10 Most Valuable Antique Medicine Bottles

Many centuries ago, people with ailments would go to trusted physicians when they were sick or poisoned and receive antidotes to their ailments in prescription bottles.

Even though most ancient drugs have been replaced today, many antique bottles are worth some good money.

If you have any of these bottles in your house, now might be a good time to consider selling them. This guide will arm you with the understanding of the value of old medicine bottles worth money so that you can get the best deal for yourself if you decide to sell them.  

Let’s dive in.

Brief History of Antique Medicine Bottles

Medicine bottles have existed for hundreds of years, as far back as the Roman empire. These bottles were called apothecary glass and were used to store and transport medicine, perfume oils, and ingredients for making medicine.     

Medicinal glass containers evolved and changed over the years, from the middle ages to the 18th and 19th centuries, when medicine bottles started embossing on the side. Most of the antique bottles made during this period were made for medicinal purposes.

These medicine bottles were largely responsible for the growth of the glass field.

Many bottle manufacturers struggled to make transparent glass medicine bottles that could show the bottle’s contents. That competition to create the best medicine bottle led to the creation of a collection of bottles that are now rare collectibles all over the world.

Antique Medicine Bottles Identification

If you are not experienced in studying valuable antique materials, you might not be able to value an antique medicine bottle accurately. It often takes someone with experience to know the different types of antique medicine bottles and how much they are worth.

However, even with someone with no experience, there are rough guides you can follow to identify and adequately value an antique bottle. One of the first steps is knowing the different types of antique medicine bottles available.

Types of Antique Medicine Bottle Content

You can classify antique bottle types according to their shapes, sizes, or content. Different shapes and sizes of medicine bottles have existed over the years. In this section, we will be grouping antique medicine bottles mainly by their content.

By this classification, there are four significant types of antique medicine bottles:

Prescription Medicine Bottles

ANTIQUE LOT OF THREE EMBOSSED MEDICINE REMEDY BOTTLES
ANTIQUE LOT OF THREE EMBOSSED MEDICINE REMEDY BOTTLES (Sold: $3.99)

Prescription medicine bottles became popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. They were manufactured by medicine companies for local pharmacists so that these pharmacists could better market the product to their communities.

All prescription bottles have their company label written boldly on them, with the name and address of the company. Unfortunately, some of them might have lost their labels because of time passed.

Cures and Remedy Bottles

Antique Warner’s Safe Cure Bottle Pressburg, Amber, c.1890 rare bottle
Antique Warner’s Safe Cure Bottle Pressburg, Amber, c.1890 rare bottle (Sold $228.50)

Back then, some medicine bottles branded themselves as “cure and remedy” medicine, claiming to cure many sicknesses. But, then, many quacks jumped on the bandwagon and used this trend to sell their snake oil products.

Thanks to the Sherley Amendment of 1912, using the word “cure” was prohibited in ancient medicine bottles. However, most of those bottles still exist today as antiques.

Bitters

Pontil Bitters Barrell Bottle THATS THE STUFF 1860s Coffee Amber Crude PRISTINE
Pontil Bitters Barrell Bottle THATS THE STUFF 1860s Coffee Amber Crude PRISTINE (Sold: $2,247.88)

Bitters were popular in the 19th century. They were a mixture of high percentages of alcohol and natural herbs. This mixture made the fluid bitter, earning it the name “bitters.” Physicians used them for various solutions to issues like digestive problems.

The high volume of alcohol was often diluted with an equally high volume of herbs, so alcohol consumption using this method was legal. The antique bottles of bitters today have become rare collectible items for people interested in antiques.

Sarsaparillas

Pontil Bitters Bottle 1840's Townsend Sarsaparilla Type Utility RARE SMALL SIZE
Pontil Bitters Bottle 1840’s Townsend Sarsaparilla Type Utility RARE SMALL SIZE (Sold: $283.00)

Sarsaparillas was a medical concoction famous in the 18th and 19th centuries. It was made out of sarsaparilla roots and mixed with other herbs. Sarsaparilla bottles are more scarce and valuable today than they were back in the day.

Different Antique Bottle Shapes

As mentioned above, antique bottles can also be classified based on their shape. Glass makers often blew antique bottles into different shapes with distinctive characteristics. Generally, antique bottles were rectangular, oval, square, or round.

