Bottle collecting can be a fun, family activity

Terry Kovel
Would you have priced this 5 1/4-inch long figural whiskey nip (a small bottle that holds one shot) at $702? It sold at a Glass Works bottle auction in Pennsylvania, in 2018. The rare bright-blue color added to the value. It has a screw-on metal cap used on many 1885-1900 bottles.

Why not start a collection this year? It's fun and encourages healthy exercise and family outings. It creates new friendships and sometimes a lucky find brings money.

Bottles can be found in stores, house sales and even dug up from old dumps. There are thousands of bottle collectors who go to shows, meetings and even on trips to add to their knowledge and collections. Prices of bottles range from a few dollars to thousands of dollars.

The top prices are for antique bottles that were made in a mold or blown. The most expensive of these are figural flasks of the 18th century that have the design raised in the glass. Almost all are listed and pictured in the books by Helen McKearin, so you can find out when and where they were made. Or search for less expensive inks, poisons, medicines, bitters, perfumes, figurals, old sodas, milks, mineral waters, miniatures and even modern Jim Beam, Avon, perfumes and children's shampoo bottles.

Some people collect and display the advertising that was used to sell the products in the bottles. You can even find groups that dig for bottles in old areas. Each type of bottle has been researched, and there are books, websites, museums and clubs that share information about rarity, prices and fakes.

You can even join the National Federation of Bottle Clubs, which meets in many cities and welcomes new members. It's easy to search online for information. All types are listed by name. The Kovels' online price guide shows hundreds of examples with prices. There also are numerous Kovels' books about bottles. This blue clamshell-shaped bottle held whiskey. It was sold recently at an auction.
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Q: My great-grandmother immigrated from Germany in 1887. The story goes that she came with her Steiff Rupert Bear that she got in her hometown. Do you have any information on this early stuffed bear?
A: The Margarete Steiff Toy Co. was founded by Margarete Steiff (1847-1909) in 1880. The company specialized in felt animals, including rigid, non-jointed bears. While your great-grandmother could have made her trip in 1887 with a Steiff bear in tow, it would have been a very early model and wouldn't have been called "Rupert" by Steiff. Early bears had black shoe-button eyes, a long nose and a humpback with longer front limbs. The bears were "soft-filled for small children" in 5- and 8-inch sizes. In 1902, Margarete's nephew, Richard, an artist and longtime lover of bears, designed a jointed bear. The first jointed Steiff bears, covered in mohair plush, were introduced in 1903 at the Leipzig (Germany) Toy Fair. Steiff did make a Rupert the Bear in a 2008 limited edition replica of the Rupert the Bear cartoon character created by English artist Mary Tourtel in 1920.
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Q: I have a Laszlo Ispanky figurine of Moses holding the Ten Commandments. It shows him from the waist up, with his left arm raised. It's 12 1/2 inches high. Your website says it sold for $895 in 2015. My piece is signed. I was wondering how much that affects the price.
A: Laszlo Ispanky was born in Hungary and came to the United States in 1956. He went into business with George Utley in Trenton, New Jersey, in 1966 and made limited-edition figurines marked with his name and Utley Porcelain Ltd. The company became Ispanky Porcelains Ltd. in 1968 and moved to Pennington, New Jersey. Ispanky died in 2010. Limited-edition figurines aren't as popular as they were several years ago, and prices have gone down. The signature does not add to the value. Many were signed. Ispanky's figurine of the bust of Moses, in mint condition, sells for about $200 to $300.
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Q: Is there an easy way to spot a reproduction Booz cabin bottle? I know a lot were made.
A: Look at the raised word "WHISKEY" on the side of the bottle. On original Booz bottles, the top fork of the letter K is wider than the bottom fork. On most repros, the bottom fork is wider. 
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Q: I have an original copy of "The Battle of Chatillon" and original pictures and diaries from the possible chief and pilot associated with the military staging. The written diaries have intimate details of the 89th Aero Squadron and provide deeper detail to chapters in the book. We also have the pilot's hat. What would these items possibly be worth?
A: The book "The Battle of Chatillon: A Graphic History of the Second Corps Aeronautical School, American Expeditionary Forces, France" was published in 1919, after the end of World War I. If you have provenance to prove your copy of the book and the diaries are original, they would sell at an auction of historical documents. The book has been reproduced, and reproductions sell online for about $20. 
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Tip: If you have a dusty, dirty book, try rubbing or blotting the pages with a piece of white bread.
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Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer questions sent to the column. By sending a letter with a question and a picture, you give full permission for use in the column or any other Kovel forum. Names, addresses or email addresses will not be published. We cannot guarantee the return of photographs, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The amount of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovels, (Name of this newspaper), King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803.
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Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions. 
Corkscrew, bone, horse jockey, England, 1900s, 4 1/4 x 1 1/2 inches, $45.
Humidor, bust, red cheeks, teeth, yellow scarf, red bowtie, painted, Austria, c. 1900, 5 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches, $90.
Scale, weighing, brass, butcher, fitted case, John Chatillon & Sons, 16 1/4 x 13 inches, $160.
Barograph, weather testing, oak case, Short & Maso, 1915, 15 x 9 inches, $195.
Kitchen, churn, wood, crank, stand, Standard Churn Co. 1910, 22 x 38 inches, $250.
Map, globe, terrestrial, paper, composition, Art Deco, 1920s, 9 x 14 inches, $340.
Barrister's bookcase, quarter-sawn oak, graduated sections, leaded glass, Globe-Wernicke, c. 1910, 12 x 34 inches, $740.
Coca-Cola, sign, tin, "Refresh Yourself, Drink a Coca-Cola," 18 x 54 inches, $830.
Bicycle, Packard, black, aluminum gooseneck handlebar, name badge, Bean Son Co., 70 x 39 inches, $2,185.
Buffalo Motor Oil can, landscape, Prairie Cities Oil Co., yellow, 1920s, Thos. Davidson co., 8 x 3 inches, $4,485.
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