How to Identify & Value Antique Liquor Bottles (Expert’s Guide 2023)

I’ve seen many people collect old glass bottles like crazy! But did you know that if your bottle is a vintage liquor bottle, you can get rich with it! That’s right! Antique collectors love liquor bottles for their colors, shapes, and smell! So, let’s see if you can make some money with your old glass bottle!

Well, you won’t get returns for any regular liquor bottles, obviously. First, you must be sure if it’s really antique! And today, I’ll help you identify and value your old alcohol bottle! So, pick your pen, and let’s go!

Key Takeaways

  • If you want an old, precious liquor bottle, look for clear, wide seams and thick, yellow, brown, or green walls.
  • Eyeing returns? Well, then branded or foreign-made bottles are best! So, look for logos, stamps, and paper labels to verify their make.
  • Get hand molded (visible pontil marks), deformed or etched bottles with UPCs and tax strips for an old make.
  • Misplaced corks, torn seals, and cracks might devalue the bottle, while shell shapes, yellow and transparent walls hike the cost by 10 – 12%. So choose wisely!

What Do Antique Liquor Bottles Look Like?

Old Antique Liquor Bottles

Most liquor bottles are symmetrical and have a flask or barrel shape with thin glass siding. Next, check if they have any labels or logos. If yes, you can verify and price them as per the brand. But, if they have no marks, here are other features to look for:

  • Embossed or etched labeling and manufacturer name at the front, base, or sides
  • Narrower side-seam and a deep, circular ‘pontil’ mark at the base
  • Pint, half-pint, and quart-sized bottles with ornate packaging
  • Brown, Black, Amber, or Green glass surfaces
  • Unfinished bottle lips and a rough or jagged surface finish
  • Simple cork lids or glass stoppers

The History & Evolution

Brandy, Vodka, Rum, and Whisky bottles popped up in the 18th Century. But wine bottles are even older and precious! That’s because they have hand-blown, bubbled surfaces and historic mascots that are rare today!

But, these bottles were so thick and wide that they spilled the liquor. Plus, you won’t be able to read their batch numbers and dates. The lettering was that small! So, manufacturers reworked the shapes and added paper labels for visibility.

However, America entered a ‘Liquor Prohibition Phase’ from 1919 – 1964. So, manufacturers used thin, can-shaped bottles to ship the stuff illegally. They even added red and gold beverage-style stickers to mask the alcohol. And such bottles are even more precious today!

4 Types of Antique Liquor Bottles

Vintage liquor bottles have different shapes that influence their value. But, there are also four liquor bottle types that dictate their prices broadly. So, let’s discuss them!

1. Gin Alcohol Bottles

Vintage Gordon’s Gin alcohol bottle
Majvdl, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Gin bottles are mostly tall and squarish with short, broad necks and grooved lips. They are mostly clear, olive-green, or brown but might have a frosted finish at the base. And they might even have some trademarks, seals, or logos, costing $20 – 200.

You can classify Gin bottles as follows:

  • European Gin Bottles: These are thick, stone, glass, or ceramic bottles with a short neck and a handle. They have a valuation of $100 – 150.
  • Cased Gin Bottles: Cased Gin are embossed black or brown bottles with a square base and flat sides, valuing $30 – 50.
  • German Gin Bottles: These are cylindrical, brown bottles with a lid and content label. But, they are common and have a low valuation of $20 – 30.
  • Russian Gin Bottles: These are bright yellow, purple, brown, or blue bottles with a pipe and metal lid, valuing $40 – 60.

2. Scotch Bottles

Old Branded Liquor Bottles

Scotch bottles are thin and bulbous. But they have a narrower neck and tighter lips to reduce spillage. In addition, they are relatively new and might have a paper label and logo on the sides. Scotch antique bottles might be clear, amber, or brown, costing $50 – 120.

3. Squat Bottles

Ancient Squat Liquor Bottles

Squat bottles are round European bottles with bulbous necks and round metal or glass caps. They are onion-shaped and can have olive, blue, or clear walls with a clear finish. And they have a soft lip edge and a deep, iron-rod pontil that hikes the value up to $120.

4. Benedictine Bottles

Benedictine Bottles

Benedictine bottles are French bottles with long necks and trapezoidal bases. They are machine blown and have clear, green, brown or blue sidings with a smooth finish. And older, 19th-century bottles might even have cork lids and handles, costing $20 – 50 each.

