A Small Brown Treasure
Pam and I get all excited whenever we turn up an antique bottle on our homesite acreage in southern Arizona. Though we’ve only lived here for two years at this point in time (April of 2011), we’ve found any number of treasures left behind by earlier travelers and perhaps a few short term residents. However, being able to identify a new find–that’s sometimes another matter entirely.
Enter a small brown treasure that showed up just two days ago. It was lying right on top of the ground. I didn’t pay it much attention at first. After all, we had toilet buckets to dump and trash to burn in the new burn barrel and preparations to make for Pam’s upcoming visit to her doctor.
But the bottle intrigued us. Tinier than tiny, the thing couldn’t have held more than an ounce of liquid–yet no expense had been spared in its design. The shape was just downright unusual, too, as you’ll see in the photos below. Beyond that, there were markings on the bottom: On the left side, the number 40 over a bar; on the right, the number 3.
I decided to ask our readers for their opinions; maybe one (or more) could identify this little chunk of crafted glass at a glance.
Our enthusiasm for old bottles has always been there, but the “collecting bug” really kicked in after I scoped out the Denver Flea Market one morning in early October of 2007. Among my purchases were three tall, incredibly graceful bottles of the most intense cobalt blue the eye can process. We were absolutely captivated.
It took a bit of online searching, but eventually two of the three were identifed to our satisfaction as nothing particularly special. Nice, attractive, but hardly thrilling economically. In other words, each was worth the three bucks I’d paid for it . If I auctioned them on eBay I might break even, ho hum. So we kept them for our collection.
The third…yeah. That one was our little mother lode. It seemed to be a poison bottle, but we couldn’t quite pin it down.
That is, we couldn’t pin it down until I stumbled onto an Oregon specialist in antique bottles who asked me to email some photos and a description of the item, which of course I did immediately.
It took him about ten days to respond, but the wait was worth it. This time we’d snagged something worth buying. True, it was only a copy of an earlier bottle from 1868, but it had still been manufactured around 1910 and was worth $50, give or take. Pretty good.
Not that there wasn’t a bite in his report: They didn’t make a blue version in 1868, but if ours had genuinely shown itself to be from that year–and was the only blue one–it could have been sold for (give or take) $50,000.
News flash! I know about the little brown bottle! Matter of fact, I knew before I started writing.
Another online writer, Will Starr, gets the blame–or credit, depending on your mood. See, he complimented my ability to make two readable articles out of one ordinary old school burn barrel…so I just had to see if I could come up with a third burn barrel related piece, just for the fun of it.
Will is also the master of the “story with a twist”, a surprise ending, so…
Anyway: The bottle in the photos is no antique at all. Rather, it’s a Flonase bottle from one of Pam’s prescriptions, a few years old at the most. We burned trash in our new burn barrel this past weekend. When I began separating burned tin cans and such from the ashes after the burn, yep, this little bottle did indeed end up on the ground sure enough.
Oh, that slightly out-of-oval neck opening? Simple: It had started to melt a bit in the burn barrel.
How’d I do, Will?