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Glass Motor Oil Bottles Grow In Value
Many older FARM SHOW readers remember when motor oil came in tall glass bottles sealed with everything from corks to crimped lids or spouts. If you’ve got any tucked away in the shop, garage or attic, it might be worth digging them out.
  At a recent Kovels auction, one bottle netted $1,375. However, it was a rare 1-gal. Mobil Oil Filpruf bottle with a gargoyle trademark, metal spout and wire holder. That high price was the exception, according to Kent McCullough who has written and illustrated three books on glass motor oil bottles. Typically, the most valuable bottles are in the $200 to $300 range such as the Texaco 574 bottle that sold for $209 at the same Kovels auction.
  “About 98 percent of the bottles are in the $20 to $75 range,” says the Lawrence, Kan., collector and author. “The Owens Illinois Glass Company made the majority of bottles. Styles changed from year to year.”
  Before the use of glass, oil was poured from open, steel pitchers so customers weren’t sure if they were getting the right amount of oil or if it was new, clean oil. Glass bottles were used from about 1910 to 1934 when sealed steel containers were introduced. Glass was used again during WW II when steel was needed for the war effort.
  The biggest problem with glass bottles was that buyers weren’t sure if the oil came from the distributor or was filled at a local station. Bottles were sold in cases and the intention was that bottles be sent back to the distributor to be refilled. As the number of cars increased, that became difficult to do.
  “A lot of re-refined oil was sold in bottles,” McCullough notes.
  Mobile made the best effort by topping the bottle with a heavy aluminum lid that had a special fitting and attachment that ensured only the distributors could fill the bottles. Some states required seals to indicate bottles held an accurate measure of oil.
  The glass bottles often chipped hitting the engine block, and they were tall (about 18 1/2-in. with a 3-in. diameter base) so they tipped over easily.
  McCullough, who recently sold off his huge Texaco memorabilia collection, started collecting 25 years ago when he was an insurance salesman who traveled extensively. He spent evenings visiting antique stores and going to flea markets and garage sales, eventually amassing a huge collection of glass oil bottles from the U.S., South America, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
   McCullough’s books are currently out of print, but he would love to talk to interested collectors.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Kent McCullough, 1035 Sunset Dr., Lawrence, Kan. 66044 (ph 785 843-7111).

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2011 - Volume #35, Issue #5