Got milk bottles? Dig them out, since vintage glass milk bottles are highly collectible in today’s market, and they're bringing high prices. Most range from $2 to $100, depending on the condition, size and the dairy. They are now considered a nostalgic item to collect, as folks like to collect bottles from the area they were born and raised to where they live now.
So many of these glass bottles were destroyed when paper and plastic cartons became popular. Unique milk bottles are scarce, and collectors have begun to take notice, especially the younger generation, who seem to like the idea of milk in a glass bottle or just collecting these unique bottles with their graphics or the name of the dairy.
Folks also like bottles with advertising messages, catchy slogans and nursery rhymes. An example of a catchy slogan back in the 1940s was: “Food fights, too! Conserve what you buy. Plan all meals for victory!” Bottles with patriotic graphics or rhyming slogans can sell from $95 to $175.
Today, quite a few people go to antique, consignment and thrift shops, along with flea markets, to pick up bottles from the areas they are traveling through to see what they can find. Some are collecting because they just like the bottle. Bottle shapes are important for age, but what is on the bottle is more important.
Bulges in the neck where cream could collect are known as cream-top bottles, and some folks only want cream-top bottles. In the 1940s, squat or square bottles replaced long-necked and round bottles, because they fit more securely into the wire delivery baskets and were easier to transport.
Sue Carol, of Winona, told me: “My husband, Mike Pronschinske, has over 100 milk bottles, several butter cases, bottle racks and more. Yes, lots and lots! He was a dairy farmer for many years, then worked at dairy businesses for 30 years that included Wisconsin Dairies, which now, for several years, is Foremost Farms.”
Neil Hunt, of A-Z Collectibles in Winona: “I have over 20 milk bottles, some local to Winona, and others from the area and far-distant places, most with names, but a few without. A few cream tops, all size bottles from half-pints for school (no name) to 2-quart. Yes, I have one Marigold, Pleasant Valley, a couple Holmen Wisconsin bottles, Springdale, and one from Faribo Co-op, Faribault. Lots of creamers, but none with logos.”
Brenda Jannsen, of Treasures Under Sugar Loaf in Winona: “Dairy advertising is popular at Treasures! We carry a wide assortment of milk bottles that are small and large. Wire milk crates, foil and paper milk bottle caps, cardboard butter boxes, thermometers, milk bottle carriers and wood cheese boxes. One item that stands out is a hard-to-find Nodine Creamery carafe.”
Betty Butters, of Catch My Thrift in Stewartville: “I have old butter boxes and a few bottles, with all ranging in price from $1 to $5.”
Sarah Kieffer, of Sarah’s Uniques and Jim’s “Man”tiques in St. Charles: “Not only do I have a lot of milk bottles, but I also have dairy/cream cans, large cream cans, and milk holders. My milk bottles are in various sizes and priced accordingly for the ones with no writing to those larger ones with graphics and particular dairy creamers on them. I do have local milk bottles, too. Milk bottles are fun to decorate with and look great in a kitchen or other décor. A lot of collectors look for local bottles or harder-to-find ones to add to their collections. I have some milk bottle caps, which usually sell from $1 to $2 each.”
Today, new modern up-to-date bottles of fresh, wholesome milk can be found at grocery stores, co-ops, some farmers markets and in some areas, delivered to homes.
Sandy Erdman is a Winona-based freelance writer and certified appraiser concentrating on vintage, antique and collectible items. Send comments and story suggestions to Sandy at email@example.com.