Historic bottle collection put on display in Toronto

TORONTO – If you have a local vintage bottle, chances are collector Charlie Argentine is going to know something about it.

Those visiting the Main Street Museum, 210 Main St., Toronto, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday will have the opportunity to see Argentine’s vast collection of local bottles while having their own bottles appraised. The program, hosted by the Historical Society of Toronto, will coincide with Gem City Day and the city’s fireworks display later Saturday evening.

Argentine said he doesn’t really remember why he began collecting bottles but finds them fascinating.

“I’ve been collecting them for 30 years,” he said, adding locally produced bottles will be on display during the program. “There will be a lot of Toronto and Steubenville bottles, as well as others from the local area.

“It’s mostly to get people familiar with the bottles and their value,” continued Argentine. “The values are determined by buyers and (bidders on) eBay.”

Argentine said he began hunting for bottles the hard way – by digging for them.

“I used to dig with another fellow, and we would dig in Toronto, Wellsburg -all the way down to Wheeling,” he said.

Argentine said the two would do research where older, torn-down residences were and dig where the “privies,” or bathrooms, would be. He said that’s where a collector might find the most interesting bottles.

“I specialize in milk bottles,” he said. “That’s my biggest collection. You can tell a lot about the bottles from their shape.”

Argentine said some of the most desirable vintage bottles were those stamped “Wheeling, Virginia,” prior to West Virginia seceding from Virginia in 1863.

“Wheeling, Virginia-stamped bottles are hot items,” he said. “If you find a certain color, they can be worth thousands of dollars.”

Argentine said he often trades other collectors for his bottles, as well as finding them at auctions, flea markets and on eBay.

“A lot of my friends are diggers, and I would also buy or trade from them,” he said.