This page contains and defines most of the
terminology I use to describe the attributes and condition of the bottles
offered on my "for sale" pages and is somewhat limited in scope for that reason. For a much more comprehensive
glossary of bottle related terminology, please view the "Glossary" page on my
other much larger website which I prepared for the Bureau of Land Management
and resides on the Society for Historical Archaeology servers. It
is available at the following link:
Historic Bottle Website Bottle Glossary Page
|LINKS TO MY PAGES|
Applied Lip or Finish: The term applied lip (i.e. a true applied lip) refers to a lip or "finish" for which the forming glass was discretely applied after the body and neck of the bottle was blown. (Most of the bottle's body and neck were typically formed in a mold, though bottles from the before the middle of 19th century could be also be free-blown without the aid of a mold). A lip forming or manipulating tool was used to shape the glass applied to the end of the neck into a lip with the desired conformation. The forming of the lip did little or nothing to the upper portion of the neck. The diagnostic characteristics include the mold seam running out immediately below the lower edge of the lip; glass which will often slop over below the lip onto the neck; if noticeable, the concentric rings made by the lip forming are all on the lip, not on the neck; and there is often a distinct ridge inside the neck near the juncture of the neck and lip, that is visible or even can be felt with your little finger if you can get it into the neck. For more information on the subject go to this link: http://bottleinfo.historicbottles.com/finishes.htm#Applied%20&%20Tooled%20finish
Applied lip bottles are generally older than tooled lip bottles, but many exceptions occur (e.g. the "sheared" and tooled lips described later). Applied lips on American made bottles generally date before 1885 and by 1890 molded and tooled finishes dominated. (Note: Many foreign bottles had true applied lips until the second decade of the 20th century). A glob top or globby top is a western American reference to a true applied lip and is referring to the excess glass run-over below the lip. It is most often used in reference to the older Western whiskey bottles. Click on thumbnail to the right for a larger picture of an applied lip on a Western whiskey bottle. With many bottles that chronologically overlap the two application methods - applied lip & tooled lip - the true applied lip bottle is almost always more desirable than the tooled lip version - Western whiskeys being a prime example. Be aware that the term "applied lip" is often also used by many collectors as a generic term for a non-machine made bottle (i.e. non-ABM), embracing both true applied lips and molded & tooled lip.
Note: The term finish is more accurate than lip as it was the term used by glassmakers themselves because the creation of the lip was the finishing step in manufacturing a bottle during the mouth-blown or hand-made bottle making era (generally pre-World War 1). The terms lip and finish are used interchangeably here however.
Tooled Lip or Finish: Generally just known as a tooled lip. With this style of lip finish, the glass for the finish/lip was blown in the mold along with the rest of the body/neck of the bottle. A "lipping" tool was used to manipulate and form ("tool") the finish/lip while the glass was still hot. This tooling typically causes the side mold seam to "fade out" on the neck (sometimes in the lip) and leaves behind faint, but usually noticeable, concentric rings on both the lip and the upper portion of the neck. Click on the thumbnail picture to the right to see a close-up picture of a tooled top bottle showing the rings on the lip and upper neck and the fading mold seam. Molded & tooled finished bottles typically lack the other characteristics noted for the true applied lip described above, i.e. no inside ridge at juncture of lip and neck, no glass spill-over below the finish, and the neck seam does not end abruptly at the base of lip. This style of lip finish dates generally after the mid-1880's, though there are many exceptions like as noted in sheared lip description below. For more information on tooled finishes, click on the following link: http://bottleinfo.historicbottles.com/finishes.htm#Molded%20&%20Tooled%20finish
NOTE: A summary of the mouth-blown bottle finishing methods is available as a downloadable and printable (pdf) article entitled: "The Finishing Touch: A Primer on Mouth-blown Bottle Finishing Methods with an Emphasis on "Applied" vs. "Tooled" Finish Manufacturing."
