An Opinion on Bottle Cleaning


An Opinion on Bottle Cleaning

RickDeMarshThe following represents my opinion and does not reflect the opinions of others. It reflects what I see in the collecting field that I have been a part of for 42 years. In a continuing and relentless attempt to make anyone who decides to have a bottle that is stained and or in need of restoration portrayed as a history-destroying criminal and an untrained butcher of sorts, I feel it necessary to discuss this in detail.

I have had many discussions on the practice of restoring bottles. The reason I use the the term restoring and not altering is the bottle, when made, was not ground stained, it was clean and in most all cases shiny. If you return it to that state, it is a restoration and not an alteration from original state as made.

Tagging it as altered would be altering it from its dug/stained state which is not the original state of the bottle. The bottle owner is the one who decides if the bottle will remain in a dug/found state or restored. Now as for the false claim that the largest museum in the United States, stated that cleaning a bottle back to its original state makes it a candidate for the recycle bin and the people responsible (bottle diggers, collectors etc. ) are destroying the bottle and it is of no value at all any longer. It’s a flat out lie.

The museums of the world do restorations on a regular basis, whether it be for preservation or to just to the point of stopping the deterioration of an artifact. There are priceless paintings and other artifacts that if not preserved and restored would no longer be with us. Bottles, when produced, were not stained from being buried in acidic soils for decades, but were in fact shiny and beautiful works of art from this country’s first major industry and if the owner/caretaker of this artifact desires to leave it “as found” or restore it, either way they are saving a part of our history that otherwise would be lost forever.

It is further being said that the people doing the cleaning are not trained, licensed or in any way doing this for anything but deceiving people to make money. Try as some might to demand that clubs and auction houses state that cleaning/restoring bottles is destroying them completely is asking them to get involved in untrue and non fact-based speech. Museums do restoration of all types of artifacts on a daily basis. They also have in collections many bottles that may at some time have been restored to show the craftsmanship, colors and embossing as all would have appeared at manufacture.

Now we get into the “undocumented alteration” claims, and that the untrained destroyers of history (not my words) who clean bottles do not do any documentation as to doing so. When a collector restores a car, bike, lamp or any other artifact by choice it is very rarely documented as it is personal choice and almost anyone who collects such artifacts will know if it has been restored. I have seen very few who sell bottles that either do not list as cleaned or if asked do not give freely that information.

Many of the bottles that are so carefully collected whether they are retained in found condition or “restored” to what they would have looked like when made would be lost forever if collectors did not go out unpaid and spend countless hours saving these works of art from being forever covered up with a shiny new parking lot or building.

So instead of finding a way to call these people criminals, untrained thieves of history and money-hungry historical destroying fools, maybe a thank you would be more in line. I will be doing a post also about what is an altered bottle (changing its color) in near future and also some great work by a group of collectors (unpaid) to revert them to original colors.

Rick DeMarsh – FOHBC Public Relations Director

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