October 19, 2021

Antiques & Collecting: Figural bottle

“Figural bottles” are just what you would imagine — bottles shaped like living creatures or familiar objects. The earliest American clear glass figurals were made in the 1860s.

In 1866, Dr. Fisch packaged his bitters medicine in, what else, a fish-shaped bottle. Brown’s Celebrated Indian Herb Bitters was sold in a bottle shaped like a standing Indian woman, from about 1868 to 1875. Dr. Bell’s Tonic was sold in a dark amber figural bell-shaped bottle in about 1875.

Probably the best-known antique figural was used by E.G. Booz from about 1858 to 1870. It is an amber log cabin with the name Booz embossed on the top. Since 1931 several reproductions have been made.

Booz sold whiskey in the bottles; many taverns had them on their shelves, and customers asked for “Booz,” the word still used in bars for whiskey.

Generic figurals were popular bottles in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Probably the best known are violin, pig or fish bottles, all still being made.

Some vintage glass bottles that copy a trademark, such as a Butterworth syrup bottle shaped like Mrs. Butterworth or the man representing Poland Springs water made it easy to find the product on the grocery shelf.

Figurals helped make Avon — originally called the California Perfume Company in 1886, changing its name in 1929 — to become a successful cosmetics company with fancy packaging and home sales.

There was a collecting frenzy from the 1960s to 1980s for the empty, no-longer-made figural bottles. Unfortunately, empty bottles were stolen from the bottle factory and sold to collectors as rare, increasing the supply and lowering both prices and collector interest.

But many other companies had unusual old figurals that still sell for high prices. This very rare 7-inch bottle shaped like a Prussian military helmet was made about 1890 of dark amber glass with a wooden spike and a partial German label. It sold in an online auction by Glass Works Auctions of East Greenville, Pennsylvania, for $780.

I just bought a solid wood gun display case with working locks and skeleton key. Inside the bottom drawer is a metal tag that says “JB Van Sciver Co.” The craftmanship is beautiful. What is the value of this piece?

Joseph Bishop Van Sciver founded J.B. Van Sciver Furniture Co. in Camden, New Jersey, in 1881. The company made furniture, clocks, lamps, rugs and draperies.

At its peak, it had stores in several cities. The company went bankrupt in 1983, and production stopped. The remaining stock was sold at a warehouse outlet in 1984. If you just bought your display case, it’s worth what you paid for it.

Current Prices

Smith Brothers biscuit jar, green & brown ivy, cream ground, square shape, silver lid with finial, bail handle, 7 1/4 inches, $55.

Rudolstadt group, 5 girls holding hands, around well, playing Ring Around the Rosy, pink print dresses, flower band, porcelain, Ernst Bohne Sohne, 6 5/8 inches, $175.

Doll, Vogue, Ginny, Miss 1910, plastic, mohair wig, brown sleep eyes, 5-piece body, blue dotted Swiss dress, snap shoes, 1950, 8 inches, $290.

Tip: Check the prongs on your diamond and precious stone rings. They do wear down and the stones loosen.

Terry and Kim Kovel

For more collecting news, tips and resources, visit www.Kovels.com. © 2021 King Features Synd., Inc.