As a collector’s item, whiskey is a triple-purposed one – some people collect whiskey to drink right away, others to preserve for future enjoyment, and others just like to collect the empty bottles for decoration. Whether seeking to drink, keep or decorate, this guide will aid buyers in not only understanding the types of bottles available, but also how to date them and even why they should be collected whiskey bottles in the first place. Buying collectable whiskey bottles will be made simple on eBay, the site with the widest online market around.
Types of Collectable Whiskey Bottle
When searching for collectable whiskey bottles, buyers should keep in mind the different types that the bottles themselves are made in – and the difference this makes in the taste of the whiskey, if buying a full bottle. The main types of bottle are:
A very traditional way of creating whiskey bottles which is still in use, with ceramic. It is sometimes used for special editions of bottles created by modern distilleries. The familiar old-fashioned character bottles are also made of ceramic.
Stoneware bottles all tend to be antiques, made before the ceramic firing and glass blowing techniques were being used. Some special editions of whiskey are bottled in stoneware. However, this is quite rare.
Glass is the most common and familiar way of bottling whiskey now, with a huge variety of shapes, sizes and designs distinct to each distillery. Glass bottles, empty or full, are highly collectable items and are widely available at a variety of prices.
How to Date Whiskey Bottles
If the buyer has decided to buy an old bottle of whiskey, then dating the bottle is an important part of calculating how old a whiskey is – and therefore quite often its value to collectors. There are several ways of dating whiskey, with some only available to antique experts, but with some guidance even a beginner can start to identify the tell-tale signs of an old bottle. Some of the main ways of dating whiskey are:
- Design – fashions and tastes have changed over time, with bottles changing to suit not only modern trends but also new technology. While most modern bottles of whiskey tend towards tall and slender designs; older bottles tend to be squatter – the dimple shape of vintage bottles being particularly distinct. Older bottles also do not look quite as neat and uniform as modern bottles due to the difference in manufacturing processes, with flaws being likelier and seams from when it was moulded being more prominent.
- Colour – the colour of the glass is often a telltale factor in dating a bottle, with different colours falling in and out of popularity according to tastes and manufacturing changes. Bottle glass can be a variety of colours, including colourless, with some colours only present now in older bottles, such as a purple and deep blue caused by using oxides now deemed harmful.
- Labelling – the labelling of the bottle, if present, can be the simplest way to date a bottle. The label will state the name and location of the distillery as well as the year it was laid down. This means that the buyer can purchase a bottle knowing the exact year it has come from, saving the need to attempt to date the bottle using other means.
Reasons to Collect Whiskey Bottles
Collectors of whiskey purchase whiskey bottles for different reasons, which vary from person to person according to personal taste. Some collect just for the bottles, others for the whiskey. Each way of collecting has its own merits and many times collectors meet in the middle, amassing whiskeys in bottles not only for the whiskey but also for the interest the bottle receives.
Whiskey bottles alone are very interesting to many collectors as items of beauty, interest and history, with many designs and styles of bottles being valuable on their own terms without the whiskey. Some specific reasons why people collect bottles are:
- Distillery – the designs of bottles vary, often dramatically, from distillery to distillery. Bottles that have specific shapes and sizes – for example, the distinct square shape of a Jack Daniels bottle – are quite valuable as pieces that clearly show their heritage and provenance.
- Colour – this is particular to glass bottles, because of the various changes in technique making glass and even the safety of the colours – coloured and even colourless glass could contain arsenic, selenium, lead oxide and copper which could leech into the whiskey. As colours have fallen out of use the value of unusually coloured bottles has risen.
- Age – whiskey has a long history, and many bottle collectors enjoy gathering bottles according to their age, irrespective of distillery, type or even country. The age of the bottle also has a determining effect on colour, design and even label – some old distilleries have gone out of business and their remaining bottles have become quite valuable because of limited stock.
- Historical Significance – it may seem strange, but some collectors gather whiskey bottles according to their significance as a piece of history. This is reflected in many different ways, such as the period the bottle was laid down in, or the bottle itself – such as the first bottling of a distillery.
- Handled – handled whiskey bottles are particular to stoneware and ceramic bottles, and not only have historical but also aesthetic interest, with many collectors using handled whiskey bottles as decoration.
Collecting whiskey bottles for the whiskey is rather different from collecting the bottles themselves, as different factors will affect the buyer’s decision, such as:
- Distillery – this is much the same as collecting the bottles, though for different reasons. Some collectors like to buy a range of whiskeys from one particular distillery, including older malts and new variations, with many preferring to buy whiskeys that are not only collectable, but know they will enjoy.
- Malt – the malt of a whiskey will have some effect on the price of the whiskey as well as its long-term value. Single malt is preferred by buyers and collectors for taste; however, it is all up to the personal preference of the buyer.
- Edition – some distilleries produce small runs of whiskey called special editions, which become quite valuable over time not only as a whiskey, but also as a collector’s item because of the small pool of stock available. Some collectors focus purely on special editions of popular whiskeys as their own preferred area.
- Age – age has a huge effect on the value of whiskey, with an 1883 bottle of Glenlivet recently being sold at auction for over £18,000. With mass market bourbon being at least 2 years old, and popular whiskies like Glenfiddich around 10 years old and more, tastes vary a great deal according to preferred age.
When looking at whiskey bottles, buyers should keep in mind the subtle difference between whiskey and whisky – a difference that is taken very seriously by many buyers and collectors. ‘Whisky’ most often refers to what is usually called ‘Scotch Whisky’ – that is, whisky distilled in Scotland – whereas whiskey can be used to refer to whiskey from any other country. Many Scottish distilleries insist on using ‘whisky’ for their product, whereas elsewhere the term tends to be more flexible.
Buying a Collectable Whiskey Bottle on eBay
Whether collecting whiskey bottles for the whiskey or the bottle, there are many varieties available for the buyer in terms of age, design, distillery and significance. When buying collectable whiskey bottles on eBay, buyers should consider:
- Price – prices of whiskeys vary a great deal, mostly according to age, but also according to the distillery in question, and the availability of the bottle (that is, if it is a limited run or not). Buyers can use the search preferences to narrow down their choices to match their budget, and with bottles available at both Auction and Buy It Now, the buyer has a huge amount of flexibility with their purchases.
- Age – the age of a whiskey is often a very important factor in both choosing the bottle and choosing the whiskey. Many whiskeys are labelled with their age or the year they were laid down in, and the buyer can utilise the search bar to uncover the whiskey or bottle from the year of choice.
- Distillery – there are many famous whiskey distilleries, from Bells to Glenfiddich to Jameson, and many collectors buy according to their own personal tastes and preferences. The buyer can use the search bar to indicate their own personal choice, if they have made one.
- Local Sellers – buying collectable whiskey bottles from a local seller is the ideal way to keep shipping prices down.
- Should the buyer need any more advice on searches, they should make sure to consult eBay’s Search Tips page for more guidance on how to get the perfect search result. If they have any questions about any of the items listed, they should also not hesitate to ask the seller.
For many people whiskey is not only a way to relax it is also a way of life, with buyers building up extensive collections of many rare and unusual whiskeys. With this guide, buyers will not only be able to start their own collection of whiskey bottles, they will be able to start to identify the date of bottles as well as purchase according to age, distillery and edition.
When searching for collectable whiskey bottles on eBay, buyers should bear in mind the benefits of using PayPal, eBay’s recommended way to purchase with additional eBay Buyer Protection.