Twenty five years ago, six or eight bottle collectors came together to form the Four Season’s Bottle Collectors club with the express purpose of holding a bottles and stoneware only show and sale. Fast-forward a quarter of a century, and this annual show is now the mainstay of the bottle collecting community in central Canada. On Sunday the 22nd April 2018, the twenty-fifth Four Seasons Bottle Collectors Bottle Show filled the entire west auditorium of the Pickering Recreational Complex.
On that beautiful Sunday morning there were over sixty dealers’ tables and about a half a million dollars worth of antiques and collectibles on display. But most of the vendors here don’t do this to make money, as this article will demonstrate, but rather to feed their own obsessions. Every person in the room has, or has had, the ‘bottle bug’, an unexplained desire to acquire and collect and categorize and research old bottles and early Canadian pottery.
Each spring, those most infected by the bottle bug gather in a central spot to show their latest finds and trade for better booty. Their much-anticipated event is attended by hundreds of people (most of whom are also infected with the bottle bug) who drive in from all across Ontario to be there when the doors open at 10 am. This year the line-up snaked around the building; April 22nd was a gorgeous spring day and the first nice Sunday we’ve had in a while; it was a great day for a bottle show.
What happened at the 2018 Toronto Bottle Show?
This unofficial dispatch is traditionally featured on Dumpdiggers blog, but as that content portal is in transition, I’ve decided to scribe the information here and perhaps this will help spread the appeal of bottle collecting to more mainstream audiences.
This photo taken outside the front entrance of the hall at 9:55 am ; the show needs better signage to be sure.
2018 Toronto Bottle Show, Sun April 22nd – Pickering Recreation Complex
Toronto Bottle Show and Sale hosted by the Four Seasons Bottle Collectors Club is itself a moment in time. Once again this year, the show was held at the Pickering Recreation Complex, and once again it was really well attended by the public. Everyone you see in the photo below is a collector, and on a mission to find something, and this includes the dealers.
The annual event was real busy from the moment the doors opened at 10am, right up until 1pm when it slowed down somewhat, and it was all over by three. The show has something for everyone; no reproductions or ‘new’ items are allowed. In the image below, an insulator man checks the colour and looks for bubbles in the glass.
Attendees who enter their business cards in the raffle have a great opportunity to win FSBC Showbucks! There was one $50 prize, and two $25 gift certificates distributed throughout the day.
Time Capsule Premise: This author has a notion that, if I ever won big money, I’d come to this yearly bottle show and buy the single best bottle from every table. I would do this just to create a time capsule which I would then arrange to bury (legally) under a tall building that is just being erected (*which would indeed be somewhat ironic as many of these bottles would have been recovered from downtown Toronto and Montreal area construction sites). My time capsule would be bound for NEXT CENTURY, or the one thereafter. I would donate the pieces in a total pay-it-forward contribution to the future. With that in mind, here in the present day, I use the premise to tickle the imaginations of each dealer as I interview them on the floor. By simply asking dealers ‘what would you sell me to put in my heritage capsule, and why?’ the collected images and anecdotes makes an interesting cross-section of the show.
A perfect place to start, the book belongs to someone else following a similar dream; they’re looking backwards too, but also in a strange way looking forward. The man in the background of the picture is Sean Murphy, a knowledgeable information broker in many categories of collectibles, and a good conduit for such temporal reflection. Sean selected a local druggist’s bottle as his featured item.
Sean Murphy held this small town Ontario druggist’s bottle, ALLAN TURNER & C0 / DRUGGISTS / BROCKVILLE, ONT. This was a local druggist or compounding pharmacist who had a shop in Brockville between 1857 and 1899. The 16oz square-sided bottle could have held anything, and was probably made in the mid to late 1880s. The vessel’s shape and size resembles period gin bottles, just saying.
Farther down the line, Marcus Johnson responded to the challenge in a different manner, opting instead to showcase some of his very best stoneware. Marcus is a veteran dumpdigger, and he’s also a City of Toronto employee; despite his protestations, I believe he still knows some secret digging spots.
Marcus chose to pose with a giant three gallon stoneware jug decorated with a handsome swan. Priced to sell at only $300, this was the largest item on his table, which was made by Gardiner Stoneware for CRYSTAL SPRINGS / AUBURN ME (Maine).
Right beside Marcus Johnson’s booth was a medley of small medicines.
There was Goofus glass at the 2018 Toronto Bottle Show!
Chris Mascarin, a skilled auto worker from Mississauga, has spent a lifetime of evenings and weekends as a Goofus Glass collector; he brought his doubles and triples to the bottle show to sell or trade as he looks to fill out his own bottle collection.
Goofus Glass is pressed glass which was made cheap and decorated with cold, un-fired paint in the early 20th century, primarily in the United States. The cheap and relatively easy to manufacture glass was produced by several prominent glass factories and sold to merchandisers to be used as marketing promotions, house warming gifts and as prizes at regional fairs. Various patterns were produced by mold makers which displayed fruit, flowers, insects, or animals. Whatever the subject, it was either raised above the surface of the surrounding glass in a relief ’embossed pattern’, or, indented beneath the surface of the surrounding glass in hollow relief, or an ‘intaglio pattern’. Goofus Glass collectors today use shorthand means of differentiating these styles as either “EP” or “IP”. The distinguishing factor that makes items worthy of inclusion in the “Goofus” family is that somewhere along the way the manufacturers of the pressed glass applied paint to these pieces. This process is referred to as “cold-painting”, i.e. not fired.
