2015 Toronto Bottle Show, Sunday April 19th at Pickering Recreation Complex

This 21st annual Toronto Bottle Show and Sale is a monumental undertaking by the Four Seasons Bottle Collectors Club and was held this year at the Pickering Recreation Complex located at 1867 Valley Farm Rd.. Much better than previous incarnations, this year’s bottle show was very well attended by the public.

Up from his home near Brighton Ontario, Jason Garrison and his buddy Jim took the time to ponder the piles of glass in Pickering last Sunday morning. These two collectors were among five hundred other antiques dealers, pickers and dumpdiggers who made the drive out to the show.

Doors opened at 9am and the cozy venue was absolutely jammed until 1pm which is when I went about interviewing the media-friendly dealers in the room. I talked to dozens of people, and snapped so many pictures my camera battery died… It was the best hour of my weekend.

Expertly conducted by Four Seasons Bottle Collectors members the show went off without a hitch.

Gary Spicer was the first person I assailed and he spoke to me in between sales. See below I got real close on Gary as he held up a Starr Brothers squat soda from Brockville Ontario that was made and filled with carbonated beverage between the years1860 to 1876.

Gary was asking $225 for this rare ad highly coveted soda bottle.

Gary Spicer has been coming to the show for decades as dealer and consumer;  he’s been collecting antique bottles for forty four years and spend twenty years as a scuba diver, which is a great way to build a big collection. Gary uses the annual show to clear out the clutter from his displays at home and make a few extra bucks to put toward other projects. He was selling some lovely sodas, a few medicines, and while I watched he sold two rare milk bottles to another collector, also from Eastern Ontario.

In very good condition, his Starr bros soda bottle still bears the rusty remains of its 1860s era, primitive cork and wire closure.

Reids Dairy, Tim Maitland, Jim Maitland

Tim Maitland beside his father Jim Maitland holds what he calls a ‘transition milk bottle’ that was made in the late 1930s or early 1940s and has both ACL (Applied Coloured Label) and is embossed with the words Reid’s Dairy right in the glass. And it even has a rear panel with a nurse’s face extolling the health virtues of drinking cow’s milk. This branding combination makes the bottle extremely collectible, and a real bargain at $325.

GUARD YOUR HEALTH / THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR MILK

Here’s a lovely soda from Orangevillo Ontario.

Down the aisle were a couple more diehard diggers, Barret Nicpon (with banana) and Chris Minicola.  Chris collects insulators and bottles
from Peterborough and Lindsay areas, and Barrett collects bottles from London and Strathroy Ontario in addition to insulators.

Chris wanted me to tell you all that if you wanted to find out more about insulators, the 17th annual Perth insulator show and sale is being held on Saturday, May 2nd
from 10 to 2:00 at the Lions Hall at the Perth
Fairgrounds (Halton and Arthur streets) . Admission is free and there
are usually about twenty tables full of insulators for sale or trade along with various displays.

Barrett Nicpon holds up his Canicula brand embalming fluid bottle, which is a ‘mortuary antique’ and quite desirable in that niche. The ‘pleasant smelling’ contents are still in the bottle. $24

Canicula Concentrated Embalming Fluid. Canicula Chemical Co. Toronto On. This is also known a ‘hardening fluid’ in the funeral trade.  Great label.

John Goodyear holds up a lovely 1850s era salt-glazed stoneware finger jug, made for A FOSTER / WINE AND SPIRITS MRCHANT / KINGSTON that he’d purchased earlier that day from another dealer at the show.  Because he was the jug’s buyer and not its seller he declined to give price information, but let me know he got a great deal and was very happy.

Abraham Foster was a grocer who commissioned stoneware to serve his wine and spirits trade in Kingston Upper Canada from the 1840’s to early 1860s. He rented 101 Princess St and appears in this archival record reprinted in the Kingston Whig Standard. “101 Princess St. Built in 1841 by Captain George Smith and let to grocer Abraham Foster.”

John Goodyear is a experienced diver and veteran dumpdigger who has personally recovered much of the stuff on display. He collects bottles and stoneware from Kingston and surrounding area towns, including Preston, Cornwall and Brockville. These are his ‘spare treasures’, and he reports selling soda siphons and quarter gallon jugs before I arrived at his table, and doing rather well, enjoying the curious crowd.

John’s 2015 table wares were festooned by this green glazed Redware architectural finial.

This custom made cone-shaped tip once adorned the peak of an ornate building, or perhaps the posts of an imposing gate or some equally ostentatious structure that needed to make a point.  John was asking $425 for this very unique piece.

David Moncrief is the grandson of John Earl Moncrief, the much celebrated proprietor of Moncrief Dairy in Peterborough and he smiles politely as I make him hold a creamer from the 1940s uncomfortably close to his face. David tells me that before refrigeration there was a local dairy every  few miles as the law forbade long distance transport of raw milk.

David had a steep price tag of $425 attached to the piece because he didn’t really want to sell it and was rather hoping to find the perfect trade.  He brought his son to the show and the boy was so excited he could barely contain himself.

Jamie McDougall behind a wall of antique bottles, perches over his pint sized poisons.

