The Miniature Bottle Collector

Monday, December 05, 2005

Tough Stuff

In the world of miniature beer bottle collecting, it isn’t hard to pick up a Blatz, Schlitz or Pabst Blue Ribbon for your collection. Just do a quick search on ebay and you’ll know what I’m talking about. After you have been collecting these things for a while, it is not too hard to create a rather nice collection consisting of some moderately hard to find bottles such as Crystal Rock, Red Ribbon, Tip Top, Fehr’s, Manhattan, and many others. Once you have these bottles you’ll probably find yourself lusting for more! At that point, prepare to break out your checkbook, as the next level of toughies will tax your bank account. That assumes you will even have the chance to purchase one of these rarities!

Enter the elusive Manru Lager. This beauty is super tough and some consider it the pinnacle of the hobby. It is known to exist in all three common sizes of 4 ¼”, 4”, and 3”. Here we have the 3” version, affectionately known as a “stubby.” Manru Lager was brewed by the Schreiber Brewing Company of Buffalo, New York.

Our next toughie is a one-of-a-kind. Well, at least only one is known to exist at this point. Submitted for your approval is the Wholesome Beer, perhaps one of the most interesting mini beers to have surfaced in a long time. First, the label is decal, which makes it very hard to fake. Notice the size. This bottle stands an unusual 2 12” tall. After some rather extensive research, the verdict is this was a prototype bottle used to pitch the concept of putting your brand on a miniature bottle. The glass is Owens Illinois, much like many mini beers such as Ambrosia, Nectar, and Frederick’s 4-Crown (a very tough bottle in its own right). In fact, the color scheme of the Wholesome Beer is the same as the aforementioned minis. Next, the Internal Revenue Tax Paid statement dates the bottle somewhere between 1935 and 1940. The funny thing about this bottle is the Wholesome Brewing Company never existed. However, the unknown maker of this bottle went to great pains to get the content, alcohol percentage and IRTP statement accurate.

So, when you find yourself searching an antique store or more likely ebay, keep your eyes peeled for the tough stuff like these gems!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

German Giveaways: A Porcelain Primer

You may know these bottles under one of a variety of names: giveaways, German giveaways, German porcelains, nips, nippers, grotesques, etc. You're surely free to call them whatever you want; however, they were manufactured in Germany and many were produced by the firm of Schafer and Vater which began sometime from 1890 to 1896 and closed its doors possibly as late as 1962. These bottles though date from the 1890's to the 1920's, of that there seems to be general agreement among collectors. The bottles are found in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, but as of yet are unknown in Germany. They come in a variety of sizes from just a few inches to well over a foot. They are found in both high glaze and bisque and in multi-color, blue, brown, gray, and an occasional green. This time we will look at two brown and two blue.

There's really very little to tell as the bottles speak for themselves. Some of these will on the rarest of occasions be found with a paper label. More will be discovered to have the name of a bar or restaurant etched into the porcelain. It is the bars prior to prohibition which used them and have allowed us now to have some delightful collectibles.

Bars would use these as gifts and most often gave them away, usually at Christmas. If you were a habitual elbow-bender, you probably got the quart size with or without a music box base. Naturally this bottle was then filled with the bar's whiskey. If you were less of a regular attendee, you got a smaller size. For many of the styles, there were five different sizes! For our purposes though, these are the smallest size of each of these styles. Next time we'll look at some of the multi-colored ones.

What a Night!

Those of you who collect the German porcelains or giveaway bottles are quite familiar with the larger flasks with the thermometers or Drinkometers as they are known on the bottles. The idea was to hold your thumb or forefinger against the bottom of the "thermometer" and you could measure how many drinks you could or should have OR had already imbibed. The man toasting, the doctor (docter sic), and the old man are the three commonly seen. This one is not at all well known and very seldom seen.

WHAT A NIGHT is a common slogan on these bottles and can be found on a short pocket flask as well as the figural already seen here in this site. This fellow definitely has had quite a night as the dancing bottles of gin, whisky and scotch attest. On the other side of the bottle we find the new thermometer which has replaced the original and the weather forecast. Just a guess, but could that forecast have anything to do with what the "weather" would be like when this fellow got home after his evening's tippling?

The Snake

There are many different types of German giveaways. We have flasks both large and small, wonderful figurals with music box bases, clever characters doing "naughty" things and occasionally, something different. The snake bottle pictured here (yes, his head is the stopper) is seldom seen. In many respects, if you really think about it, the bottle is somewhat of a figural flask. He doesn't hold much so he probably wasn't too popular among the larger imbibers. BUT, he also comes in at least one other color (blue) so whoever produced him at least thought that much of him!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

One of the Boys

Not only is he "one of the boys", he's also one of the most popular of all German giveaways. This cadaverous fellow has been delighting collectors for almost a full century now. He's got his champagne class and the bottle is cooling in its ice underneath his bar stool. If you are fortunate enough to have him in your collection take a good look at his smile and you'll know why you enjoy bottle collecting.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Knock-off or Rip-off?

Can you say rip-off? Through the years I've read many articles about shady, fly-bynight companies in various Third World countries which don't exactly counterfeit famous labels, but surely make them similar. I've seen pictures of imitation Johnnie Walker Red and Gordon's Gin; however, up to now I'd never seen a mini imitation.

This Martell knock off was produced in probably 1937 and was sold in Mexico. If you traveled down there or lived there, you just might grab this off the shelf and think you got the real thing. The company which produced it, Anglo Swiss Vintager, also made a great many tequilas, rums, and even a marvelous set of ceramics. This one though is certainly less anspicious.

It just goes to prove that imitation isn't necessarily the sincerest form of flattery!

Sunday, August 14, 2005


Every now and then a set comes along that is quite special, for whatever the reason. This group of three bottles qualifies under a number of headings.

In France those who really know about this sort of thing will tell you that the cognacs of Duboigalant are among the finest ever made. This set of three in its wooden box consists of the V.S.O.P., the X.O. and the Tres Rare. It is not known if the set is actually sold in France or was just made as a special offering for Selfridge's Department Store in London; however, what is known is that it is a very expensive set. At £25 (approximately US $41), this group of three miniatures sells for more than many full size bottles. However, as we all know, quality (like taste) cannot be disputed. (Forget French, for you who remember your Latin, we'll just say "Qualitas non est disputantum".)

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Pennypacker Sour Mash Kentucky Bourbon

Here we have a new Pennypacker Sour Mash Kentucky Bourbon which, of course, comes to us from Germany. This is the third or fourth bottle/label which Pennypacker has issued down through the years. This one is distinguished because of the excellent embossing on both the front and back of the bottle. Interestingly enough, the contents are 0,041 or 40ml. It wouldn't even be legal to sell this Kentucky Bourbon in the U.S.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Flavored Vodkas from the U.S.S.R.

Fellow collector John Sullivan in Northern California does a lot of business traveling and lucky guy that he is gets to spend a good deal of time in Siberia and some of the former countries of the U.S.S.R. Recently John returned with these two flavored vodkas from Mikulovice and Jesenikach. The Grapefruit is obvious but the other one appears to be a Peach vodka. I guess there have to be some perks if you go to Siberia!