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The skinny (and curvy) on soda bottles

Cabot man’s collection covers decades

By Jeanni Brosius

This article was published June 7, 2012 at 3:33 a.m.

— Did you know?

The older bottles are heavier glass because the companies were concerned that the gasses in the sodas might cause the glass bottle to explode. As time went on, bottles became lighter. Then the 12-ounce can and plastic bottles killed the glass-sodabottle business.

An old term for soda is dope, because Coca-Cola contained a small amount of cocaine in the earlier days.

Although cocaine was an ingredient that was eliminated from Coca-Cola long ago, the name “dope” seemed to stick.

Grant Irwin of Cabot is a collector.

He collects neckties, original art and comic books, but his favorite collectibles are his soda bottles, and he has more than a thousand.

“I’m a soda-bottle nut,” he said.

On the exterior wall of an outbuilding at his Cabot home, a shallow rack houses a collection of deco-era soda bottles. Some are embossed with fancy art-deco designs, and some have curved waists. Some are green, some are amber, but most are clear.

“When the sun is to the west of the building, these things b gin to look metallic,” he said as he plucked a bottle from the rack.

The deco-era bottles were inspired by the art-deco age of

the 1920s and ’30s. Irwin’s collection began with bottles with

painted labels, or applied color labeled bottles.

“I love the cacophony of color and bright designs,” Irwin

said about his collection of around 1,200 bottles. “I collect

them for the circus of it.” As he elaborated on the circus aspect of his collection, he likened it to having a wow factor.

Stepping into Irwin’s kitchen, the circus is apparent in the soda bottles that line the walls and rest atop the cabinets.

“I collect to space,” he said as he retrieved a doublewaisted carnival-glass Sun Punch bottle from the1930s. “If I get one after the space is filled, something has to go into the sale or trade box.”

Irwin and his wife, Janice, go to bottle shows often, and Grant said he frequently sees bottles that he wants to add to his collection.

“I’m just glad he’s got a hobby,” Janice said, laughing. “I’ve seen some $20,000 bottles at some of the bottle shows we’ve gone to.”

After the “new depression” hit in November 2007, Grant said his eBay sales plummeted.

“I was making a couple thousand dollars a month oneBay, but after November of ’07, my discretionary income went away.”

Grant is always on the lookout for new bottles to add to his collection.

He said the key to collecting sensibly is to aggressively learn everything about the product before jumping into the market with both feet. He said after seeing hundreds of bottles, he allows the individual bottle to tell him about its history.

“It takes practice and being in the marketplace,” he said. “It takes time. I’m selling things I collected in the ’70s.”

Aside from some of the older bottles, most of them have dating codes embossed on the bottom. The code indicates the date the bottle wasmanufactured and where.

Grant said he “flips” items in his collection so he can buy more.

“I’ll trade anything I’ve got for anything I want more,” hesaid with a laugh. “The value is in the eye of the beholder.”

On a quick trip upstairs at his home, more bottles greeted him.

“I’m drawn by the artrather than the value,” he said about the Arkansas bottles in his collection. “There are more than 250 bottling companies in Arkansas, and I have them categorized by city.”

Selecting an old bottle from his Arkansas collection, he said it is a pre-Civil War bottle from the 1800s. He pointed out the hand-tooled mouth of the bottle. He even has some older Coca-Cola bottles that have straight sides instead of the classic Coke-bottle waist.

“We think of bottles being proprietary, but a lot of bottling companies used the same design,” he said, explaining why he has 11 bottles with the same design but with different labels.

An old term for soda is dope, because Coca-Colacontained a small amount of cocaine in the earlier days. Although cocaine was an ingredient that was eliminated from Coca-Cola long ago, the name dope seemed to stick, he said.

The older bottles are heavier glass, he said, because the companies were concerned that the gasses in the sodas might cause the glass bottle to explode. As time went on, bottles became lighter. Then the 12-ounce can and plastic bottles killed the glass-sodabottle business.

To contact Irwin, email him at sodabottlenut@yahoo.com.

Staff writer Jeanni Brosius can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or jbrosius@arkansasonline.com.

Three Rivers, Pages 48 on 06/07/2012

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