Collecting Glass Bottles As a Hobby


Glass is one of the strangest of human creations: it’s tough enough to protect us, yet shatters with incredible ease. It’s opaque, but also transparent. It’s a solid, but it can be made into liquid containers. It’s a very versatile material, capable of meeting a wide variety of technological challenges, and it can be manufactured in a tremendous range of forms.

Glass has been produced in a vast array of shapes, sizes and finishes for many centuries. Some of these have become iconic. Others have been more mundane, but equally useful. In recent years it has been used in applications that go well beyond bottle production: glass fibers are used to reinforce plastics, and specialized glasses are used in optical materials, cooktop panels, display screens, and even amplifiers and multiplexers for telecommunication networks.

In addition to the basic bottles found on shelves, glass can be produced in a variety of shapes and sizes for use as lenses, window panes, mirrors and light bulbs. It is also used to make a large variety of scientific and technical equipment, medical devices and surgical instruments. And of course, it’s used to store a variety of beverages and food.

Because it can be molded into so many different shapes and sizes, bottle has become a nexus of a rich diversity of cultural expressions. This is most clearly seen in the wide assortment of bottle styles produced for different purposes in different time periods. Some of these styles have a recognizable commonality: the bottle shape and neck finish.

Bottles have long been a source of fascination, and many people have gotten into collecting them as an affordable hobby. There are many ways to approach collecting bottles, from simple collection of unique or interesting bottles to attempting to assemble sets of common bottle types or finishes. There are a few general guidelines that can help anyone get started in this rewarding and fun activity.

The terminology found on this page is a mixture of collector jargon and technical glassmaking terms. Some of it is from the classic work on bottle nomenclature by John R. White, published in 1978. Where possible, we have attempted to provide a concise definition for each term and to link it to the relevant section of this website.

The bottle morphology pop-up pages contain detailed descriptions of various bottle parts. The terms defined on this glossary page are meant to assist in the interpretation of these descriptions. To avoid confusion, it is recommended that these terms be read in conjunction with the appropriate morphology page.