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A Parallel Universe?

For those who don't already know I have been an avid collector of antique bottles for nearly as long as I have been interested in minerals.

Time permitting I like to keep my interests alive by visiting the various "bottle shows" that run here in the UK.

The interest started in 1973 when I was at the bottom of a mine shaft near Llanfyllin in Wales looking for minerals, when I happened upon a Victorian beer bottle. Soon as a young teenager I was hooked and spending hours trying to find old rubbish tips to dig for "treasure".

Of course back in the early 1970s things were a bit easier, a little like mineral collecting sites were open and provided you sought permission people usually allowed you access to dig/collect.

Now in the Twenty-teens many sites are exhausted, or built over, and just not possible to gain access.

Bottle collecting also has some other similarities to mineral collecting, discussed below, and I also know that I am not alone in having an interest in both!

The hobby exploded with the general interest in Victoriana in the late 1960s, the age of bottles collected spans the very early C17th all the way through to the post WWII years, but the bulk of collectable material is definitely set in the Victorian era through to the 1930s, before bottles were generally machine mass produced.

As a generation of collectors was born an infrastructure of clubs and a network of friends (and rivals) evolved. In the UK these were organised usually by county or region and most survive today, holding regular meetings and annual shows organised in a schedule, so that there is one show per month at different venues around the UK.

Today it was the turn of the Warwickshire Bottle Club to hold its annual show at Stratford On Avon. I haven't been for a few years so it was great to get up early and cover the 80 or so miles to get to the show for 08:30 opening.

Stratford Bottle Show 2018


Held at the Stratford Racecourse the show usually has stalls both inside and outside. This year after 56 days of continuous sunshine in the UK, there was wind and rain - so plans were abruptly changed.

Like most UK mineral shows there are a whole range of mostly part time or amateur sellers with "self collected" material, old collections and various new finds and rarities offered, and of course discussed.

Many tables are run by people thinning out collections or trading spares


Barring the scientific side I find the similarities between these collecting genres so similar; there are "holy grail" bottles, one-offs and collecting themes abound.

Like minerals some things are suprisingly inexpensive, bearing in mind these items are old and in finite supply, going through to items which can cost tens of thousands. 

There are classifications of bottles (usually by their original use) which loosely maps on to mineral species and localites usually being represented by the town/city. Within this broad structure we then get different  tips/finds (similar to mines), plus different colours designs (and patents) for different bottle types. 

In the antique bottle period a large number of product manufacturers (eg mineral water, toothpaste, beer) were operating in local areas, therefore the bottles are marked with different names and towns, with brand/trade mark designs; it is this that forms the majority of collecting genres.

People will collect anything from a particular town or a particular bottle type across different or any location - some bottles are collected for design, colour or patent - where location is not relevant (ink or poison bottles have many collectors) - I suppose this would equate to a systemmatic collector.

Where science is missing in bottle collecting classification, bottles have a wealth of historical discovery to be made in the research of the brands and trade marks.

Not only do individual companies have a history, told through bottle evolution, but also they have merged and divided, diversified, moved and rebranded over time all of wihch provides an interesting further topic of research.

Personally my interests are in seltzer mineral water bottles (from anywhere) - and stoneware ginger beer bottles with Welsh town marks.


A couple of additions to my collection from the show

A seltzer bottle (with "merman" trade mark)

from Staines, Middx, UK.

A ginger beer bottle Pwllheli in Wales

Only 6 or so known - so rare.


In the gallery below are some snaps from around the show.


For people interested: Antique Bottle collecting is very popular  internationally; in particular the USA, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada have a strong following.

The interests follow the same lines, however in many countries there is a strong crossover with mineral collecting as old mine camps, mining frontier (ghost) towns often provide artefacts including bottles left behind the occupants.

These also often date to a time where designs colour and decoration became a big factor in product packaging.

It is also interesting to note that many former British Colonies, eg Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa often imported UK made bottles for locally produced goods.   


Mineral references: 
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Album: A Parallel Universe?
Album: A Parallel Universe?
Album: A Parallel Universe?
Album: A Parallel Universe?
Album: A Parallel Universe?
Album: A Parallel Universe?
Album: A Parallel Universe?
Album: A Parallel Universe?
Album: A Parallel Universe?
Album: A Parallel Universe?
Album: A Parallel Universe?
Album: A Parallel Universe?
Album: A Parallel Universe?
Album: A Parallel Universe?