When I asked Jamie what he wanted to show me he smiled and pointed to a nondescript row of transparent medicines at the bottom of the white display case – Hudson Bay druggist bottles. The small vessels were all various shades of window purple, and Jamie says ‘…its a very difficult collection to put together.’  Its also a difficult collection to photograph.

Terry Matz is Canada’s foremost torpedo bottle lover, collector and expert appraiser. Every year he brings a couple mysteries to the show to share with his friends and poll the public for clues. This year he brought a pair of shoes that are also flasks. The Mrs Two shoe flasks are a matching pair with laces on the right and left respectively.

The glaze is not Rockingham, its Bennington.  I asked Terry if these were ‘one of a kind’, and he said they were as far as he knew, and when I challenged that perhaps they would be more valuable if they were a more common collectible, and he replied no, that’s not the case. As unique art pieces they are worth far more than if they were mass produced as part of a production line.

The date 1869 is the biggest clue, and Mrs Two was probably a well to do lady in society and worthy of two shoes full of gin.

I also have to include another lovely pottery piece Terry Matz was selling, a pancake batter jug. Sadly my automatic camera focused on the sign in the background but you get the idea – its like a tea kettle but large with a much bigger spout capable of passing blueberries in batter.

 Its probably French Canadian – on one side of the jug a man is drinking beer and smoking a pipe,

 while on the other side, an older lady is weeping.


Scott Wallace with a rare treasure. This stoneware jug was made for John Morton in Brantford Ontario proprietor of Morton & Company (1849 – 1856).  What’s unusual is the face in the decoration. These jugs have flowers, birds and animals but almost never have have face in the cobalt blue glaze that adorn their sides. The jug is in great condition and will be sold in the upcoming Maple Leaf Auctions for antique bottles and early Canadian pottery

Bob Harris can be seen eating pizza with his daughter in the background, and when I got around to interviewing him he held up a plastic tool box filled with period fishing tackle. He told the familiar story of finding a an old fishing tackle box rusted beyond repair but filled with mint condition fishing lures sinkers and bobbers many still in their original boxes.

Period fishing tackle is a great thing to bring to a bottle show … or is it? 

Tom Holbrook and Ross Wainscott had some lovely cobalt blue apothecary bottles and medical dispenser vessels and druggist bottles. 
This is a rare gem. The four inch square sided ‘hospital bottle’ has a faded paper label, currently being protected under saran wrap, that indicates it once held five yards of aseptic medical gauze. This bottle was made by the Consolidated Fruit Jar Company in New Brunswick New Jersey for the company that became Johnson and Johnson in New York. This jar evidences the spread of knowledge and the war against germs in the 1890s.  People realized that hospital bandages need to be kept clean and dry and free of infection. The price for this rare piece of medical history is $1000.

Here’s a bad photo of Scott Jordan, a well respected collector from Ottawa.

Prompted by my curiosity he quietly brought forth his most expensive treasure which is a square sided four panel medicine bottle ..

I didn’t record its name .. it seems.. but the side of the bottle is embossed, 

Toronto C.W.

C.W. of course means ‘Canada West’ which are magic words to Canadian bottle collectors.

I will leave a blank spot here which I may fill with more information later.. 

The bottle takes center stage in his crowded display case.


John Knight attracts beer bottle collectors and soda bottle collectors by offering them free bottle caps to match their collectibles at home. He has over a hundred or more different bottlers here, and its enough to stop most folks who crowd around looking for their missing crown top sodas and beer bottle caps for the bottles they have a home without such closures. Its a gimmick.

Here’s a crummy photo of John Knight’s best bottle, a green glass soda embossed COPP / GUELPH for which he’s asking $2000.

This lovely pontiled soda was made between 1857 and 1862 and is in great condition today – no chips or scuffs. You can see a terrific photo of a damaged COPP soda bottle that was donated to the civic museum in Guelph and read the comments – its worth a smile.

Here’s a lovely candy dish with a artful decoration made to commemorate the arrival of the steam ship in Little Current, Ont. which is the north bridge port on Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron.

The Toronto Bottle Show imparts the joy of hunting and finding cool stuff as dumpdiggers hunt through boxes and table displays to find what they need at home.

The veteran collectors gather and chat about their antiques and hint at upcoming trips and bottle digging expeditions to find and dig treasure filled holes in historic properties. This is big leagues show and tell, and I feel privileged to walk among these folks and relate their passion for the past here on this blog.

 The Toronto Bottle Show puts a wealth of information on display.

The 2012 Toronto Bottle Show, Sunday April 22nd, Oriole Community Centre

Rob Campbell


The 19th annual 2012 Toronto Bottle & Antique Show and Sale was  Sunday April 22nd at the Oriole Community Centre at 2975 Don Mills Rd in Toronto Ontario. There were over 40 dealers with approx one hundred items each- that’s four thousand highly collectible pieces of early Canadian glass and pottery for sale under one roof… This place is a bottle collector’s paradise.

Here’s Rene Menard who drove all the way from Montreal to shop at the show this year. He collects French Canadian bottles and loves to pick over the shows and sales in Ontario looking for stuff that came from Quebec.

