Figural bottles were being made by the ancient Egyptians by 1546 B.C. That’s more than 5,000 years ago. But collectors couldn’t find many to collect until the early 1800s, when manufacturers started using them to sell whiskey or bitters medicine to an individual customer.

Before that, most whiskey was ladled out of a barrel into your pottery container during a visit to the distillery. When bitters medicine was created from herbs, roots, bark, alcohol, drugs and other ingredients, it was sold in bottles to encourage sales to individuals. There were few stores.

It made people feel better, but it was mainly because of the alcohol and drugs. Traveling medicine shows sold the bitters, which often was the only “medicine” available in a town with no doctor.

Many likenesses of George Washington, the “Father of our Country,” were made to sell in 1876 because of bicentennial celebrations of the founding of the U.S. Simon’s Centennial Bitters was sold in a bottle shaped like a bust of General George Washington on a pedestal.

His name was molded on the bottle around the bottom of the bust. It was made by Bernard Simon of Scranton, Pennsylvania, and created using clear, aqua or amber glass.

Later reproductions were made in amethyst and other colors. Many were made in the 1930s, probably because of renewed interest caused by the bicentennial celebration of Washington’s birthday. A recent auction of a clear example standing 9 7/8 inches tall brought $748.

I bought two Mexican Feathercraft pictures of birds in Mexico City in 1952 and am wondering if you can give me an idea of their worth. The bodies and tails of the birds are made from brightly colored feathers and their beaks and legs are painted. The trees in the background are also painted.

Featherwork pictures, jewelry and items of clothing were made in Mexico as early as the 1500s. Spanish conquerors took Mexican featherwork back to Europe, where it was popular until the 17th century. Early indigenous artists used the brightly colored feathers of tropical birds.

Some more recent featherwork pictures are made from feathers that have been dyed to achieve the bright colors. Twentieth-century featherwork pictures, which are about 13 by 28 inches, have sold for $100 to $150.

Current Prices

Carnival gambling wheel, wooden framed bicycle tire, pinned-on playing cards, mounted to plank, hanging, 1930s, 31-inch diameter, $1,300.

Weathervane, dog, long haired setter, walking, 32 x 15 inches, $3,510.

Brass, gong, quarter circle, hole near arc, Harry Bertoia, c. 1950, 6 1/2 x 9 inches, $5,310.

Cut glass, punch bowl, stand, Arabian, Eggington, 12 1/8 x 14 1/2 inches, $10,200.

Tip: An auction staff member examined a blanket chest that might be in a coming sale. He found a hidden compartment filled with valuable historical documents. That’s another reminder to search for secret compartments in antiques.

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