‘A hot hobby’: Hanover historian to discuss bottle collection

Hanover Town Historian Vince Martonis presents his bottle display. Martonis will be displaying his bottle collection at the Cattaraugus County Museum on Thursday night.

Hanover Town Historian Vince Martonis will be bringing his extensive bottle collection to the Cattaraugus County Museum in Machias on Thursday, June 10, at 7 p.m. Martonis, who is a noted and published expert on antique bottles, has shown his display and given countless talks at places across the United States.

“I have built up a very extensive collection of beer bottles, milk bottles, medicine bottles and others,” Martonis said. “I have been collecting since 1970.”

Martonis specializes in bottles from Chautauqua County, but will bring a 40-piece display to the museum on Thursday that features some “surprises.”

“I have a Roman bottle from the first century AD,” Martonis said. “I have a seal bottle, which is a black glass bottle from the late 1700s. I have quite an array of them.”

The event will also have a free raffle of several old bottles, as well as handouts, and Martonis encourages people to bring in their old bottles for him to evaluate.

“I should be able to identify anything people bring,” Martonis said. “I have delved into all aspects of this hobby so deeply. Sometimes it can be tricky to determine what things are worth, there is variability depending on where it is sold and market.”

Unlike some other hobbies which have lost steam over the last few years, Martonis said bottle collecting is as hot as ever, and that could be attributed to the fact that people can find bottles worth a good amount of money just by doing some digging.

“Bottle collecting is still a very hot hobby,” Martonis said. “People are buying them, saving them, and collecting them. A good number of those people are diggers so you can get bottles for free. You can dig up a bottle worth a couple hundred dollars quite often. I have a lot of friends that have done it.”

Though he has a lot of them, Martonis has a few bottles that stand out to him from the crowd which include a JHR Matteson Clairvoyant Remedies bottle, produced in Buffalo, made by Antoinette Matteson in the late 1800s. Matteson brought her medicines to Lily Dale and sold them there, giving it that Chautauqua County connection Martonis specializes in. In addition to that, Martonis has a rare nine inch bottle from Dr. Fenner’s Capital Bitters, of which he only knows of three or four others that exist in the United States. He also has a bottle with a personal connection to him.

“I have a 1930s bottle for flavoring that was 20 percent alcohol,” Martonis said. “It was saved by my relatives. My grandpa, who died in the early 50s, used to put a few drops of it in his coffee every morning. I have the last bottle he ever owned.”

In addition to the talk at the Cattaraugus County Museum, Martonis said there are other bottle shows coming up this year, including one in September in Buffalo. Because bottle collecting often leads into other hobbies, Martonis said these shows have something for everyone.

“Bottle collectors get into everything, when you go to a bottle show,” Martonis said. “You will find postcards, marbles, small antiques, stoneware, you name it. I’ve even bought watercolor paintings at shows. It’s a little something for everyone.”

But until then, those interested can see Martonis and his many scarce 19th century bottles on display, at the Cattaraugus County Museum on Thursday at 7 p.m.


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