Ask the Old Guy – September/October 2017

milk bottles
Dear Old Guy,
I have purchased a few old labeled milk bottles at yard sales and flea markets this summer and have just been informed that there are reproduction milk bottles out there. I am interested in building a collection but how do I determine what is real and what is fake?
  Can you help?


Gloria Miller, Unionville

Hi Gloria,
Yes, anything that has value is likely to be reproduced at some time and milk bottles are no exception. Collecting old glass milk bottles has always been a popular pastime. Many collectors have fond memories of a time when milk was delivered door to door years ago, and I am old enough to recall a horse-drawn milk wagon stopping at our house on Coleridge Avenue in Toronto when I was a child. Our house had a “milk box” built into the side wall where my parents would leave the empty returnable bottle with enough money in it for the milk man to deposit a fresh bottle in its place.


The painted printing and images on your bottles are what collectors refer to as ACL bottles, which means “Applied Colour Lettering.”


Round milk bottles were manufactured in the ’30s and earlier, while bottles with a square base were produced in the ’40s and later. The most commonly reproduced milk bottles are the square based versions because they were easier to apply painted labels to, and being blank were more abundantly available at little cost.


If you hold your bottle up to a light and look through the bottle at the label from the back to the front and notice scratches or wear marks on the glass under the label, and you turn the bottle over and see that the paint is not scratched or worn on the outside surface, you probably have a reproduction.


There are many reproduction ACL bottles out there. I came across a milk bottle a few years ago with a WWII label on the front and in turning the bottle over noticed that 1951 was embossed on the bottom. Not a good match.


Some of the more commonly reproduced ACL bottles include those from the Kawartha Dairy, Port Hope City Dairy, and Anderson’s Dairy in Campbellford. There are many others out there.


There is an antique bottle show coming up in Cambridge on October 22 this year that would be worth attending. (See ad page 7).The show will likely have vendors that deal in milk bottles. Most are willing to answer questions and share their knowledge with interested people. When researching a dairy bottle myself, I refer to a very good book called The Ontario Milk Bottle Book, published by Glen and Connie Woodcock. Although my edition is somewhat dated, (first printing January, 1996) it is an excellent guide to rarity and prices. Have fun collecting.


The Old Guy