This year the Four Seasons Bottle Collectors Club annual Show and Sale was held in the Oriole Community Centre, which is a skating rink at 2975 Don Mills Road in Toronto.  This nice central location was no doubt quite handy for people who were driving into the city from distant markets. But unfortunately the venue was cold and rather dimly lit by overhead sodium lamps. Honestly, I was disappointed by the accommodations and seek to improve the venue in coming years. I’m a member of this club now.


And so it came to pass that that
that the biggest bottle show in Canada was held in a hockey arena. And it was cold in there. Everyone had their coats on.. And over in the corner, Randall Mathieus played his acoustic guitar, which was oddly perfect. He played Stompin’ Tom and Robbie Robertson of The Band. I’m still humming along with his rendition of Up On Cripple Creek.

Admission was $5.00. I paid the guy with the stamp outside and Sean Murphy refunded my
money inside, without me asking for it. He reminded me that club members
don’t have to pay the $5 fee at the annual show. Its a perk.

At 9:30am over two hundred people poured in the open doors, and each attendee was no doubt contemplating a shopping list of items the were hoping to spot, bargain for and acquire. Lots of folks come here to do comparison shopping, and thereby learn more about their own collections. So they began feverishly scouring the tables looking for anything on their list, or anything curious, and when they spot a gem they jump in and interrupt all nonsensical blog interviews. This was my experience during the first few minutes of the show – the hungry dealers give new buyers time and attention over blog interviewers, I find myself on the outside, watching the pickers haggle and trade. To the left is John Goodyear with Ron King who owns a Toronto roof company and who finds beautiful bottles in downtown properties by doing excavations directly related to his job.

The savvy shoppers will often wait until after lunch to buy anything they really like – if they can stand to wait on the deal. They know that prices fall as the day gets older, but they risk someone else scooping their finds. Dealer don’t like packing up unsold merchandise at the end of the show and prefer sales with small profits to the drudgery of transport.  And so a timely bid is often as compelling as a generous offer, you just have to wait for the right time.

After four or five years of documenting the show I know when to back off and wait my turn. My mission is simply to report the scene and to interview the charismatic dealers that I don’t already know. And to say hello again to the folks I’ve interrogated before.  I always ask new guys if they are diggers, and in my head I try to loosely identify the source of their merchandise, as that’s what separates the professionals from the hobbyists in this business.

For most of the show, the center of gravity seemed to be in the back south corner where three Canadian pottery kingpins were all set up to sell their wares.  First was John Goodyear, who is an Eastern Ontario diver and digger and dealer of some repute. The beautiful jugs and crocks pictured above are from his table, and were priced to move.

Malcolm and Newf are the most colourful and charismatic dumpdiggers in Canada. They work well together in bottle shows and bottle holes and seem to find the most and best stuff. And they are honest with other diggers who occasionally get the honour of accompanying them on their extraordinary adventures. One look at their treasure table will humble the proudest collectors, and more so knowing that each piece was discovered somehow, and with these guys that was very likely at the bottom of a deep hole. Click the pictures to expand – the photo below is a snap shot of what Malcolm keeps under glass in his display case.

Malcolm and Newf  used to be the two most active and hardest working dumpdiggers in Ontario, but have since become more savvy shoppers…  I suspect they dig through eBay listings and estate sales more than old dumps these days. Still you cannot deny their volume or quality of proffered wares, and new discoveries.

Right beside this pair was another giant among collectors, the man who is equal parts loved, hated and admired by three quarters of the community, Abel DaSilva. 

Abel DaSilva starts the show standing at rest behind his tables, which are well stocked with decorative glass, rare early Toronto soda pop bottles, Canadian whiskys, stoneware jugs and crocks.  He knows the value of art glass and likes to buy decorative advertising and breweriana.

He meets the people as they come and sells lots of bottles. He takes in their money and most importantly he listens to each customer’s requests.  Abel has a keen ear for remembering details and making himself familiar with what people are looking for … and that’s how Abel DaSilva sells items off of other peoples’ tables in the afternoon. For the first two hours Abel is stationary, amassing credit with his wife June as he liquidates his best bargains.

Then around noon Abel becomes more nomadic and begins to use the information stored in his head. He takes careful notes of what’s left on each of the dealer’s tables around him and what might be had for cheap prices or worked into a three way deal.

The clever man’s sharp eyes and calculating brain help him sift through the visual data and match it to corresponding customer lists stored in his head; he knows the biggest bottle buyers all over Canada.  You can see him in the background of so many of my pictures in the afternoon, working his magic putting together three ways deals and acting as a catalyst to cash transactions. He practices the art of the deal and profits from the combination of knowing what people want and where to get it.

Derek Tatler waits behind his syrup cans.

Derek brought a complete set of BC Sugar, ROGERS’ GOLDEN SYRUP cans, along with a smattering of glass insulators, and a half dozen pieces of pink carnival glass. He also had about fifteen fruit sealers and some of these were dug relics from his own adventures. Derek is one the true Dumpdiggers at the show. Years ago he used to dig farm dumps, and frequent the Rosedale valley holes and pockets along the Toronto Lakeshore. He confessed to having jumped a few fences in his day and some of the recovered booty is core to his primary keepsakes.

