lockport or Lancaster Glass Provenance between 1850 to 1870.
An early 1900s Southern Select Beer white bottle was sold for $750 in an auction held on June 25, 2007 by Nate D. Sanders. The beer was brewed and packaged by Galveston-Houston Breweries. The red and brown label is somewhat faded but is still in good condition. The label states that it was manufactured in Galveston, Texas.
On May 1, 2004, a vintage Cap Canson Brand Ginger Beer Bottle was bought for $700 at an auction organized by Robert Edward Auctions of New Jersey, USA. The bottle had a brown glaze and was in great condition.