Whiskey flasks are very collectable and eBay is a great place to buy them.
A flask can be any small container that has a narrow neck and usually contains a cap. Whiskey flasks are used to carry whiskey or other alcoholic beverages. They have been produced for hundreds of years with earliest examples dating back to medieval times. This guide aims to explain the differences between flasks, and what to look out for when making a purchase.
Types of Whiskey Flask
Whiskey flasks can be divided into two groups. Glass flasks that are filled by a drinks manufacturer and can subsequently become collectable items, and hip flasks designed to be filled by the owner and used to take alcoholic drink to be discretely enjoyed at your convenience.
When the term "flask" is applied to prefilled products manufactured by whiskey companies it is usually referring to the smallest bottle sizes of alcohol in commercial markets designed, as with hip flasks, to be carried in a pocket or bag.
Glass flasks or bottles and hip flasks are very popular collectors items. This is partly because these items appeal to the vintage or antique collector and also because modern examples are widely produced with different designs, decorations and commemorative images and logos.
Hip flasks and are often made of pewter, silver or glass. They are also sometimes made of a combination of materials, for instance a combination of glass and silver. These days however, modern flasks are most often made from stainless steel or even plastic. All these materials are safe for holding fluids for human consumption.
Hip flasks can be purchased in a range of sizes. Typically they hold seven to eight fluid ounces, but very small flasks holding only two ounces and extra large flasks holding up to three pints can be found on eBay.
These flasks are normally purchased, and then filled by the owner. Some flasks come with small cups to make sharing easier, although generally liquid is drunk directly from the flask.
Hip flasks can be found with many different designs. What they tend to have in common is that they are made to allow them to fit conveniently and discreetly in a pocket. The flasks themselves vary in shape. As the name suggests they are often contoured to fit the curve of the wearer's hip or thigh, though they can also be found in elliptical or ovate shapes with flat or convex sides. Early flasks designed in the 1800’s were the first to be made in this way, and mass-produced, to allow the owner to carry alcoholic beverages on long journeys or to social events and functions. Flask design can include features such as "captive tops", where the top is attached to the flask to stop it from getting lost.
Hip Flask Accessories
A range of accessories for flasks can be purchased.
Funnels make filling hip flasks easy, and helps prevent spillages
Little cups are usually stackable, or collapsible and are designed to share the hip flask contents
Cases and Holders
Buying a Silver Whiskey Flask
A silver flask produced in the UK or Ireland should carry a hall-mark to show that it is genuine sterling silver. With the help of the hallmarks it is normally fairly straightforward to identify where and when a British or Irish silver flask was made. It can also be possible to find a silversmiths mark, though this may not always be the case. There are many books and tables of town marks and date letters to help the collector. Advice on interpreting hallmarks can easily be found on the internet, though you should note that this type of mark is specific to the country of origin and some countries do not have this system at all
Engraved Hip Flasks
More modern hip flasks are purchased as a commemorative item, often being engraved to commemorate a particular event or personalised with your own name or the name of a club or organisation. An engraved flask makes a great present. The engravings may be a short quote, the recipient's initials, toasts, dates of memorable occasions, or signs of friendship. Many eBay sellers offer an engraving service, you simply send the seller a message setting out the details of your desired engraving, you can usually specify the font type and size, and the flask is sent to you with the engraving.
Commemorative flasks become very collectable and some flasks have images depicting events or simply to add to the appeal as a decorative item.
Modern Hip Flasks
Modern flasks can be purchased from a broad range of different grades in relation to quality. Basic items made of stainless steel can look great, will carry alcoholic or soft drinks and are a stylish talking point. This type of flask can be purchased for a very reasonable price. Slightly more expensive are modern flasks decorated with images or engraved to order, these could cost slightly more than the undecorated flasks, however they are still a great affordable gift. It you are looking to create more of an impression then very high-end luxury items are also available. Made from expensive materials such as silver, sharks skin and cut glass; these items are considered luxury goods or high fashion items.
Antique Hip Flasks
Amongst many collectors, an item would be considered antique if it were over 100 yrs old and vintage if it were over 40 yrs old. However there is no clear definition of these terms and sellers use them very loosely. The seller should indicate the precise age of the item if possible and provide evidence, such as hallmark details, to back up the stated age of the item.
It is the seller’s responsibility to give a clear description of the items age and rarity but a little research carried out by potential buyers can often help to verify claims made by sellers as there are many helpful websites for collectors of small silver items and glass bottles; and hip flask will often be covered by these. With vintage flasks these can vary in price dependant on age and rarity. This is also true of antique flasks. Here the sky really is the limit with rare or very high quality items costing up to several thousands of pounds for the finest examples.
These are mostly collected by those interested in bottle collecting, the history of whiskey production, or in collecting rare or unusual items which may not be of great age, but may be rare or unusual because of limited production runs, or because they were produced for a specific event or as part of a particular promotion of a product. They include:
- Rare early examples that date from the earliest days of glass production and bear the logos of the first large whiskey distilleries, some of which remain in production to this day. These flasks were often hand blown by craftsmen and are very sought after by collectors.
- Flask’s made with moldings in the glass itself showing the makers name and decorative designs, these add value to the item particularly if they are rare
- Flasks with paper labels still intact, this adds rarity to the item especially if it is a vintage or antique flask
- Paper labels and moldings can also be used to represent particular dates, festivals or occasions such as Christmas or Armistice Day at the end of the First World War. Vintage and antique flasks are of greater value when they have connections to dates and events like these.
The following is a guide on how to buy of the eBay platform:
- Always check with the seller that the item is suitable to hold fluids for human consumption before the item is purchased.
- If an item is described as antique or vintage, make sure it is clear exactly how old the item is, if not made clear ask the seller for more information.
As with all used items, condition is everything and the seller should describe any defects or damage that may detract from the item. You should be fairly broad in your approach to searching as glass bottle collectors and collectors of small silver items are all interested in whisky flasks as are collectors of all the following Collectables :
When you know your preference, then using eBay is a smart way of finding the best range of items for the best prices online. You can also check other websites for in depth information on items for sale that have appeared on your eBay search. Collector’s sites can be great for researching an item and this is all part of the fun of collecting.
Because whiskey flasks are fairly small, and have been produced in large numbers for many years, they are popular and readily accessible collectables. They also reflect great events and periods in history, such as prohibition in America and sporting events such as the World Cup. All of these features make them great fun to own and collect, whether you want to spend a few pounds on interesting decorative items or become a serious collector of luxury craftsman made items or rare antiques there is a wide range of flasks for you to purchase on eBay.