Collectors and folks from all over the country will be in town this Saturday, May 14th, at the Gardendale Civic Center for the 2nd Annual Alabama Bottle & Antique Show. To show the growing importance of this show to those with an interest in collecting bottles and other collectibles, the exhibit space was sold out at 75 exhibitors from 7 states and as far away as New York.
We spent some time with 20-year collector and show Founder, Keith Quinn, to learn about the show and about the local history in bottling that makes North Jefferson a great area for the hobby.
Treye Hanner: Is this an annual show? When did it begin?
Keith Quinn: This is the 2nd annual show, and we plan to continue every April or May moving forward. The Alabama Bottle & Antique Show is presented by “The Alabama Bottle Collectors’ Society,” A good friend and fellow collector Steve Holland helped with getting that group organized again on Facebook and then we decided to have the show. Gardendale and North Jefferson County, in general, is a great area and the civic center here [Gardendale] is a really nice venue. I could see our show being here for a long time. The people here are extremely easy to work with.
Treye Hanner: Tell us a little about you and how you started collecting?
Keith Quinn: I have always loved history and especially local history. I am a 6th generation from Bagley, Alabama and graduated from Corner High School. I went into an antique store in Loudon, Tennessee over 20 years ago and that’s where my love of history and the old things I saw in that old building merged together. I explain it to folks like “the clouds parted and the angels started singing.” I knew right there this was my thing, not to mention my wife is a good sport and puts up with me (and all the old stuff).
Treye Hanner: When did you get the idea to start a show for bottling and antiques?
Keith Quinn: I’ve thought about it for several years and last year decided to make it happen. I have been been in sales ever since UAB graduation and knew a lot of quality collectors in Alabama and beyond. Many are really good friends. We had 60 tables at the first show. This year we have 75 and could have sold more. It was really just a natural progression. There had been a quality show in the Birmingham area for many years, but the chairman moved away. Since then there has been a void that we have been able to fill.
Treye Hanner: Where do your exhibitors come from? Are they all local?
Keith Quinn: 75 tables have been sold to dealers from 7 states. They come from all over Alabama, plus Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Texas, and New York. Both years have been sold-out events.
Treye Hanner: How popular is collecting bottles and other collectibles like signage? What kinds of bottles are most popular with collectors and what kinds of prices do they sell for?
Keith Quinn: Bottle collecting is much bigger than most people think, and most sought after are 100 years old embossed bottles and older. The hobby has a national magazine, and I took out a full-page ad promoting our Gardendale show and I expect another strong crowd. Our show will have lots of antique bottles but also much more, like antique advertising signs such as cola signs, gas and oil signs etc. Also, antique pottery, old cast iron pieces, old documents, Native American artifacts, tokens, and other tabletop antiques. Pretty much anything old (with zero reproductions).
Many people don’t realize how big bottling was in our area around the turn of the century (1900’s). Soda and milk bottles will be at the show from local small towns like Gardendale, Morris, Warrior, Blount Springs, Brookside, Dora, Cullman, and also from all over our state and surrounding states.
Coca-Cola hutch bottles (late 1800’s to early 1900’s) can sell for thousands of dollars each. Jasper, Birmingham and Bessemer all had script Coca-Cola bottles that can and have brought over $10,000 each. I know a collector who was offered over $15,000 for one of his examples.
Many collectors can find antique bottles from all over Alabama, though, for $10-$20.
Many find bottles in old dumps etc., even digging where old outhouses once stood. 100+ years ago there was no garbage pick-up service, and we were an agricultural based society. Each family had a “dump” on their property which collectors and diggers still locate today. The part of the land that “dropped off” and couldn’t be farmed or have cattle on it was usually chosen for the dump site. The outhouse was another place where garbage and old bottles were thrown away. It’s really amazing how many bottles have survived throughout the decades.
You can check out the show May 14th from 9am to 3pm at the Gardendale Civic Center. Admission is free.