Some antique bottles also had pontil scars, which were marks or roughages left at the bottle’s bottom by pontil rods. The job of the pontil rod was to hold the bottle during the bottle-making process. By doing this, the pontil rod left a distinguishable mark on the bottle.

Apart from the different antique bottle shapes, there are other characteristics that make different antique bottles unique. For example, an early bottle from a medicine brand still existing today indicates that the bottle is unique and worth some money.

Also, the type of material used to make the antique bottle can make it unique. For example, a plastic bottle could indicate a level of value since there are not many antique plastic medicine bottles.

Finally, a clear label on the side of the bottle could indicate the kind of bottle you are collecting. You can easily research some of these clear labels and check the bottles’ value.

How to Know Your Antique Medicine Bottles Value

Now that we have understood the history and different kinds of antique medicine bottles that people used in those days let us study how all these characteristics come together to make an antique bottle valuable.

After reading this section, you will understand what drives the value of an antique medicine bottle and how you can command extra money for your vintage medicine bottle.

Most of these vintage medicine bottles aren’t usually worth as much as we would want. The majority of them are valued at around $15 to $50. Some others are worth hundreds of dollars, and occasionally, you will find some bottles worth a thousand dollars or more.

What causes this difference between one antique medicine bottle and another? Here are some of the factors:

Manufacturer’s Name

Like any other valuable material available today, the brand name on the medicine bottle increases the importance of that bottle. For example, manufacturers like Chamberlain Medicine Co. and Bayer Co are often valued more than many others.

Also, brands that make bitters are often valued more than other brands.

Condition of the Bottle

Many believe that all antique bottles have to be old and look terrible for people to value them more, but that’s not the case. Instead, people want their antique bottles to last as long as possible so that they will choose one in good condition.

If your bottle is filled with cracks, scratches, and broken parts, it won’t be as desirable as one in good mint condition. But, on the other hand, if you have one in good condition, you can command the best prices for it.

Rarity

Like other antique items, medicine bottles that are rarer than others often have more value than others. Some bottles were discontinued over a hundred years ago, so they are scarcer and therefore more valuable than others that lasted longer.

For example, cure and remedy bottles were discontinued in the early 1900s, so they are often rarer than other bottles.

Also, bottles with unique shapes are often rarer than regular bottles. An excellent example is the National Bitters bottle which resembles the shape of corn, or the George Washington bottle used to store bitters in the late 19th century.

Antique National Bitters bottle
Antique National Bitters bottle.                       Image Credits: Prices 4 Antiques

Label and Embossment   

Most antique medicine bottles have lasted for many years. For this reason, they have lost the essential labels on the side of the bottle. These labels usually have information about the company, the year of manufacture, and instructions for use.

If you find a bottle with its label still intact, you have most likely found a rare bottle, and collectors will pay you more for it.

The embossment on the bottle is another critical factor. Some bottles have embossments on their side that show the company’s name and other important seals. A bottle with an embossment is usually worth more than one without.

Color of the Bottle

Sometimes, the color of the bottle can influence the price of that bottle. For example, clear glass bottles are more common than colored bottles, so a colored bottle will often cost more.

Also, unique colors like pink or purple are more scarce than general colors like green, so that they will cost more.

The Most Valuable Antique Medicine Bottles You Can Buy Today

No.
Name
Value
10
Antique Colic Cholera Patent Quack Medicine Embossed Bottle
$150 or more
9
Antique Bayer Heroin Tablets Bottle
$200 or more
8
Antique Bateman Drops With Opium Bottle
$125 or more
7
Antique Codeia Bell Opium Tablet Bottle
$200 or more
6
Antique Bon-Opto Eye Remedy Bottle
$200
5
Antique Meyer’s Brothers Opium Bottle
$150 or more
4
Rare Variant Dr. Townsend’s Sarsaparilla Bottle
$700
3
Antique Dr. Jayne’s Alterative Medicine Bottle
$375 or more
2
Antique Anesthesia Glass Drip Drop Bottle
$200 or more
1
Giant Old Owl Drug Bottle With Grandpappy Owl
$5000

Now, let us look at some of the most valuable antique medicine bottles you should look out for today.