Articles produced included plates, bowls, vases, oil lamps, dresser sets, salt and pepper shakers and candle holders. The most common colors used were gold, red, and green, with gold usually being the predominant color. Many of the items featured in the book, Goofus Glass by Carolyn McKinley, appeared on Chris’s table, and he’s always on the hunt for more.
“Most dealers don’t know about it, or have forgotten, but when they see it they say I have some,’ and ‘I’ll bring some next year.’ And so in this respect Chris feels his presence here works to bring attention this otherwise obscure category. His own table’s Goofus Glass display was quite impressive, and these were his traders (his doubles).
Chris Mascarin’s Goofus Glass table display is good example of a private collector posing as a dealer to use the bottle show to bring attention to their own cause.
Terry Matz is another mission centered vendor eager to educate the masses. Terry puts museum quality pieces on his table that he has no intention of selling; the works are there to wow people and give them something to think about on the drive home.
Terry Matz is Canada’s foremost torpedo bottle collector, but instead of standing behind one of these pointy- bottomed glass vessels, he chose instead to showcase a century old teapot. This is number two in a line of three vessels. This is the medium capacity unit in an array of three specimens, small, medium and large.
W.E. Welding was a maker of ‘Stone’ vessels, and by that I guess he means stoneware, and ‘Rockingham Ware’.
Terry’s teapot is similar to a piece found in the Royal Ontario Museum which they describe as “A variant form, the unmarked beaver and maple leaf teapot here does not conform to any excavated sherd or lids, though the piece as a whole is remarkable similar. While it could be a style of the post-1883 period, its relative heaviness and clumsiness suggest its an earlier Welding version (c. 1875 – 1880) and a predecessor of the excavated form. Canadiana R.O.M.” This item was not for sale – Terry was offering his insights on the historically significant item as gift to knowledge seekers.
Club dealers get excited about primitive, homemade bottles.
Although bottle collecting pays homage to our nation’s industry and commerce, sometimes the best bottles are homemade glass vessels made by small, local, Canadian artisans.
Ron DeMoor made the trip from Delhi, Ontario. He’s a pop bottle collector and as such he also collects torpedo bottles and squat sodas. Ron generally walls off his corner booth in a stockade of common silk screened 12 oz sodas, keeping the more valuable vessels in a wood and glass ‘keep’ at the center of his holding. Instead of reaching into the display case and holding up his eight-sided cobalt blue soda, embossed H.SPROATT, circa 1860 and worth a couple thousand bucks, he chose a crude amber glass demijohn.
The vessel was hand blown in a primitive mold with an applied top. The colour is lovely and the whittling is marvelous – no attention was given to the finish, as the finished bottle was probably encased in leather or wicker. The container was purpose made for ferrying wine, and would have been made-to-order for a large family or fraternal order, or work camp. When I asked its origins, Ron pointed out another nearby dealer who had a homemade bottle mold on his table.
Mark Draak, and his son Justin, seen below, had on display a hardwood tree log (possibly hickory) that was split clean down the center and hollowed out to make a glass mold.
The stump had two large hinges on the back and the letters ‘b’ and ‘b’ and ‘3’ and ‘C’ and ‘L’ around a pear shaped impression. It was burned slightly and that’s because it was used to make the potion bottle you see below. Mark learned in that moment, holding the century old wooden stump in his arms as it smoldered and then burst into flames, that such homemade wooden bottle molds are best made from green logs and used when still moist.
The classic D&D potion bottle you see above was made in the vintage tree trunk wooden bottle mold. Mark has a retail store at 30 Hatt Street in Dundas, Ontario called the The Cabinet of Curiosities.
Scott Jordan holds a little brown jug.
Scott’s little brown jug was marked S. BURNHAM / TORONTO U.C. So what does that mean? ‘U.C.’ means Upper Canada, which is what the Province of Ontario was called before Confederation in 1867. Scott explained that this piece of Canadian pottery was made for a brewer named Silas Burnham. When I asked how old it was, Scott revealed that he knows Silas Burnham left Toronto in 1839 to escape arrest and went to Illinois. And because we know that York was renamed Toronto in 1834, Scott Jordan deduces that this stoneware vessel was made between 1834 and 1839. That’s really old (for Canada), and that makes this an awesome collectible, tied to crime, and super cool.
A passion for petroliana, John Dunbar with his green BP service-station uniforms remembers when ‘full service’ used to mean a
John Dunbar’s booth at the 2018 bottle show also had a Tupperware muffin tray filled Canadian military uniform insignia and helmet emblems from all the different branches of the armed forces. John wanted $15 for each ornament, which means the stash you see my fingers combing through below is worth nearly a thousand bucks.
A Canadian ink bottle collector, Scott Wallace now prefers stoneware crocks and jugs.
Scott held up a gorgeous three gallon stoneware jug that I believe he had just acquired at the show. Scott doesn’t need to shop here thought, he runs an antique glass bottle and pottery auction site, mapleleafauctions.com
The 3 gallon vessel he proudly holds was originally FROM / ROBERT CONROY / GENERAL MERCHANT / AYLMER CE
John Goodyer and Dave Dobing – Kingston Antiques Bottles
Bottle divers, dumpdiggers and pickers with a preference for eastern Ontario these boys come to the show to sell their excess treasures.
A gun for candy (painted silver with lead based paint).
Below is where all the marbles in the world went.
The bottle show details the fine line between collecting and obsessing or hoarding.
With 65 dealer tables this is Canada’s biggest bottle show offering a huge selection of antique bottles, pottery and related collectibles for sale. The poster says “No crafts, reproductions or early admission.”