AVON FIGURAL BOTTLES
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. 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” , 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. 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.
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 earlier 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.
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.
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!
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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