10. Antique Colic Cholera Patent Quack Medicine Embossed Bottle

Remember those cures and remedy bottles we talked about earlier on? This antique colic cholera medicine bottle is one of them. It was created by Chamberlain Medicine Company in Des Moines, Iowa, in the early 20th century (most labels say around 1906 -1907).

Physicians used the content of this bottle to cure diarrhea and acute indigestion in those days, as well as colic and intestinal cramp. The bottle itself is rectangular with a light turquoise aquamarine color.

This bottle is embossed with the “Chamberlain” sign written across the side in the true Chamberlain style. In addition, some versions of this bottle have a label on the side of the bottle, with an instruction manual that comes with the carton. You can sell the bottle for much more if you have all these details.

You can sell your bottle for $150 or more on eBay if you have all the essential details.

Antique Colic Cholera Patent Quack Medicine Embossed Bottle
Image Credits: eBay

9. Antique Bayer Heroin Tablets Bottle

If you are wondering if you read the bottle’s name correctly, the answer is yes. This is because there used to be medicine bottles in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that contained heroin tablets.

Physicians used heroin in those days to treat cough, tuberculosis, and pneumonia, and the Bayer medicine company was at the center of it. Heroin use was effective then, but physicians started noticing the terrible side effects.

Today, years after the use of heroin for medicinal purposes has been stopped, the famous Bayer heroin tablets bottle has become a rare collectible item.

The bottle usually has a label on one side with the company’s information and information on how to administer the drug. On the other side, there is a minor substance control label embossed.

If you have an antique Bayer Heroin bottle in excellent condition, you can sell it on eBay for $200 or more. 

Antique Bayer Heroin Tablets Bottle
Image Credits: Stringfixer

8. Antique Bateman Drops With Opium Bottle

Bateman drops (or Br Bateman drops) was a popular proprietary medicine in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. These drops were famous for dealing with chest and lung disorders in Britain and the United States of America.

It often contained alcohol and opium and was also suitable for pain-killing.  

The bottles used to store this content were often thin, tall (about 5.25 inches), and cylindrical. There is an embossment (Bateman drops) on one side of the bottle, and on the other, there is a label that shows the company name and directions for use.

A rubber or wooden stopper at the top of the bottle also prevents its contents from spilling. The glass is often clear (i.e., transparent), although sometimes it may have a little tint. Like many other glasses made during this time, the bottle is Blown Into Mold (BIM).

If you have the original BIM bottle in good condition, you can sell it on eBay for $125 or more.

Antique Bateman Drops With Opium Bottle
Image Credits: eBay

7. Antique Codeia Bell Opium Tablet Bottle

Just like Heroin, opium was a critical medicine sold as a proprietary drug for dealing with pain. Opium is derived from the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) seed pod, while heroin is gotten from the morphine alkaloid.

The Codeia Bell opium tablet bottle was used to hold tablets of opium in those days before the use of the substance as a proprietary drug was stopped. Today, this bottle is an essential antique item to many collectors.

The bottle is Blown Into Mold (BIM) glass with a rectangular shape. One side of the bottle has an embossment that says “SAL-CODIA-BELL – Hollings Smith Co. / M’F’G CHEMISTS / ORANGEBURG, N.Y.”

On the other side, there is a clear label with information about the medicine, the manufacturers, and the direction for use. The color of the bottle is often emerald green, and you might find one with a wooden stopper on top.

If you have an antique Codeia bell opium tablet embossed bottle in good condition, you can sell it for $200 or more on eBay.

Antique Codeia Bell Opium Tablet Bottle
Image Credits: eBay   

6. Antique Bon-Opto Eye Remedy Bottle

The Bon-Opto eye remedy bottle is a kind of cure and remedy bottle that was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As the name implies, Physicians used it to treat eye-related issues. It was also called “Bon-Opto for the eyes” by many product users.

According to the label on most Bon-Opto bottles, it helped with the eyes’ cleansing, cooling, and healing.  

Like many other cure and remedy drugs, it was discontinued in the early 20th century. Still, it had already etched its place in the mind of many, and the bottle became one of the most sought-after collectible medicine bottles.

The original bottle comes in a carton and has a leaflet with instructions for use. You will find information about the company and directions for use on the carton.

Like many other antique bottles, the bottle is Blown Into Mold (BIM) glass with a stopper. Some Bon-Opto bottles also have an eye cup at the top for measurement.