This Sunday he brought out some nice doubles that he has in his inventory. He offered to sell me highly coveted fruit sealers and creamers that he keeps in his own display, or rather these units are not in his display for there is no room for doubles, and so they must be sold or traded here at the show.

Derek held up a pint sized fruit jar with correct lid embossed, THE DARLING / IMPERIAL for which he wanted $150, and which he says came from a dig along the Toronto waterfront.. And in his other hand he held a quarter pint creamer embossed W. WILLIAMSON / AURORA for which he was asking $200.

Here’s Marcus Johnson with large Bennington bowl which is a pottery company that was first established in Bennington Vermont in 1785.
The pottery became The Norton Stoneware Co after it began making
stoneware in 1815. Pieces painted by John Hilfinger are considered among
the best, although later when the firm was renamed the The United States Pottery Company in 1852 a UK immigrant named Daniel Greatbach modeled some of some inspirational pieces. To my knowledge Marcus had an unsigned piece. It was something he called ‘splatterware’. Marcus hunts yard sales and finds his best stuff rummaging through sale barns and at live auctions. He’s been picking and collecting pottery since 2002, and is a regular at the Toronto show.

Steve Mouck is an owner and the operator of Lincoln Estate Vineyards which has limited vintages and really more of a boutique grape juice producer in the Niagara peninsula. He specializes in Niagara Falls bottles and tourist related glass whimsies, and like so many other collectors he seeks 19th century salt glazed stoneware from Niagara. He covets the jugs and crocks that were produced by potteries or commissioned by merchants to preserve the harvest. After years of collecting and running a website called Garden City Glass, Steve has amassed a hoard of St Catherines areas glass bottles and pottery.

Mike and Barbara Emre are cleaning house and making room for their retirement by liquidating three or more of Mike’s diverse and extensive collections. As Barbara talked to the customers Mike was able to relate how he had started as a boy collecting pop bottles – the old ones couldn’t be returned for a deposit. That evolved to beer bottles and then to ginger beer bottles and then to early Canadian stoneware pottery.

But Mike also had a large collection of paper label whisky bottles. These are survivors – paper label bottles that were recovered just a few meters away from where they were consumed, usually in an old barn, basement or garage. The labels survived and stand testament to a different age when men and women drank at work, and consumed large amounts of alcohol in bottles hidden around their homes and job sites.

Mike Emre holds out a Hudson’s Bay Scotch Whiskey quart flask in good condition and for sale at $28. This item looks ancient but in truth is only about forty years old. It does speak to the legacy of Canada’s oldest retailer. This is a company that was trading whisky for fur back in the 1600s. However what many people don’t know is that Hudsons Bay Company is still selling whisky in the United States today, and even the labels on the bottles today bear some resemblance to the one Mike is holding here. And that’s probably why Mike was only asking $28 for the piece, which is a great price for a good storyfull bottle that will surely stand out in any display.

Robert Brak and his wife Linda hold a bright yellow tin Wishing Well soda pop advertising sign which they sold later that day to a home decorator for twenty five bucks. A good score.

Linda Brak collects painted label soda bottles and Robert Brak likes his stoneware ginger beers. The two both lived on farms near Meaford when they were growing up, and used to enjoy digging and collecting old bottles as teenagers. They dug a lot of farm dumps and really got hooked, and then hitched in 1974 at which time they relocated to Goderich Ontario. Their passion for digging was put on hold in that region however as they were hard pressed to find any old dumps. Goderich had probably been picked over by some of the diggers in this room.

One of the ginger beer bottles for sale on Robert’s table was the same make and model as was discovered in our Meaford dump expedition when myself and Tim Braithwaite dug there with Ace of Spades in November 2009. We uncovered an A Robertson Mt Forest Ont and ours was flawless – this one has an obvious crack. Which is why I thought his $80 price tag was a little unreasonable, but I reckon he’s a clever tactician starting on the high ground.

At the next table a dealer named Richard Clark was selling a $1600 aqua pint GEM Rutherford fruit sealer with matching lid and top. Click the picture.

Two tables away there were lots of gilt picture frames and old souvenirs. The dealer was referencing the price of gold as if to suggest the value of her gold decorated merchandise would rise and fall with this index. I happen to know a Vancouver gold buyer who warns public that he will not buy gold rim teacups, or gilt frames or anything gold leaf – you can learn quite a bit about gold manufacturing variants in his FAQ .


Ron Hunsperger perches behind a lovely collection of colored SHUTTLEWORTH POISON bottles all priced to sell between $100 and $200 each, depending on colour and rarity. Ron is a poison bottle collector and horticulturalist.

Mr Hunsperger also collects rare varieties of Hosta in his other life in his greenhouse.  He currently has 259 varieties in his gardens, and is therefore one of the largest growers in Canada.

Ron started collecting all sorts of things to keep his mind active and hands busy in his spare time, after work and on weekends. He gave himself projects and hobbies to distract his overclocked brain so he could stop thinking about his work, which was detail orientated. As time goes by, Ron has narrowed his passions down to poison bottles and is parting with unrelated specimens that he knows other people need to complete their collections.

