Expert Tip: Collecting and Caring For Apothecary Bottles Chatelaine's Antiques Collectibles Appraisals


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Collecting Apothecary Bottles - Chatelaine's Antiques and Appraisals Magazine

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Collecting and Caring for Apothecary Bottles

Apothecary bottles such as this one have turned from a catch-all to a collectible

Apothecary bottles such as this one have turned from a catch-all to a collectible

The concept of a glass medicine bottle is nothing new. For nearly two millennia, glass bottles have been used to hold medicines and perfumes. The earliest ones were the Roman unguentaria, sometimes called "teardrop bottles."

During their heyday American apothecary bottles stored everything from drugs and perfumes to spices and poisons and lined the shelves of nearly every drugstore.

Most of the bottles were by made by glass companies in Pittsburgh, West Virginia, and Ohio, where coal an important glass ingredient was abundant. The plain, cylindrical jars generally had paper labels and heavy covers that were set into the mouth, like stoppers.

Most apothecary jars are valued at more than $500, because they're rarely found in good condition. These bottles were utilitarian things, they were knocked around, and they took a beating.

Here are some cleaning no-no's and an interesting example of these specialized bottles:

How should apothecary bottles be cleaned?
Most collectors have a sense of what to do simply use a cool damp cloth. Don't put the bottles in the dishwasher, because it can expose lead in the glass. And don't immerse them in water, because you'll ruin the paper label. Some bottles also have a painted tin top that can corrode. But most collectors, both experienced and new collectors, know that you don't want to use steel wool or anything abrasive.

Have you seen any interesting ones lately?
Last winter one sold that was a soft green color with lots of bubbles. It was one of the more elaborate ones seen 3-tiered and it had applied glass feet. It was very unusual. One piece fit into the next, with a large bottle, with a second one that fit into it, and a third that fit into the second.


Don Li-Leger - Apothecary V
Apothecary V
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C. Winterle Olson - Apothecary Jar Collection II
Apothecary Jar Collection II
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