AVON BOTTLES – Overview

                    (Brief Overview)

     AVON FIGURAL BOTTLES

                          AVON PRODUCTS, INC.

         Formerly CALIFORNIA PERFUME COMPANY

AVON’s beginnings date back to 1886 when David H. McConnell, a book salesman, began giving away small vials of perfume to customers in an attempt to increase interest and sales of his books.   Soon, however, interest in the perfumes outpaced that of his books, and eventually McConnell began to manufacture perfumes and sell them under the firm name California Perfume Company (1892). His business was originally based in New York City.

McConnell hired women (including many who were housewives) to sell his perfumes door to door.  Sales rapidly increased, and a new plant was eventually built in Suffern, New York circa 1894.

In 1930 the company was renamed Allied Products. One of his most popular fragrances was named “Avon” introduced circa 1929, and, perhaps in part because of the strong popularity of that perfume, customers began asking for his line of products under the name “Avon”.  In about 1938 he changed the company name again to Avon Products, Inc.

In 1965 Avon began promoting the sale of figural bottles (i.e. bottles made after the form of some type of object), these being produced in a very wide variety of shapes.  One of the first types was made in the shape of a boot.

Most of the figurals can be generally grouped as having been made to contain either women’s perfume, or men’s cologne or aftershave.  These bottles are often termed, and were sold by Avon as  “decanters”.  Some of the bottles held other cosmetic products including bath oils, lotions, etc.


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Some of the more popular shapes include figures of people, many types of animals including ducks, eagles, a buffalo, moose, hippo, etc; cars,  books,  clocks,  shoes,  guns,  cannons,  horns, telephones,  a hammer, bells,  a steamboat,  keys,  steins,  pipes, a tennis racket, an Indian chief, and many, many other designs.

In many cases, the lid is an integral part of the design/shape of a bottle, often made of plastic, with the color of the plastic being a close approximation of the glass color of the bottle itself. Sometimes the plastic lid is in a contrasting, or complementary color.

It is likely that the most popular series within the sphere of Avon figural bottles would be their line of glass automobiles, including representations of early classic vehicles as well as various “race car” models.  Most of the car bottles date from around 1968 and throughout the 1970s.  Other bottles often collected along with the cars include boats, ships and other vehicles. The car bottles were made in a variety of attractive colors, including sapphire blue,  rich emerald green, light golden amber (“topaz”), yellow, gray/smoke,  etc.

Avon car bottle, emerald green. Contained Tai Winds or Wild Country Aftershave, circa 1973.

Avon car bottle in emerald green. Contained Tai Winds or Wild Country Aftershave, circa 1973.

The “heyday” of the Avon figural bottles might be said to date during the 1965-1980 time frame, although other figurals have been produced since that time.  A wide variety of decanters of every description were made and were sold in large quantities.   The oversupply of these bottles has resulted in a “flat” market for a good majority of them. They are seen in large numbers at many yard sales, flea markets and thrift stores.  Most larger antique malls also will at least a few booths that carry Avon bottles.

Many people purchased large quantities of these bottles in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, and have now discovered that they have not held their value (or increased in value) as much as they had hoped.   As a general rule, Avon figural bottles should not be purchased in an attempt at an investment.   Buy them only as a collectible,  and something you will personally enjoy!

The most important single thing to keep in mind when collecting Avon figural bottles, especially the cars, etc:  Condition, condition, condition!!   Unfortunately, many of the bottles now for sale will bear wholly or partially worn labels on the bottom (or missing completely), lids in poor condition (sometimes entirely absent), and paint or “flashing” peeling off (in the case of some of the bottles which were made with a flashed or painted glass).

Value is added if the original box is still available and intact.  A bottle will have more value if the original content sticker is still on the base, in good legible condition.     In general, fine condition bottles that are full, unopened and still in their ORIGINAL, CLOSE TO MINT CONDITION BOXES will have the most value to collectors.  Boxes that are dirty, faded, crumpled or bent will have very little, if any, value.

If interested in collecting Avon figural bottles, I’d advise studying lots of ebay auctions, looking to see which types actually sell, and what range of prices are realized.  Any ebay seller, especially those not really familiar or knowledgeable about Avon bottle values in the secondary marketplace,  may (in pure innocence) wildly overestimate the demand or value of a particular piece, and start an auction at an unreasonably high minimum bid.

As with any collectible item, prospective buyers/collectors should start out very slow, and learn, learn, learn!  Look at lots of individual auctions before deciding to put in a bid. Study the condition of any item very closely. Of course, this is general advice that can be applied to any kind of bottle, whether antique, vintage, or new!

Many of the more “serious” collectors of Avon products search for the earlier (and much, much scarcer) bottles and related items sold during the early days of the California Perfume Company.  Many of the older bottles may be difficult to identify.  Bud Hastin’s price guide (mentioned below) has much information on many of the earlier, and very difficult to find, pieces that were made during the early twentieth century.


Avon "Cape Cod" pattern goblets.

Avon “Cape Cod” pattern goblets.