Ron does two shows a year, this one and the Cambridge show which is put on by one of his friends. Before the show began on Sunday April 22nd he bought a rare white milk glass druggist bottle from one of the other dealers in the room. The bottle reads GARLAND & RUTHERFORD / APOTHECARIES / KING ST. HAMILTON  and according to Ron it could be worth between two and three hundred dollars depending on condition.

By some strange coincidence a digger named Mark VanHee who is also known as ‘Trail’ had the very same bottle in his pocket. He had just found this piece in a dump near Hamilton and had come to the Toronto show to learn its price.  These guys are active diggers – I want to write a story about a cave-in they recently experienced which Ace says was the scariest fifteen minutes of his life. Click the small photo left to see Jason Hayter and Mark VanHee, AKA the Ace of Spades and Trail.

 Bob Andrews collects mortuary relics in Port Ryerse, Ontario.

Bob often buys whole boxes of stuff at sales and job lots at auctions, which keeps him busy
sorting, cleaning and restoring historic items all year long. He had a twelve unit wax candle mold on his table. Bob collects all types of stoneware and sells his doubles and anything outside his niche here at the show. Himself and his wife Sue have decorated their house in Roycroft metalware and
Rockingham pottery. Apparently the two styles really complement each
other and provide the motif in which they live. One recent acquisition was
a butter pat cutter that can slice a one pound block of butter in three
sizes – 48 squares, 60 squares or 72 small pats of butter – this is
hotelier kitchenware.
“How do you have it set today?” I asked
“Oh.. we eat Becel margarine” Sue answered, “its made from Olive oil and not cow’s milk.”

Around five years ago Bob Andrews started collecting embalming fluid bottles and other mortuary relics. This rather unusual and slightly morbid new focus came after he acquired a massive J.H. Schwartz embalming fluid bottle. Its very pretty and a natural centerpiece to any mortuary product display. Now Bob finds himself looking for more antiques funeral home related artifacts, especially paper label embalming fluid bottles like the one on the right.

Tim Maitland and his father Jim Maitland were at the north end of the arena, holding court behind six dozen painted label milks beers and soda pop bottles. Back in 2010, Tim Maitland really distinguished himself by holding up a gorgeous yellow and black Maple Leaf Beverages soda from Hamilton. Check it out on Flickr.

Both Tim and Jim Maitland reside in southwestern Ontario and collect bottles from Sarnia, Petrolia, Lemington and other small towns found down along the Windsor flats. Jim collects really early beers. He comes to the Toronto show to buy up the last of the prime pieces he needs to complete his huge collection. In the photo above, Jim holds such a bottle. Here’s a rare amber blob top quart beer with a lightning stopper marked COLBERT / EGMONDVILLE.  The historic vessel is reputed to be worth over $1000, and both men were real happy with their successive trades alongside the necessary cash spent to acquire the piece. This was Jim’s prize that day at the show, and something he can take to show off to Pete Bechtel and the rest of the CCBA – the Collectors of Canadian Brewery Advertising at their annual convention in July.

Steve Peters is another Southwestern Ontario dumpdigger!

Steve collects stoneware ginger beer bottles from St Thomas and he has all manner of jugs and crocks from that part of the world on display in his house.  He used to dig old dumps with Tim Maitland and that explains why they both collect Petrolia bottles, which as you might remember was an oil company town in 1857 after James Miller Williams of Hamilton struck oil and built the first commercial oil well near Oil Springs, Ontario.   

Steve was absolutely jubilant this day, for he too had just purchased a remarkable crown jewel for his St Thomas area collection, and was now feeling very proud of himself. He had just wrestled this beauty away from Scott Jordan who had bought it auction from the late John Meyers estate sale. Steve told me that he paid $2000 for this little pint-sized vessel, which as you can see is marked  ENGLISH GINGER BEER / J CORDERY. This little stoneware bottle was, by all accounts, made in Canada and not ordered in from abroad (Bristol Pottery in England) like so many of the Great Lakes breweries. James Cordery brewed beer in London Ontario in the 1880s before moving to St Thomas in 1890. He set up shop in that small south western Ontario town and soon thereafter went blind. In 1900 he offered everything he had for sale and Mr. Peters actually has a copy of the bill of sale.

Richard St Onge returned to the 2012 Toronto Bottle Show as an official dealer, alongside Bill Cook. The two wise men stood behind a legislature of Coca Cola related artifacts and advertising products. They love Coke items and were the first to remark on their scarcity at the show this year.  Bill also pointed out that there were absolutely no glass marbles this year and he wondered if that strain of collecting was finally heading into obsolescence, with no more collectors.  When I asked him to hold up his best piece he instinctively reached for a fine honey amber 1910 Coke bottle from Chattanooga Tennessee that he had just bought in Atlanta Georgia, which is the home of Coke and of course the largest annual Coca Cola collectibles convention in the world.  The price was $125.