ABM - Automatic Bottle Machine: In 1903 the first fully automated bottle machine was patented - the Owens Automatic Bottle Machine - though there were also other semi-automatic machines that made similar looking bottles. The "ABM" bottles produced have a mold seam that goes up to and usually over the top of the lip. ABM bottles also have a mold seam just below the lip and around the neck and another right on the top of the lip. The lip or finish was the first part of the bottle produced by the machine. Owens Automatic Bottle Machine bottles also have a faint, shallowly indented, wavy line or scar on the base which is the mark made by the machine when the glass is cut off from the molten glass flow from below. This is known as the Owens scar or a suction scar. Later automatic machines as well as semi-automatic machines are believed to not have this mark, making it distinct to the Owens machine. ABM bottles are generally much less collectible than tooled and applied lip bottles, in part because they aren't as old and because they are usually lacking the crudity and personality of older handmade (or "mouth blown") glass containers. But as always, exceptions occur. As a general statement, the narrower the neck style of a bottle type, the later that style was automated to full machine production (i.e. wide mouth bottles were automated the earliest with narrow neck bottles - like medicines and prescription bottles - not fully automated until World War I and after.) For more information on the subject, click on the following link: http://bottleinfo.historicbottles.com/machinemadedating.htm
Sheared Lip or Finish: A "sheared lip" is pretty much as the term implies - a lip or finish that was cut off from the blowpipe leaving the upper end of the neck (opening) with an relatively abrupt end. The bottle opening was usually re-fired, tooled and/or formed into something corkable with various types of glassmaker tools. Sometimes the sheared lip will be flared out some. Many 1815-1860 era historical/pictorial flasks have "sheared" and tooled lips and the side mold seam will also often disappear somewhere below the top because of the smoothing effects of the lipping tools. The picture to the left shows a sheared lip on an early Pittsburgh, PA. flask.
Many so-called "sheared lip" bottles were actually broken off (i.e. "cracked-off") from the blowpipe. If not re-fired and smoothed after the blow-pipe removal, the lip can have the appearance of chipping that is entirely in making. The left and middle scroll flasks at the top of the page have cracked-off finishes or lips. Unless significant chipping has occurred the value of a bottle with a cracked-off finish is not affected.
Also, some later bottles will have lips that appear to be sheared - most notably the Radam's Microbe Killer bottles - but in reality these are just straight tooled lips and can be hard for the uninitiated to differentiate. For more information on the subject, click on the following link: http://bottleinfo.historicbottles.com/finishes.htm#Cracking%20off%20&%20Shearing
Pontil Mark or Scars: Pontil scars can be broken down into numerous sub-types, but there is only a few major variations on the pontil theme. All styles date an American bottle from the American Civil War or before, though there are exceptions, but not many.
An open pontil (aka glass tipped pontil) is a sharp, often concentric, glass mark on the base of a bottle where a rod was attached that allowed the bottle to be held from the bottom, while the lip was applied and tooled. A very desirable attribute all things considered, e.g. a colored umbrella ink with a pontil is usually worth 2-3 times more than a smooth base version. Open pontils come in two variations - an "iron bar" pontil, which is a generally round though diffuse, and a "blowpipe" pontil, which is distinctly round and sharp. Click on thumbnail picture to the right to see a larger picture of an open pontil.
An iron pontil (also called an improved pontil or inaccurately a graphite pontil, though there is no actual graphite associated with an iron pontil) is a variation on the pontil theme and appears like a "smear" of gray or reddish deposit on the base. Sometimes the mark is faint and much or all of the iron is gone - especially if the bottle was "professionally cleaned" (described later). Common on soda & mineral water bottles, some flasks, and occasional medicinals from before the Civil War. Click on thumbnail picture to the left to see a larger picture of an improved pontil.
Another pontil variation is the sand pontil which is a diffuse and sparse scattering of sand grain sized glass particles on the base - often found on bottles like Dr. Townsend's Sarsaparilla's, rectangular snuff bottles, and others. This was cased by dipping the hot glass tipped pontil rod into sand to keep the pontil rod from adhering too much to the bottle base.