8 Factors to Identify & Value Antique Liquor Bottles

Old liquor bottles have different shapes and colors that help age and value them. So, arm yourself with a pencil and magnifying glass and read on for more!

1. Old Alcohol Bottle’s Age

Aged Alcohol Bottles on the Shelf

Every antique bottle’s valuation depends on the bottle’s age. Usually, old liquor bottles with a seam and a rugged finish are precious.

In contrast, new, machine-made bottles are not that valued and cost $4 – 5 at the auction. And even smooth finishes and flat-base bottles are new and cheaper.

Want to track your liquor bottle’s age? Here’s how:

  • Wine Bottles from the Late 1650s: They are flask-shaped, handmade bottles with a curved base. They may have imperfections like rust, bubble surfaces, or discolored seams, which raises the cost to $15,000 – 30,000.
  • Bottles from the 1800s: 1800s liquor bottles were clear, amber, or brown bottles with less seams and a rough finish. They usually do not have any markings but might have an embossed logo that costs $200 – 300.
  • Bottles from the Prohibition Era: These thin, wavy bottles are pretty small and rough. They might be clear, brown, or green. But since they were illegal, they easily fetch a huge value of $200 – 300.
  • Bottles after the 1900s: These are brown or green bottles with a content label at the lower right corner. They also have a permit number and an embossed finish highlighting their age. But they have low demand and cost less at $ 80 – 100.

Here are some common permit numbers for quick reference:

YearBottle AgePermit Number ManufacturerAverage Value
194280D126 65-42Illinois Glass Company$60 – 70
1950721940-1969Armstrong Company$50 – 60
1970521969-1973Owens$20 – 40

2. Old Liquor Bottle Shape

Old Liquor Bottle Shape

You only see tall, thin alcohol bottles today! But antique bottles had so many different shapes – shell, flask, or cylinder.

Of these, curved, bulb-shaped bottles are costly, while flat and square ones are cheap. And you can also look for wide-base, tapering shapes to hike costs.

Shape of the Liquor BottleAverage Auction Cost
Shell-Shaped ( Limited Edition )$300 – 400
Flask Shaped ( Wine )$250 – 400
Cylindrical, Flat-base ( Whiskey)$150 – 200
Squarish, Flat-base ( Pint )$60 – 80
Heart-shaped ( Scotch )$40 – 60
Rectangular ( Gin / Liquor )$15 – 30

3. Vintage Alcohol Bottle Colors

Old Alcohol Bottles

If you want old, handmade liquor bottles, pick the clear ones with a blue or green tint. But, if you want returns, then the prohibition era’s yellow or brown bottles are best! And, if you want it colored, you have newer olive, blue or pink bottles! It’s just that they will be cheaper.

Want to know how each color affects a liquor bottle’s value? Take a look below!

ColorAverage Value
Clear or Transparent$80 – 90
Black, Grey or Charcoal$20 – 30
Straw Yellow, Amber, Golden, or Amethyst$60 – 70
Brown or Tan$10 – 15
Olive or Emerald Green$5 – 10

Inspect the bottle for old, discolored surfaces, hand-blown inks, or a textured finish to raise the valuation by 1-2%.

4. Old Liquor Bottle Brands

Old Liquor Bottle Brands

If you want luxurious gold, silver, or foreign-made alcohol bottles, pick the branded ones! And you’ll even get them in unique skull shapes and bold colors to hike the costs.

But how do you know if your liquor bottle is branded? Well, for that, check the bottle’s seams and labels for logos and signs. If you see a trademark, you can price the bottle for $300 – 400. Otherwise, $40 – 50 would be enough!

Here’s a list of some high-value brands for easy help:

Liquor NameManufacturerYearShapeValuation
Bourbon Liquor BottleBlanton1984Hexagonal with race-horse lid$100 – 197
Revelation Liquor BottleBombay Sapphire20th CenturySapphire or Gem shapedApprox $1.7 M!
Italian Bitter SpritzAperol1919 ( Prohibition Era)Seltzer-bottle shaped$100 – 150
Gordon’s Dry GinGordon’s1769Reclining Drunk$300 – 400
Elkland Antique WhiskeyElkland Cincinnati1800Rounded Rectangle$400 – 500

Store rare liquor bottles in a cool and dark place, as sunlight might destroy and devalue them.