Bob Harris is a member of the Four Seasons bottle club and  veteran digger, multidisciplinary picker and antique aquarium collector.  I caught him at the 2012 Bottle Show holding a highly collectible fish food tin marked NATURAL AQUARIUM FOOD from Grassyfork Fisheries Inc that he had just bought off Jamie McDougall for twenty dollars. Bob loves to talk about aquariums and we have talked before about the jewel in his collection, a fourteen gallon Sherring Bros aquarium made in 1857 for marine research laboratories. This very old artifact is, Bob claims, the very first commercial aquarium ever sold in North America.  What is something like that worth? Bob says he’s been offered eight thousand dollars for the piece and he turned it down. Bob sent me an email today and dutifully reported,  “I should have mentioned that the reason I
know that the fish food tin I bought from Jamie is old, is that the fish
bowl and stand on the tin cover is a representative of the 1930’s style
fishbowl.  I have a few of these bowls in my collection, so it’s nice
to have the tin as a go-with.  The food in the tin is pellet food. 
Flake food was developed in Germany in 1950 by a company called Tetra
Werke.   They are still in business and produce a fish food called,
Tetra Min.  So the tin has to be older than that.  My guess is just
after WWII.  Obviously, nothing was being made during the war.  The
company that made this tin is Grassyfork which is a very large goldfish
fish farm in the US.  By the way, the old fish food was actually made of
crushed dog biscuits.  Nothing scientific about that.

Jamie McDougal was parked beside the front door and became the first stop for every shopper heading north. His colorful shirt captures curious eyeballs. The artifacts on his table were even more interesting; they’re not always beautiful but full of good stories. Like these two pop cans Jamie had on display. At first glance they appear downright ugly. The can on the right looks practically new. But look closer. Pick it up and hold it and you will understand that this aluminum can is completely empty and yet it’s unopened.  That means it was erroneously sealed shut and shipped empty of the contents! How does something like that happen? It occurs more often than you might think, but often times its caught by staff filling vending machines or retailers, truck drivers or … This one unit of product was shipped empty and bought by a consumer and not reported – it survives to exist today as unique variation of a popular soft drink package. How did this happen? It could be the people at the bottling plant were messing around on the night shift. Perhaps one factory worker was making himself some rare collectibles? 

Terry Matz is Canada’s foremost torpedo bottle dealer and runs an antique website called Terry’s Torpedo Bottles which is first on Google for the word torpedo bottles only because Terry comes first in the hobby. Here he is holding a relic from the Boer War, and English rifleman’s torpedo bottle canteen. The leather bound glass vessel is stamped 1st V.B.M.R 59 which he translates for me as First Volunteer Battery Manchester Regiment and the 59 could refer to the individual soldier or the brigade or the artillery piece to which the squad was assigned. The piece has no top? Terry says it would have had a cork top, like any wine bottle of the day. The leather casing has a belt loop and the bottle is meant to be worn on the soldier’s belt. Terry thinks the British Army of the early 1900s decided the torpedo bottle shape was the strongest and best suited to the soldier’s rough and tumble lifestyle.


All of the torpedo bottles on Terry Matz’s primary table are under glass. They start in price at $500 and go up steadily from there. Terry talks fast and I tried to make detailed notes but ended up with scribbles. I know one of these pieces is a McLaughlin Soda from Edmonton? acid etched? for which he wants $1000. The dark green torpedo is marked Peter Conolan from Montreal, and another $1000 bottle in the case is the aqua torpedo embossed WILLIAM FARQUHAR / SUPERIOR AERATED SODA WATER AND GINGER NECTAR

Terry also had a queer plaque that didn’t photograph very well but which is marked HOT SODA WATER, and he laughed ‘who would ever want to drink hot soda water?’, and we both reflected back to a time when aerated water was considered very healthy and drinking it hot would of course lend to its appeal as a medicinal remedy.

Always a popular table at the show, this year Terry was breaking all the records and running something of a milk bottle clearing house on the north corner of the village. He had fixed in the center of his 2nd table a sign, which said All Milk Bottles $1 each and this created quite a buzz.  When the dust settled and he finally got away and had a chance to walk around another curious thing happened… His daughter discounted prices by half again, and her merchandising brought more customers.


The best bottles were up on the tables, and these sold rather quickly at the original price of $1 each, while the remnants below in boxes were soon picked over by collectors looking for variations or good fodder for trades. This was a once in lifetime opportunity for young collectors to clean out a guy who just wants out of ACL milk bottles.

John Hunter was there and introduced himself to me as a fan of this blog. He told me to that Bert Dalmage, a pioneer I had profiled earlier on my blog lived to be 103 years old and only died just recently at the Golden Plow nursing home in Cobourg Ontario.

John dove into Terry’s bottles and while I watched he fetched out and purchased for five dollars several vessels including this ABSOLUTE PURE MILE / BELLEVILLE reproduction amber glass bottle. If this bottle were real it would be worth a fortune. It’s a spectacular color and has a picture of a dairy cow on the slug plate. But alas its a reproduction of what is probably one of Ontario’s best and certainly most stereotypical classic milk bottle slug plates. The bottle is made by skilled craftsmen in China to pay homage to the Canadian bottle collecting industry.