As a general rule all type pontils are a most desirable feature to have on the base of a bottle and almost always increases the value over a non-pontiled version. For much more information on pontil scars click on the following link: http://bottleinfo.historicbottles.com/pontil_scars.htm
Mint: A truly "mint" bottle has no chips, cracks, scratches, or dings, and is also free of easily visible stain and case wear. Light content residue (unless distracting) or base wear is not considered damaging in any way and bottles with these conditions may be described as "mint".
About Mint: This starts to edge in to the murky world of bottle condition descriptions. The term "about mint" refers to any bottle with minor defects that do not significantly affect value. These defects may include (but are not restricted to) the following conditions: smaller pinhead (fleabite) flakes, small pontil chips, onion-skin open bubbles, minor neck crazing, minor scratching, spotty and/or faint haze (of the virtually un-noticeable variety), minor wear or scuffing and potstone radiations less than 1/16" in length. I will ALWAYS describe any potstone with ANY radiation, however. Every attempt will be made to clarify the reasoning behind describing an item as "about mint" and an exact explanation of ANY thing that keeps the bottle out of the pure mint category will be included in the description. Send me an email if any questions about any condition explanations I use in my bottle descriptions.
Whittled: A bottle is referred to as "whittled" if the surface texture of the glass has a hammered or dimpled appearance. This was caused by the reaction of the very hot glass hitting a colder mold surface - like "bottle goose bumps." It is probably a myth, but early bottle collectors believed that "whittled" bottles came from a wooden mold where the mold makers "whittle" marks were apparent. Thought this can not be totally discounted, the vast majority of American bottles were blown in iron, brass, or bronze molds as wooden molds had a far shorter lifespan than any of these other materials given that hot glass was 2000 degrees or more. In any event, the effect is very desirable because it enhances the eye appeal of a given bottle over its non-whittled counterpart. Click on the thumbnail picture to the right to view a larger picture of a highly whittled Townsend's Sarsaparilla bottle. For more information on whittle marks click on the following link: http://bottleinfo.historicbottles.com/body.htm#Whittle%20Marks
Pontil Chip or Flake: This term refers to a flake or chip immediately adjacent to an open or glass-tipped pontil mark that occurred during manufacture, when the glassblower removed the pontil rod from the base of the bottle. I consider this defect to detract from value only when the flake is obtrusive and/or extends to the edge of the base and thus effects the visual appeal of the bottle.
Crazing Lines: The lip finishing process often results in a small series of stress marks or "checks" in the upper neck that are referred to as "crazing lines." This in-manufacture condition is quite prevalent in aqua pontil medicines and early sodas. Crazing lines only significant detract from value of a bottle when they affect the visual esthetics of a bottle on display. As always, these will be described as well as I can.
Annealing Check: I utilize this terminology to describe any in-manufacture stress mark in the body of a bottle or flask. These small, straight "annealing checks" occurred during the cooling of the glass, have no appreciable depth, and are not found with an associated "bruise". Most short (<1/4") body checks have small effect on value if singular and unobtrusive. Anything more than that would be called a "crack" which is self-explanatory. A crack can dramatically affect value and would, of course, be fully described
Bruise: The term "bruise" refers to a rainbow-like area of damage that generally results from contact with another object. I will use this language only to describe post-manufacture damage and the size and location of the bruise will always be included in the description.
Pinhead Flake & "Fleabite": I will utilize the term "pinhead" in a literal fashion - any flake the same size or smaller than a pinhead (less than 1/16") will be called a pinhead nick with the location noted. A "fleabite" and "pin prick" are even smaller - just tiny nicks that would be less than 1/32". Anything larger...see next definition.
Chip and Flake: Though these terms are often used interchangeably, I will attempt qualify any area of damage greater than 3/8" as a "chip" and anything smaller and thinner - but larger than a pinhead - as a "flake". Again, both terms will be used in conjunction with an exact indication of the size and location of the damage. All this effort to differentiate terminology for the size and type of chips seems a little AR, but most collectors know that the difference in value can be dramatic, so I want to be as accurate in my descriptions as possible.