5. Rare Liquor Bottles

Want high returns for your liquor bottle? Then, rare, gold-flushed, or carved models are best! Such bottles also have royal or military origins, which hike the cost by 40 – 45%. And since these models have less than 1000 pieces in circulation, they are in demand and precious!

Here’s a list of some rare liquor bottles for your collection:

NameValueContentsCirculation NumberShapeColor
Dalmore Single Malt Scotch Whiskey$1200 – 1500Whiskey58 – 60 ( in America )BarrelClear & Transparent
Black Bowmore 1964 Edition$2800 – 3000Cask Whiskey1500Seltzer-bottle shapedClear & Transparent
Deanston Cask Liquor$2000 – 2500Gin or Spirits480Bulged BarrelBrown
Patrón x Guillermo Del Toro$500 – 1000Tequila500SkullBrown
Pierre Ferrand$1200 – 1500Champagne500Flask with Silver CasingClear & Transparent

Check for a deep pontil mark, silver embellishments and animal-shaped cork lids to identify rare, first-edition liquor bottles.

6. Liquor Bottle’s Condition

Ancient Liquor Bottles with Rough Surface

Old alcohol bottles with manufacturing defects, deformed shapes, or chemical residues fetch good returns. But, those with handling issues, broken edges, chips, or cracks lose their value. Similarly, bottles with misplaced corks, torn labels, or discolored lips are cheaper.

Here’s a reference for some common cost deductions:

DeformityExpected Cost Deduction
Torn labels and Closures$5 – 6
Misplaced Caps or Stoppers$4 – 5
Stuck Dirt or Debris$4 – 5
Chips or Cracks$2 – 3
Discoloration$1 – 2

Liquor bottles with leftover residue cost $4-5 more at the auction. So dust it lightly, and don’t wash or scrub your bottle during cleaning.

7. Tax Strips

Old liquor bottles with red or green government tax strips are more precious. These strips are continuous labels indicating the year, tax benefits, and exports. So, bottles with a ‘Tax Paid’ or ‘Distilled Spirits’ stamp hike the cost by 9 -10%.

8. UPC Codes

UPCs or Universal Produce Codes track the age and manufacturer of the bottle. So, a liquor bottle with a small, embossed number in the lower right corner will be more precious. And since these numbers evolved during the Prohibition period, they’ll be rare and trendy too.

Here’s a list of different UPCs and their manufacturers and dates for help:

80244Buffalo Trace1999$200 – 250
80432Wild Turkey1940$380 – 390
85676Medley1976$380 – 390
80660Barton Brands1879$1000 – 1100

Do Old Liquor Bottles Have Any Value?

Yes, old liquor bottles are valuable and might fetch $300 – 400 if they have a proper cork, seal, and embossed trademark. Similarly, they’ll have high value if left with liquor residue or tax strips.

What Do the Numbers on the Bottom of a Whiskey Bottle Mean?

Base numbers on a whiskey bottle mark the distillery and cask number that determines the bottle’s age. They consist of a group of two numbers – the first number indicates the glass maker’s permit, while the second one hints at the year of manufacture.

How Do I Know If My Alcohol Bottle Is Vintage?

Your alcohol bottle will be vintage if it has thick walls, a continuous seam, and a deep, pontil mark at the base. You can even check the bottle’s base for the date and trademark to determine its age. Generally, bottles from the 17th century – the 1950s are vintage.

Where Can I Sell My Rare Liquor Bottles?

You can sell your rare liquor bottles on e-commerce websites like eBay, Etsy, or Amazon. Or, you can visit local antique stores or get a bit for your item at auction houses.

Antique liquor bottles are always valuable, despite their condition. But, you can pick clear, aged, or internationally branded bottles for a better valuation. And the different labels and tax strips will further determine their age and help you decide a cost.

Also, if you want to know more about different glass bottles like ‘medicine bottles,’ ‘perfume bottles’ and ‘decanters,’ I’ll be happy to help!

Judith Miller
Judith Miller

Judith is an antique expert with nearly 20 years of experience in the field of antique identification and valuation. She has reviewed over 30 thousand vintage items and has worked with numerous antique shops. She enjoys seeing new places, attending antique shows and events, and sharing her knowledge with people! Know more about me

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