The Bottle, Not Its Past Owner, Matters

Times Staff Writer

Question: Oftentimes a collectible associated with a famous person takes on added value. I have bought some bottle collections over the years--a few of the collections from fairly well-known individuals in the entertainment business. Would these connections enhance the value of the bottles?--F.T.

Answer: Generally, collectors say, where a bottle comes from doesn't normally have a direct bearing on its value. Usually, it counts for little to a collector that someone in the news once owned a bottle that probably would have as much attraction for the collector if it came from a flea market or an antique shop.

In other words, it's the bottle--its rarity, unusual design and other qualities--that interests collectors, of which there are thousands throughout the country who belong to hundreds of bottle clubs (there are several in Southern California alone). That's what makes this collectible category so attractive.

Smart Buying

Formidable collections have been built without megabuck expenditures through smart buying from dealers, at auction sales, thrift stores and the like. In this context, collectors say part of the joy of bottle collecting is that bottles of value can be found almost anywhere and that a knowledgeable individual can often find bargains.

On a related note, some bottle collectors--usually new to the field--have written complaining that they have been ripped off by purchasing reproductions or fakes. To be sure, there is a lot of counterfeiting in this collectible category, and collectors will have to protect themselves by both buying from reputable dealers and doing their own homework.

Another tip from collectors: When collecting a series of bottles, such as has been produced by the Jim Beam firm, a general rule of thumb is to purchase directly from the retail outlet unless you are purchasing from an individual or organization you can trust.

Joining clubs, such as the many Jim Beam bottle collectors' groups, is a good way to familiarize oneself with specialty collections. Attending bottle shows is another must for the would-be collector, because it provides an opportunity to meet experienced dealers and collectors.

In the Unusual Item category, M.G. of Los Angeles writes:

"I found a glass mailbox in a garage in Hollywood. The home was built in 1923.

"The mailbox measures 12 inches in height, 5 inches wide and 3 inches deep. It has an aluminum lid and base; the glass hasn't any nicks or cracks."

What can collectors tell us about the rarity and value of glass mailboxes?

Our recent inquiry into a question about collecting surfboards produced information about the surfing museum in Santa Cruz, Calif. Now, we understand, a second California surfing museum is in the planning stage.

Ann Beasley of Huntington Beach called to say the Huntington Beach Surfing Foundation, of which she is secretary, is backing a project designed to become the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum. Ground breaking, just north of the Huntington Beach Pier, is expected in September, she said.

The reason for the location is obvious, Beasley said. "Huntington Beach is one of the best-known locations worldwide for surfing," she said. "The museum will house artifacts since the beginning of surfboarding in 1925, when surfers began coming over from Hawaii."

Hall of Fame

Additionally, one wing of the museum will be devoted to a surfing hall of fame.

Although all of the local government red tape hasn't been overcome yet, she said it appears that the museum will be part of a parking complex.

Anyone interested in donating surfboards, clothing related to the sport or other surfing items that would interest the public should call Beasley at (714) 536-0157.

Ronald L. Soble cannot answer mail personally but will respond in this column to questions of general interest about collectibles. Do not telephone. Write to Your Collectibles, You section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053.

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