It was not until the 1900s that perfume, then usually called ‘scent', was sold in ready filled bottles. Previously scent was bought in plain bottles, functional not decorative, and most ladies (also men) owned an array of usually exquisitely ornate and intricately made bottles, sometimes made uniquely for them, often hand created, occasionally monogrammed or engraved and generating high prices today on eBay and elsewhere.
On eBay, recently, a globular - globe shaped - milk glass scent bottle attracted 38 bids and $1386.38 finishing price, and a Lalique scent bottle fetched $950. These are low prices compared to others selling recently on eBay or at offline auction houses. Consider, for instance, a 1910 Wiener Werkstatte cut glass globular design (there's that word ‘globular’ again and key to a very popular shape) that sold at Sotheby's for £1,000, and an egg shaped bottle/flask made from silver and hallmarked 1882 that sold by the same company for £550.
Things to Know About Scent Bottles
* This is a great area for speculating and risking a few pounds on something that might quadruple your investment or fetch much more. So many different collecting themes meet in the overall scent bottle experience that even the cheapest and seemingly most ordinary perfume bottles bought for a pound or two at flea markets, jumble sales and boot sales, can attract multiple bidders and high finishing prices on eBay. The trick is to focus on bottles with two or more collecting interests, such as maker and material, for instance, a Lalique glass bottle with silver stopper, or a bottle made by Bacarrat and decorated with gold leaf. Another good example is where original and subsequent use converge, as where a bottle once holding perfume can be used as a paperweight today. Two collecting interests in one item all but guarantees multiple bidders and enviable finishing prices.
* At flea markets and boot sales look out for box and tray lots of seemingly low value items, such as bottles of half-used scent from the 1950s and earlier. Some with undamaged labels detailing maker and perfume name, are popular with advertising enthusiasts, and like a 1930s bottle of Saturday Night Lotion featured in Millers’ Collectables Price Guide can be worth up to £35 each, some much more. A good example is a 1930 bottle of Guerlain perfume ‘Guerlilas’ in Baccarat bottle that fetched £521.10 (about £280.00) on eBay, and a vintage bottle of Lotus Bleu Perfume by Moehr of Monte Carlo that fetched £78.00.
* A name can cause fierce bidding, for maker of bottle or perfume, better still both in one example. The big names to look for in bottle makers are Lalique (sumptuous glass creations often frosted or opalescent); Baccarat, specialising in quality crystal items, not just bottles; Galle, famed for stunning art nouveau designs that fetch high prices on eBay. Other popular perfume makers include Christian Dior, Guerlain, Estee Lauder, Avon. Avon created some of the world's most beautiful containers and many bottle collectors seek exclusively Avon creations which can fetch upwards of £100 each. They're not that hard to find at flea markets, or at boot sales where I picked up a 1969 Blue Blazer body powder shaker in the shape of Andy Capp which cost me 50p and is valued in Lyle's A Fortune in Your Attic at £100.
* Andy Capp is just one of countless characters whose presence on a scent bottle can make an everyday object worth hundreds, even thousands of pounds. Cartoon characters are especially popular, such as Bonzo Dog (my favourite) whose image appeared on thousands of collectable items including scent bottles. Also look out for Felix the cat who recently made $650 on a scent bottle, and don't overlook Disney characters, Betty Boop, Florence Upton Golliwogs.
* Amongst most popular subjects depicted on scent bottles are dogs and cats (cats seem more often to sell and at higher prices than dog depictions); hand painted flowers, place names on crested china bottles, almost anything of oriental interest.
* Some scent bottles, complete or just the stopper, were designed to be used later as paperweights, thereby reaching another popular collecting area and potential bidding wars between bottle and paperweight collectors. There's nothing to stop you describing your item as a paperweight and even listing under ‘paperweights’ in the Collectibles category.
* Detail all possible collecting interests in the title for your bottle and reach the widest possible market, such as a French 19th Century Opaline Egg Scent Bottle made by Baccarat that's just fetched $560.52 and doubtless appealed to collectors interested in: maker = Baccarat, subject = egg, material = opaline glass, age = 19th century.
Avril Harper is a business writer and eBay PowerSeller who has produced several guides to making money from eBay, including MAKE MONEY TEARING UP OLD BOOKS AND MAGAZINES AND SELLING THEM ON EBAY which you can read about at: http://www.magstoriches.com 103 POWERSELLER TIPS can be downloaded with other freely distributable reports and eBooks at http://www.avrilharper.com