Burst Bubbles and Open Bubbles: Much of the attraction of early glass is attributable to air bubbles in the glass and as a result, I generally do not consider "open" or "burst" bubbles to be distracting if they are small, no greater than "onion-skin" in depth, or located on the interior of the bubble. More significant burst bubbles will be described with reference to the size, depth, and location. Some great bottles are so crude with hundreds or thousands of bubbles, that sheer probability dictates some will exist on the surface of the glass and adds to the bottles attractiveness.
Haze and Stain: Like the terms "chip" and "flake", the words "haze" and "stain" are often used interchangeably but I will generally use "haze" to describe minor interior or exterior cloudiness that can be seen only upon close inspection and "stain" to refer to more serious discoloration. Most "haze" can be remedied by a professional tumble - "stain" will sometimes respond to cleaning though may leave behind some etching on the glass surface. "Water stain" refers to the milky white cloudiness inside a bottle that was typically caused by ground water laying in all/portion of the bottle for many decades prior to being exhumed for modern collector enjoyment.
Scratching and Scuffing: I will speak of "scuffing" when describing light rub marks with little depth and minimal distraction, while "scratching" is generally more significant. Scratches will have discernable depth (i.e. can be felt when rubbing your fingernail over it), but both will be described using size and location.
Ground Wear: Many of today's dug and cleaned bottles have minor ground imperfections on the exterior surface that include scratching, deeper scuff marks, pinhead body nicks, and light etching. These conditions are generally grouped together under the general heading of "ground wear" and this term will further be clarified by describing the wear as light, moderate or heavy. Ground wear is particularly common on cleaned early soda and mineral water bottles that were used and reused many times (aka "case wear").
Etching: I will use this term to describe stain that is embedded with the glass that will not be affected by a professional tumble without dramatically over cleaning the bottle. At times, cleaned bottles will have patches of "etching" on the interior that no longer appear "stained" though they are apparent upon close inspection. The differences between etching, ground wear, and case wear are often indistinguishable and I would use more than just the words to explain the "problem" - if it is a problem.
Lightly Cleaned: With the advent of professional tumbling, many of the bottles on today's market have spent time in a cleaning machine. I will use the term "lightly cleaned" to describe a bottle that has been tumbled for a short time without softening the embossing or appreciably altering the glass texture. Bottles that have been more rigorously cleaned will be referred to as "moderately" or "heavily cleaned" (as the case may be) and can have the embossing damped and an obviously polished glass surface. In every case, I will do my best to indicate whether or not I believe a bottle has been "tumble" cleaned, though sometimes light cleaning is not possible to discern.
Un-melted grains of sand appear in glass as "potstones" and during the
annealing process (or at some point afterwards), the heating/cooling
differential between the grains and surrounding glass can cause small
fractures or iridescent halos to form from or around the grain. Any
potstone radiation will be described with a reference to the size and
location to the damage. Value is affected depending on the amount of
radiation, visual impact, and the probability of the radiation
expanding. For more information on the subject, click on
the following link:
For general questions about bottle manufacturing, age, type, and a wealth of other bottle related information consider visiting the...
This is a comprehensive - though still "draft" and incomplete - website devoted to the identification of American made bottles produced between 1800 and 1950. This new web based resource is being created by the author of this High Desert Antique Bottle & Medicinal Tonic Website for the Bureau of Land Management (my employer) and is intended to be a tool for bottle collectors, archaeologists, and the general public in identifying the type and approximate age of just about any bottle made in the U.S. or Canada during the period listed.
The link above takes a viewer to the currently available draft pages. Be aware that many of the links on the completed pages are not enabled as yet. Even in its incomplete form the site contains a wealth of information that can help answer many of the bottle questions a viewer of may have.
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Page Last Updated: 11/30/2023