John Hunter likes to dig in rural dumps and has a big collection of glass bottles from all over eastern Ontario. He’ll add some of Terry’s milk bottles to the mix and this yellow vessel will impress anyone that doesn’t know the difference between real and reproduction pieces. 

Melissa Clare is the principle organizer of the annual Four Season Bottle Collectors show and she was having fun calling out the winners of the Show Bucks. At regular intervals throughout the day she would venture over and borrow the microphone from guitar Randall and bequeath $25 Show Bucks coupons, which are laminated cards that promise dealers the money and serve as random door prizes to people who filled out questionnaires ? some forms ? or paid? or… I don’t know.  Somehow people got draw tickets and I’m not exactly sure how because I didn’t get any tickets and was therefore ineligible to win these show bucks.

But young Sandra Spudic was eligible and she won. I noticed her first after I heard her scream! Thats right. I began watching with interest after she let out a tiny burst of excitement (which her friend Erika Wilson echoed even louder) immediately after Mellissa called out the winning numbers. I followed as the duo claimed their prize. Here I learned that they both work together in a nearby historical conservation area, and so that explains their interest in antiques.  Without delaying them too long, I made Sandra promise to report back to me on what she bought with her Show Bucks.

Dwight Fryer is Poison Bottle Collector
Dwight is an international poison bottle collector and his table, (as I always tell him, every year) will the first to profit from the new awakening – when young people go forth and buy into the pastime. These little poisons are ‘condo bottles’ and as such will always be cool collectibles to decorate bathroom medicine cabinets and window shelves. They add personality to morning light.

Dwight told me he’s still buying bottles, mostly coloured poisons and rare blown glass chemical bottles from no less than thirty eight different countries.

Small green poison bottles are among my favourite obsessions. I was admiring this little green German bauble, on which the skull and crossbones are so delicately pronounced, as Dwight Fryer translated the embossing GIFT FLASCHE to mean ‘poison bottle’.

Dwight’s poisons are always very popular with the ladies because they look so cool and could someday again be filled with fantastic potions, or maybe liquid bath soap? These little bottle are cool and perfect to add a touch of personality to sterile Toronto condominium bathrooms.

Here’s another curious piece, a clear glass bottle embossed TAYLOR PRODUCTS / BREEZY / HOUSEHOLD AMMONIA, on sale here for only $10 cash.


Carl Parsons appeared  late at the show and made quite an entrance wearing a lovely beige jacket and stylish brown shirt and pants. I held the door for him outside as he entered, lugging along a rather large and mysterious steel can. The vessel was heavy, and made of thick steel and long ago painted white. The container had a very heavy solid steel lid that was three inches thick with more of its width below top edge of the can, and so it forms a good airtight seal by virtue of it’s great weight.

What was this weird metal can used for?

Inside this heavy metal can, Carl explained, is where early urban dentists would pitch the freshly extracted teeth of their patients, esp the molars with gold or silver filings. For the bottom part of the can was filled with acid and would work to dissolve the teeth around the silver or gold deposits. After a few months or a year in the can, the dentist could easily recover the precious metals.

I went on the 2010 FSBC Club Dig with Carl Parsons. He led the June expedition down into the Rosedale Valley and picked a spot whereupon he couldn’t remember having dug already. We did struck some virgin dump there, but we didn’t find anything valuable. All the same, it was a memorable bonding experience for five diggers that hadn’t previously dug together and didn’t even know each other well. We all had a lot of fun that day, we dug a deep hole and poked about in virgin dump under some easily moved soil.

James Jarzabek and Adam Jarzabek were at the show again this year. James is twelve years old now and already he knows most of the values and prices of his father’s inventory off by heart.

I pointed to a powder blue silk screened LAKESIDE JERSY milk bottle and James told me it was $300 without having to check any price lists. “Why so much?” I asked. And he flipped the bottle over to reveal the backside. ‘Because of the baby” he said. 


Sean Murphy was a fixture at the bottle show, executing the role of the club treasurer and spokesperson for the FSBC from his spacious holdings in the south central part of the floor. Two or three times we agreed to meet up for a talk, but he was always so busy entertaining longtime friends. Some of these guys may have come to the show just to see him, and to conclude a transaction of some description. Sean has lots of nice stuff and he does the research and learns about each piece before trading, selling or adding to his own collection.

In the photo you can his right hand clutching the neck of a large thick glass Coca Cola wall mounted display bottle. This was one of the only Coke pieces at the show and apparently it didn’t much excite Richard St Onge because he didn’t buy it. But once again proving again the strength of these items as truly magnetic collectibles, Abel DaSilva appeared a few moments later and bought the 1970s era relic for $300.

Abel bought the piece despite the sad fact that the bottom had a centimeter wide hole drilled in it to accommodate a pin hole light bulb. This was apparently not how Coke had sold the memorabilia but rather how some enterprising decorator or restauranteur had modified the display advertising. Abel (his buyer) was okay with modifications.

Sean was having a good time and he was thrilled to report his own most recent acquisition. In this next photo he holds a J. KERNOHAH LONDON aqua torpedo soda bottle on which there is a fish logo. Think about that… Who would have bought a soda water with a fish logo on the bottle? What flavour were they expecting?

