5 Critical Mistakes People Make Selling Bottles
& How to Avoid Them

MISTAKE 1 -LACK OF KNOWLEDGE OF WHAT YOU HAVE

When it comes to selling antique bottles, if you are not a bottle collector or bottle dealer, the chances are you will not recognize a valuable bottle from one that is virtually worthless or one that is a reproduction. Basically, to sell old bottles, you need to be able to distinguish junk from collectible bottles. At times this can be difficult even for experienced collectors. You cannot know it all. But you can learn the basics about old glass and the factors that go into determining value and begin to educate your self about the items you might come across so you can sell your bottles.

Before Selling Antique Bottles

At the gut level just look at the item and ask yourself if you find it interesting or attractive. If so, then it is likely someone else will feel the same way and it probably has some value. If on the other hand, you look at the item and think, I just want to sell this to some bottle collector because it might be an old bottle, but it has no esthetic appeal, chances are you’ll have a hard time getting rid of it. The best cure for this critical mistake people make selling bottles is to educate yourself.

MISTAKE 2 -LACK OF KNOWLEDGE OF COMPARABLE AND RECENT SALES

Few people would consider selling their house themselves without doing some market research. To sell the house yourself you need to know what the professional realtor knows. Realtors study price trends and know the importance of comparable recent sales data. Your realtor can tell you what similar houses in your neighborhood are selling for and strategies for selling your house. There are no bottle realtors. Asking a bottle dealer, who might be a potential buyer, the proverbial question ‘How much is this worth,’ immediately presents the dealer with a conflict of interest. It is up to you to research your find. Selling antique bottles requires some work on your part.

Getting Educated

Bottle Price Guides are one source of comparable selling price data. These price guides take the work out of finding comparable sales and help you sell your bottles. Good price guides will give actual or estimated prices based on recent sales. Many guides will provide rarity ratings as well.

You can do some of this work yourself by searching online and absentee Bottle Auction sales histories, bottle magazine want ads, or other internet research such as searching good bottle websites or Ebay’s completed bottle auction sales.

MISTAKE 3 -POOR MARKETING

Good bottles are easy to sell – everyone wants them – however trying to sell a “good bottle” in the wrong market can cost you a lot of money. Junk bottles and inexpensive and common bottles are the most difficult to sell but there are more places than you might think to sell average bottles.

Where to Sell Your Bottles

The average person who is not a collector has no idea of the multitude of places they might sell their old bottles. Cheap bottles can be disposed of locally to collectors, at antique stores, flea markets, in general merchandise auctions, through antique malls and at yard sales. The best way to sell your junk bottles ($5 and under) is to sell them 10-20 bottles at a time in box lots through a local general merchandise auction. In many cases, you will make more than you could get on Ebay or anywhere else for that matter and most importantly you will get rid of them. Develop a relationship with one of your local auctioneers.

Selling bottles in the $25-$150.00 range will usually work best on Ebay. Putting $30-$50 bottles in a general merchandise auction could be a mistake. Most general auction goers will not be bottle collectors and you might only get a $5-$10 bid. Mid-range priced bottles will attract bids on Ebay and often bring more than other sources.

Top bottles, those whose value is over $150.00 will bring the best price at dedicated bottle auctions. I recommend GlassWorks Auctions as the best place to sell bottles that will bring $150.00 or more. Choosing the wrong place to market your bottle could end up costing you instead of making you money. Unless you find the buyer yourself you are either going to have to take less than retail or pay a commission to sell your bottles. Paying a commission is often the best method for selling better bottles. Bottle Auction owners like Jim Hagenbuch, are experts with years of experience and a clientele who want to buy good bottles and will pay good money for them.

Internet and Other Sources

You can find lots of places to sell your bottles yourself online. Sites like Craig’s List and Oodle along with other sites will let you post inexpensive or free for sale ads.  Google Auctions, Yahoo Auctions or specialized sites like Bottleshow.com can be used to sell your bottles. There are also places which will sell your items on Ebay for a commission. However, they may charge up to 30% per item.

Bottle magazine ads can help getting rid of a bonafide bottle collection . Other marketing strategies like targeting bottle collectors via email might result in some sales of better items. You can find collector email and want lists on the Federation of Historic Bottle Clubs website. You can find out if any bottle shows are scheduled in your area and take bottles into a show to offer to dealers. If you have common low priced bottles dealers will not be interested.

MISTAKE 4 -RESERVE IS TOO HIGH OR PRICE IS TOO HIGH

Many outlets for selling antique bottles will allow you to set a reserve price. One of the critical mistakes you might make is setting this price too high. If you are using Ebay and you set a reserve too high, you may get bids but you may not sell the item. This will cost you fees and require re-listing which may not get the same interest.

Conversely, setting your price too low in ads, or for 'Buy it Now' options can be a critical mistake in selling your bottle which costs you dollars. Often in Ebay auctions a low minimum bid price will result in a higher selling price. Ebayers often are attracted to items which have a lot of bids. If you have a hundred dollar item, it might not be much or a risk to set the opening bid at $9.95. Who wouldn’t bid? Bids generate more bids.

MISTAKE 5 -POOR DESCRIPTION-INSUFFICIENT DETAIL

Any realtor will tell you that before you sell or show your house, you need to make it look its best. The same is true for selling your bottles. If you are using an online service to sell your bottle, the worst mistake you could make is to not have any pictures. Almost as bad are poor and out of focus pictures. Learn how to set your digital camera for close up shots. The most frequent error is letting the camera focus on the background rather than the bottle this results in a clear background but a fuzzy bottle. Take poor pictures and you might not sell your bottle.

Take plenty of pictures and the better the bottle the more you should have, even if they cost extra. Show in detail any damage, chips, stain or other detractors. The last thing you want to have the item returned. Yes, you should offer a return privilege.

The description should be as accurate as possible and as detailed as you can make it. If the colors in the pictures do not match the actual color then reference this in your description. Give the dimensions of the bottle. If you know any history of the item this can generate bidding interest as well. Too many sellers use the word “rare” when there item is not really rare. Helping your bidders to visualize what they are bidding on will help you sell your bottle.

GETTING THE MOST FOR YOUR BOTTLES

Following these tips will get you the best price for your bottles. If you know what you have, and have a good idea of comparable bottle sales, use the proper marketing vehicle for the type of bottle you are selling, set the proper selling price and provide a good description, you will know you are getting a fair price. Everyone wants to sell their bottles for top dollar, but generally only the best bottles will sell for that amount. You might have to take a little less to make the sale. Don’t forget that ignorance can be expensive.