Monday, April 12, 2010

The Three C’s and the " Big E "

Ask any western bottle collector what makes a bottle worth collecting. More than likely they will tell you it’s the three C’s; Color, Condition and Crudity.

What they mean by color is the “not so ordinary color” If a particular bottle is known to come in let’s say amber, then finding an example of that bottle in a different shade of amber would make it more desirable. If you found that same bottle in an unknown color than you hit the bottle jackpot. Hence the old bottle collector’s saying “Color is King!”

Condition is in the eye of the beholder in most cases. What one person might call mint condition on a bottle another might consider it in a different condition. I think we covered this in a previous post. Didn’t we?

Crudity is what really turns some collectors on. For example, an advanced western collector from Nevada just loves “deplorable” tops on bottles. Oversize tops, tops on crooked and any top that doesn’t look normal or is “crude” does it for him. Other collectors love a bottle that has a lot of whittle. Chunky whittle, long uneven whittle or even the small faceted whittle screams crudity and has collector’s quick drawing their wallets.. There doesn’t seem to be many hobbies that value crudity as much as bottle collecting.

Even though most collectors expound the virtues of the three C’s and can go on all day about color, condition and crudity you hardly ever hear them mention the E word....

EMBOSSING! That’s what really makes a bottle desirable. You can have a hundred crude green applied top western bitters type bottles and they won’t get you one Dr. Renz’s Herb Bitters in trade. Five dozen blue sided un - embossed soda’s won’t fetch you a three Cities Chase soda and so on and so forth. Sure we collect un–embossed bottles but not like we collect embossed ones. Embossing is what really is king and if anyone tells you different they are pulling your leg!

An embossed bottle tells a story, shares some history with the collector, identifies the manufacturer or agent and just flat looks a lot fancier than it’s un-embossed counterpart.
Sure plenty of people blow off about slick bottles being desirable and lots of collectors have them in their collections but believe me when I say “they are the bridesmaids - not the brides”.

Since I have been collecting bottles I have had hundreds of people ask me what makes a bottle worth something. Backhoe operators on jobsites, home owners planting gardens, folks clearing their property and dozens of other people that have found bottles all want to know what makes a bottle worth keeping. And every single one of them I have told “it has to have writing on it to be worth something to a bottle collector"......

Come on, walk on over to your bottle cabinet and try to prove me wrong.


  1. For the most part the big "E" is the deciding factor in value, but I would not be quite so fast to consider this an absolute.
    About 12 years ago, some folks found an unembossed bottle at an estate sale. They asked around, and were given values anywhere from $5- $100 because it had no "writing" on it, and nobody knew who made it, or what it contained. The people listed the unembossed bottle on ebay, and knowledgeable collectors' hearts stopped. The amber bottle was a Willington cathedral pickle, which ended up at $54,000. I have seen some inks bring big money as well. Overall though, the embossing makes the difference. I would just hate a backhoe operator to chuck that olive amber pickle back in the ditch because it was a "slick":)

  2. Dale, you beat me to the punch. After reading Rick's post, the first thing that came to mind was the colored, pontilled umbrella inks that bring big bucks sometimes, without being embossed. And, of course, my favorite un-embossed bottles, the Cathedral Pickles. Early, colored and pontilled cathedral pickles can sell in the thousands and are highly sought. I remember when that amber Willington sold on ebay, and I think that it still holds the record for most paid for an antique bottle on ebay! However, with the few exceptions like the inks and pickles, Rick is correct about embossing being extremely important in this hobby. I do have a pickle in my collection that is colored (cornflower blue) and pontilled (graphite) AND is also embossed with the name of the distributor, so this embossing has allowed me to identify this bottle and learn more about it's history. Embossing is certainly one of the most important aspects of this hobby.