Ron DeMoor holds up his best treasure, on sale for $5000. This is a cobalt blue, twelve panel H. Sproat soda water . It was found in an recent excavation at Queen’s University in Kingston Ontario, and smuggled out of the construction site by diggers in the middle of the night. Ron doesn’t know who those people were, nor will he confirm or deny that authenticity of the tale, but he will ballpark the age of the vessel – it was made between 1850 and 1862. Henry Sproat is listed in the red book as ‘Ginger beer maker’ .


You can gaze upon the H SPROAT torpedo soda bottle here in Tim Braithwaite’s collection courtesy of Early Canadian Bottle Works, Darren’s website.

Minutes before I arrived at Ron’s table he sold this lovely paper label, P.C. FLETT CO, APPLE AND GOOSEBERRY JAM stoneware container which is certainly one of the most beautiful jam jars I have ever seen in my life. We find these all the time when digging in the dumps and I have seen a few simple labels but never anything as breath taking as this..

Sandra Spudic found me again and showed me what she bought with her Show Bucks. She spent $15 on two very elegant looking enamel / mirrored tea light candle holders (I’m sure they started life as some form of cosmetics accessories) and another ten bucks on a small fruit sealer with the correct lid (I forget the embossing – maybe Sandra could tell us in the comments) in which she hopes to keep buttons or other small keepsakes directly related to her passion for mending clothes and repairing high quality vintage garments.  Good for you Sandra! Thanks for coming out to the show and I hope we see you out here next year.

John Dunbar didnt sell his Gay Liquid Detergent sign on Sunday.  This joker runs the Antique Mall in Orono and loves for all things related to early Canadian television and steam engines. He buys old TV show props and cereal box mementos as well as railway collectibles and artifacts relating to transatlantic travel on steamships. In addition to this event, John is also a fixture at the Toronto Nostalgia Show. The sign he holds is something that decorator crowd would really appreciate, because of Guy Lombardo, It seems the gay liquid detergent held no appeal to this years bottle collectors.

And Mr Dunbar was one of the last vendors I spoke with before I walked out the door.

You can read all about the previous occasions here,
The 2009 Toronto Bottle Show
The 2010 Toronto Bottle Show
The 2011 Toronto Bottle Show

Besides being a great places to hunt for antiques and collectibles to sell on eBay, the
2012  Toronto bottle show was a great celebration for the continued strength of the hobby. This special
one day affair was open to the public and did therein provide ample opportunity for young and old collectors to meet and ask questions and fast-track their research on their own mystery bottles and storied artifacts. For on this past Sunday April 22 there were indeed over forty experts in the room,
and together they did know pretty much everything there is to know about
collecting antique glass bottles and pottery in Canada.

Up Close and Personal with Ace of Spades

I spent almost three quarters of an hour with the Ace of Spades last week, and his new digging buddy Trails (right), taking pictures and talking shop. It was agreed we would all meet again at the 2012 Toronto Bottle Show, coming up on Sunday April 22nd at Oriole Community Centre Arena, 2975 Don Mills Rd, and that’s supposing we didn’t run into each other sooner on an exciting spring dig.

Dumpdiggers has always admired Ace for his prolific posts on the discussion forum which evidence a natural passion and insatiable curiosity and tireless digging routine. This guy is out there actively uncovering new stuff and gaining a strong following of collectors and historians feeding him tips and good information about his discoveries.  And he’s growing a big collection!

Trails is an architect or in the building trades and as such has access to some old properties that being dredged up for renovation and redevelopment north and west of the GTA.  Ace is schooling Trails on what to look for when scouting properties for dumps, and how to dig bottles from the bottom up.  The science of sinking the shaft and then forking the sides.

KC the White Boxer Keeps an Eye Open

Myself and my white boxer dog KC arrived on the scene just as the boys where sinking a new hole.  Three or four feet down they starting finding semi-precious patent medicines and took that to be a good sign. The bottles were obviously cast offs (something cast off by earlier diggers) but that could mean there is fresh dump below.

The mall patent medicine was actually a Toronto sewing machine oil bottle.

The good stuff is six to ten feet below the smelly earth and the stoneware jugs and crocks which I have seen come up out of the dump are often right down in the morass and sunk below the water line (which rises and falls with the seasons – the same patch of land is dry in August and September. But in April, May and June you can only get down about nine feet before your hole will flood with really smelly black oily earth. That’s the reality of this place. – Ace

Bottle Diggers, a photo by Roberrific on Flickr.

Ace found a number of small collectibles while I was visiting, including this small cobalt blue Bromo Seltzer bottle that is covered in embossing. This is another great sign because that is a bottle that most diggers would have taken home –  because its blue and has writing, so it has some value – and therefore one can assume that maybe perhaps this patch of dump was missed by the marauders who dug this dump so many years before…

This is my dog KC cruising the grounds around an old dump in the middle of Toronto that is currently being picked over by Ace , who is surprising everyone and actually finding good stuff in the tiny scraps of century old dump that can still be glimpsed in the goody veins below.  KC was real impressed.
Bottle Diggers by Roberrific