 CAPE COD PATTERN

Besides the figural bottles, one of the most popular gift lines sold by Avon was the dark ruby red “Cape Cod” pattern tableware set, with production lasting from 1975 to 1993.  Many different items were issued in this line of glassware.  Some of the less abundant pieces in this pattern may demand decent prices,  but the most common pieces are still around in rather large quantities (such as the goblets, shown here) and can be seen frequently at antique stores and flea markets.    The goblets (small wine glasses) were made over a number of years, and the base embossing may differ slightly from piece to piece.  For instance, in the accompanying photo, the goblet on the left is marked “1976 AVON PRESIDENTS CELEBRATION / [mold number] 10”, and the example on right is marked simply “AVON” along with a mold number.

Base embossing on ruby red CAPE COD goblet made for Avon

Base embossing on ruby red CAPE COD goblet made for Avon

 

A very good overview of the production of this particular line of glassware sold by Avon (written by Debbie & Randy Coe),  can be found here .

Few, if any, Avon bottles are marked with a logo or other identification indicating exactly what glass company made them. However, it is believed that most of these bottles were produced by Wheaton, Inc. (Wheaton Glass Company)  of Millville, New Jersey.  Wheaton Glass Company has since went through various re-structurings and slight name changes over the years, and is now known as simply “Wheaton” , concentrating on scientific apparatus and laboratory glassware.    There may have been other glass manufacturers involved in the production of Avon glassware, although I am not sure of their identities, if so.  If you have pertinent information in that regard, please feel free to contact me!


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For more information on Avon bottle prices, I would suggest Bud Hastin’s Avon Collector’s Encyclopedia, 18th Edition (2007)  which is no longer in hardcopy but is available for sale online as an e-book digital download.


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25 Responses to AVON BOTTLES – Overview

  1. Shawn says:

    Had the opportunity to buy an entire set of the Cape Cod dinnerware last week however as awesome as it looks I felt the price was just too high being from Avon.

  2. Bill Murphy says:

    My mother has been saving avon for40 yrs. She has over 2500 items, I mean everything from bottles to awards. She is 90 yrs old and blind and she wants me to sell all of this avon. I do not have the time to search the value, list the items on ebay, watch the items on ebay. Is their collectors that will buy it all. I know she will lose money this way, but it is the only way I can do this. I have seen some items sell for thousands of dollars and she might have some, I just don’t know. What should I do?

    • David says:

      Hi Bill,
      I have approved your post for publication on the site, so perhaps we can get some good feedback from readers. I can only say that your question is VERY difficult to answer……. there is no simple, easy way to sell that many Avon items at once. If I did have a suggestion, it would be to investigate the possibility of listing the Avon collection on Craigslist.org. If going that route, you don’t have to risk paying large listing fees, and you can list items with a ‘blind’ email address and only answer responses that sound like they are serious and worth following up on.
      Although Craigslist is primarily a “local” venue, many, if not most Craigslist listings are integrated into Google search engine listings (I think?), so potentially you might have a nationwide audience. You can also re-list items several times, thus extending the total time period into weeks or months that your listing is “live” on the web. I also want to add that it is very possible you would only get about 10%-20% of the “listed market value” of Avon items, as many of the Avon bottles and other items, especially from the 1960s-1980s, were sold in such large numbers that they have not kept their value over the years. That is just my own “feel” for the situation, but perhaps others would disagree with me.
      Feedback, readers??
      Take care, David

  3. Sandra Thomaschek says:

    My husband’s grandmother worked for Owens-Illinois in Fairmont, West Virginia. She kept 4 ceramic glass bottles that she inspected that were meant for Avon perfume, but I assume were considered flawed. They have never had perfume in them or a lid of any sort. 2 are red, 2 are green with a white floral print and one is cream color and has “Avon Cotillion Cologne Mist” printed on the front. Do these have any value?

  4. Jen says:

    I found a decanter and goblet set. What do the numbers mean. The bottom of the decanter is 7 yet. The goblets vary in the 30s… I love this set and am so curious about it.

    • David says:

      Hi Jen,
      The numbers on the bottom of the goblets and decanter are mold numbers. See my webpage on “Numbers on the bottom of glass bottles” for more info. Many glass items have mold numbers, including many modern glass bottles and jars that might be in your refrigerator or cupboard right now! The mold numbers do not give info on age of an item. Mold numbers have been used for over a hundred years.
      Best regards, David

  5. Judy Taylor says:

    I have several avon collectible decanters and need help determining value – what’s the best site to do that? have a moose and gas pumps that I haven’t seen many of. Thanks.

    • David says:

      Judy,
      The best way to find the value of Avon items (or almost any type of antique, vintage or collectible) is to search the ebay site over a period of time. Unfortunately, to be honest with you, it can be somewhat difficult or, at least, very time-consuming. And I am referring to looking through the ebay “Completed Items” listings showing actual ending prices (if an item even sold), not the “minimum bid” or “Buy it Now” prices which may or may not have any reflection on the true “market value” of an item.
      Hope this helps,
      David

  6. My mother-in-law gave me an Avon decanter in the original box still full and never used with “TAI WINDS” cologne.It is the First Volunteer decanter, gold plated,6 Ounces. I was wondering when it was produced and if the cologne is still good. I opened the bottle and it smells good.