If you have a Bon-Opto eye remedy bottle in good condition, you can sell it for up to $200

Antique Bon-Opto Eye Remedy Bottle
Image Credits: Smithsonian

5. Antique Meyer’s Brothers Opium Bottle

This bottle contained opium tablets used to treat diarrhea many years ago. The bottle would be filled with a doctor’s prescription, and it often had a label on the side with directions for use for the patient.

Like the other opium and heroin drugs in its time, this drug has been discontinued, and there is little information about it anywhere. However, the bottle remains an essential collectible item for which people pay some good money.

The bottle is as old as the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is made of Blown Into Mold (BIM) glass and is often around 4.5 inches tall. It also has a stopper made of rubber or wood at the top to prevent the content from spilling out of the bottle.

The bottle’s price range may vary depending on your type and the bottle’s condition, but generally, you can sell this bottle for $150 or more on eBay.

Antique Meyer’s Brothers Opium Bottle
Image Credits: eBay  

4. Rare Variant Dr. Townsend’s Sarsaparilla Bottle

This bottle is used to contain medicines for a wide range of diseases. It has been discontinued since the early 20th century, but its bottle is still as valuable as it used to be.  

If you have one in excellent condition, you can sell it on eBay for up to $700.

Rare Variant Dr. Townsend’s Sarsaparilla Bottle
Image Credits: FOHBC Museum

3. Antique Dr. Jayne’s Alterative Medicine Bottle

Dr. David Jayne and his sons Eben and David formed the David Jayne & Sons medicine company in 1846. One of the essential medicines created by this company was the Alterative medicine which helped with a wide range of diseases, like goiter, bone pain, and skin diseases.

Although this medicine was discontinued in the 20th century, it still holds solid value. If you have one with the leaflet and original newspaper covering, you can sell it for $375 or more on eBay.

Antique Dr. Jayne’s Alterative Medicine Bottle
Image Credits: eBay

2. Antique Anesthesia Glass Drip Drop Bottle

During the civil war, medics used to store anesthesia in glass bottles and take them to the battlefield. Then, when a soldier got injured, they would pour the anesthesia from the bottle and use it to perform quick surgeries on the soldier.

Today, it is one of the most sought-after vintage medicine bottles. If you have one in good condition, you can sell it for $200 or more on eBay.

Antique Civil War Medical Surgical Chloroform Anaesthesia Glass Drip Drop Bottle
Antique Civil War Medical Surgical Chloroform Anaesthesia Glass Drip Drop Bottle

1.Giant Old Owl Drug Bottle With Grandpappy Owl

The giant old owl drug bottle is one of the most expensive antique medicine bottles ever. An essential feature of the bottle is the owl embossed on the side of the bottle. It was used to store medicine to help with various kinds of poison.

Recently, someone sold the cobalt blue version of this bottle on eBay for a whopping $5000.

GIANT old OWL DRUG bottle w GRANDPAPPY Owl deep COBALT BLUE bottle #1 OWL bottl
GIANT old OWL DRUG bottle w GRANDPAPPY Owl deep COBALT BLUE bottle #1 OWL bottl

Other Ways to Know the Value of Your Antique Medicine Bottle

If you have read this guide, you have a good idea of the value of your antique medicine bottle. However, if you are still a bit confused, then you can do some further research to get more information about your bottle and the price ranges that make sense for your bottle.

You can carry out this research by consulting an antique glass specialist. Antique glass specialists know a lot about antique medicine bottles because they have spent years researching, buying, and selling them.  

An antique glass specialist will help you look at the bottle you have and give you an estimate of what your bottle might be worth. Then, with the understanding you have acquired from this guide, you can have an educated discussion with the specialist and know if they are pointing you in the right direction.

You can also read books about vintage medicine bottles to learn about rare markings and designs. This way, you can tell if your bottle is worth more because of its labels or embossments.

There are online forums that can help with this. You can take photos of your bottle and post them on the forum, and people will help you estimate what it might be worth. Sites like Antique Bottles can help with this kind of information.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this article has given you a guide to help you understand how to value your antique medicine bottles and shown you some of the most valuable ones that exist today.

There is no hard and fast rule or one-size-fits-all method to determining the value of your antique medicine bottle, but with a good understanding of the guidelines in this article, you should be able to get the best value for your rare item.

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