Long ago, when I sold at flea markets, I knew lots of people who sold just bottles, mainly beer bottles, and they made a generous living. I saw glass beer and wine bottles and the stone types used for ginger beer fetch double figures, sometimes hundreds of pounds apiece.
That was more than twenty years ago, so I expected some growth in prices since then, but I was quite unprepared for the staggering prices achieved today for drinks bottles on eBay. Such as, in the last month:
* An 18th century English Sealed Mallet Wine Bottle went for £1116.00
* Two Green Glass Wine Bottles, one dated 1761, went for £420.62
* An old Irish Whiskey Jug Stoneware Bottle for Emmett's Whisky made £362.00
* A 19th century saltglaze stoneware Stout bottle from Milton Dorset fetched £317.11
* A rare amber Wadsworth 6oz Codd Bottle fetched £561.00
* A Cobalt Blue Newcastle Pictorial Mineral Water Bottle fetched £288.00
* A Vintage Stone Stout Bottle fetched £271.69
While researching those prices on eBay I learned something else I hadn't realised earlier: there's more to bottles than just holding drink. In fact alcohol represents a minority of bottles fetching hundreds and thousands of pounds; many more higher priced bottles once held perfume, or medicine, engine oil, baby milk, snuff or horse linament, food and vitamins, even poison.
As well as whatever bottles once contained, certain themes and subjects are evident among specimens fetching the highest prices on eBay, such as maker, materials from which they were made, past owners, advertisements on bottles, special event issues, place of manufacture, special characters depicted on bottles, and more besides.
In fact you really could focus exclusively on bottles for your eBay business and still offer hundreds of very different products to buyers of widely differing interests.
Because so much overlap exists between reasons people collect bottles it makes sense to consider some of the most common variants to help you spot best selling bottles at boot sales, flea markets, auctions.
This is because:
* A bottle might be collectable in its own right and there are many people who collect anything bottle shaped, regardless of purpose or size, ancient or modern, rare or quite common. Just buying and selling bottles, any bottles, regardless of purpose or shape - as long as they're old - could get you started fast in this easy profit making area.
* Many more collectors specialise, by type for example, according to whether the bottle once held wine or beer; others collect specific shapes and colours, particular makers and materials.
* For some buyers the bottle is a side issue, not the reason they want the item, their interest lies in anything from past famous owners to well-known designers; characters depicted on the bottle, the label or bottle cap, and more besides. So bottles depicting sports, for example, with golf ball or bullet shaped stoppers will attract interest from several collector types, namely of bottles, and sports depicted on those bottles.
* Yet other collectors care nothing about bottles or their purpose, or who made them; they're more interested in an alternative use of the bottle or what became of the bottle after use and on eBay you'll find some wonderfully artistic and unique creations made from bottles and fetching fabulous prices. Such as a John Deacons Perfume Bottle that doubles as a paperweight and fetched £41.75 on eBay last week and, more impressively a 19th century Baccarat Paperweight stopper cut glass bottle that made $865.59. There's a sneaky trick that may have increased value of that last item which I'll tell you about soon.
* The truth is few people know all there is to know about bottles and even the experts overlook bottle bargains locally that subsequently fetch high prices on eBay. So bottles represent a great arbitrage opportunity for you to buy inexpensively from a poor or misspelled listing on eBay and relist free from errors with fabulous pictures and a much higher auction starting price.