    • David says:

      Hi Patricia,
      I don’t have info on the exact years this was in production, but I am guessing late 1960s or early 1970s. Perhaps a reader with more info can answer your question as to age of the bottle. In my opinion (and this is only my opinion, please keep in mind!), most Avon perfumes and colognes slowly and gradually change in odor over the years, and tend to smell somewhat “off” or unpleasant after several years. I certainly wouldn’t want to wear a cologne that old. But again, just my opinion!
      David

  7. Glenn Alderson says:

    A friend gave me 4 boxes full of Avon vehicles bottles still in the boxes 97% of the boxes are in mint condition I haven’t sorted them out yet but when I do take pictures of them would someone give me a good sight so I could sell them and find out the prices on them and my whole bottle collection I would like to sell all at once I got a huge collection of different types of bottles you can reach me at grayealder@gmail.com thanks Glenn

    • David says:

      Glenn,
      The Avon car bottles are difficult to sell, even with original boxes, simply because they were made in large numbers, lots of them are still around, and the Avon used bottle market is still rather ‘flat’. Your best bet would probably be eBay, but most collectors are looking for specific bottles to fill holes in a collection, so selling them all at once will not be easy, not to mention the high shipping costs. You might try craigslist (it’s free to post ads on that site), or maybe you could try selling them to a flea market dealer in your area. However, selling them to a dealer would involve only getting a small percentage of the selling price. Good luck~
      David

  8. Dede says:

    I have a Avon Peacock bottle. Its long tail is a devine deep blue green. Its head is plastic with the tuff on top. Very cool. Is it worth anything? I’ve never seen a poic of it anywhere.

  9. Alma says:

    I have a , what says a 1964 Mustang blue Avon bottle . It’s full and has its box. Question is. Was it really from 1964? Or did they make bottles and put earlier dates on them?t

    • David says:

      Alma,
      I honestly don’t know when that bottle was issued. I doubt it was actually issued in 1964. I would guess early 1970s, but I may be wrong. I would think there is a list of issue dates for all these car bottles somewhere, but perhaps not on the internet yet? Perhaps someone who is a hardcore expert on Avon bottles can answer this question. Readers?
      ~David

    • KJ says:

      The bottle is made in the shape of a 1964 Mustang. It was made from 1976-1978.

  10. Angela Beavers says:

    Hi, I have 2 car decanters I would like to narrow down to the years they were manufactured. One is the Straight Eight windjammer and the other one is Sterling Six Spicy they are both aftershaves. Could you help me please?

  11. Edwyna McDonald says:

    The Figurines you are talking of are called Mrs Albee and she was the first Avon Representative in America with half of the USA as her territory. These figurines were (not sure if still are, but I was a rep in NZ for 30 years) awarded to representatives who achieved high levels of sales.

  12. gwendolynsb@yahoo.com says:

    I have a collection of Miss Abby porcelain dolls. these were giving out yearly to top sell advisors. each year is different and the mold was destroyed each year. How can i find out the value of these. they are starting from the 80’s to the late 90’s

    • David says:

      Hi Gwendolyn,
      I’m not familiar with the Miss Abby porcelain dolls (this site relates primarily to glass, not porcelain) but I would offer the same advice to you that I would to anyone else asking about values of various items considered to be “collectible”. Search http://www.ebay.com with relevant keywords that would be most likely to bring up such item listings, and search the “Completed Auctions” (actual ending prices) over a period of time, at least several weeks, to get an idea on what they are selling for in reality. The “Asking prices”, “Minimum bids”, or “But it now” prices are often WAY out of line, and may not give a remotely realistic view on the “true market value” of a particular item, which is why I always stress searching the Completed Auctions results.
      Hope this helps, and best regards,
      ~David

  13. Yogi Bear says:

    I came here as I found an old Avon bottle in a ’50s-’60s dump. I’m commenting because, if you want to know how to find what things really sell for on Ebay (you talked on Ebay here on this page,) then go to the upper right (on Desktop/laptop) of the screen and click “Advanced Search”, then type in what you’re looking for and go and click on “Sold Listings” so it produces a check mark there. You then hit “Search” and it takes you to sold listings, which show how much a piece or set actually went for. You can keep searching, till you want to change it back to “Title and Listing” or just hit exit and return. Or if you go to a place showing a listing still going. It’s very helpful in figuring out what a piece probably is worth, but there are outliers there for one reason or another. Just in case anyone wants to know. I learned this on the bottle forum I use.

    • David says:

      Thanks for the info! I might also add that you can “narrow down” the search by being creative with keywords…… try to think of possible keywords that a seller might have used in their auction subject heading. Also……… the “COMPLETED AUCTION” search on ebay doesn’t permit searching both title AND description (just the title only), so a search cannot be quite as thorough as in a “regular” search of current auctions.

All comments are moderated, so will not appear on this site immediately. Please, no posts asking about value of an item. I simply don't have the time, energy or knowledge to answer many of the questions submitted here. Some may be answered directly by email, others posted on the site. Thank you for your patience and understanding!

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