Skip to content

Mr. Dan Kelly’s Pop Bottle Collection

I collect pop bottles. I can’t recall when I started, but I wouldn’t doubt it happened around Christmastime in 1996. I drove up to Michigan with my girlfriend (now wife) to meet her parents for the first time, and quickly discovered that not much happens in Grand Haven and Muskegon during the winter months (unless you’re a outdoorsman, which I’m not). When I wasn’t chatting with my future in-laws, playing board games, reading, drinking, or watching cable TV, I was concentrating on a spot on the wall, wondering how the natives kept from going mad.

Then my brother-in-law, an antiquarian, took me along on a search of his favorite shops along US 31. I’d sorta-kinda went antiquing before in Chicago on Belmont Ave., but everything I wanted was prohibitively expensive. My antique scores mostly came from garage sales and thrift shops, but again, in Chicago, pickings were slim.

Grand Haven, Holland, and Muskegon, however, provided great deals on nifty old stuff—and there was so damn much of it. I’m sure the perpetually lousy economy up there was part of it, but the fact that suave urbanites like myself rarely came through the area probably helped. On that trip my brother-in-law picked up an old oil-powered slide projector while I found a Medinah Shriner’s fez, a few comics, and an unusual pop bottle. I can’t remember which bottle was my first, but I bet I based it on my current criteria for collectability:

1. Applied-color label (that is, labels applied directly to the bottle, not paper labels; though I do have a few of the latter).

2. Beautiful/interesting/crazy art.

3. Favorite pops from my youth (RC, Dr. Pepper, Kayo, Crush, and a few more obscure sodas)

3. Optimistic names, or names that otherwise promise health, social status, and happiness.

I have about 138 bottles right now, give or take, and I built a display rack for them that currently sits in my basement. I’ve been meaning to photograph and share them on the site, but I could never quite figure out how to properly shoot pictures of the clear ones with raised images and labels. I came across a site about taking pictures of fine crystal, and they suggested building the following set up.

That’s two sheets of black matte paper from the art store, and two pieces of cardboard painted white. The bottom black matte paper has a hole cut into it, and it (currently) rests on a large camping flashlight. I want to build a better base with a brighter, electrical bulb, but for now, this will do. See the results of my first bottle photo session below! Comments? Suggestions?