“Federal Law Forbids Sale or Reuse of this Bottle”


The “Federal Law Forbids Sale or Reuse of  this Bottle” marking was required on all liquor bottles sold within the United States that were made between 1935 and 1964.  However, I believe some bottles that date up to the early 1970s have also been seen with this warning embossed on them.

Since hundreds or thousands of bottle molds would have been in active use circa 1964 when the phrase requirement was phased out, it would have been highly expensive, time-consuming and basically pointless to re-tool all the molds to “erase” the warning, thus it is certain that some bottles continued to carry the phrase for some time after 1964.

Nevertheless,  it is still a fairly safe bet that most bottles with this marking do indeed date from that 29-year period. Huge numbers of all types and shapes of “spirits” flasks & cylinder-shaped (fifth) bottles (bourbon & scotch whiskey, gin, vermouth, vodka, etc, etc) were marked with this phrase.

This was done in an effort to discourage the re-use of empty bottles for bottling and selling homemade (that is, unregulated)  distilled liquor (“moonshine”),  the sale of which had became very common and widespread during the Prohibition era.

Many of these are ordinary “generic” glass bottles with nothing particularly unusual about them.   However, many of the bottles of this period are beautifully designed, with unusual and artistic shapes, designs, and raised graphics employed.  (Especially during the early part of the period) some of the bottles exhibit, to some degree, an “Art Deco” influence.

Many of them were especially designed to be saved and re-used as decanters or rather elaborately designed decorative bottles or vases. This was often done as a marketing campaign to promote the sale of alcoholic beverages.

The latter part of this period (especially during the 1950s and throughout the 1960s) the production of, and popularity of collecting, ceramic (and opaque glass) liquor containers (such as the Jim Beam bottles) was at it’s peak, and these containers are often seen with the “Federal Law forbids……” notation.   The world of modern Jim Beam decanter collecting is an entire world of bottle collecting in it’s own right; one site with more info would be  http://www.jimbeamclub.com/ .

The so-called “Jeannie Bottle” was a popular shape marketed by Beam and  produced in 1964.  Large numbers of liquor bottles with the “Federal Law Forbids….” marking were made by Owens-Illinois Glass Company,  Thatcher Glass Manufacturing Company,  Anchor Hocking Glass Corporation, and other bottle makers.

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26 Responses to “Federal Law Forbids Sale or Reuse of this Bottle”

  1. Alisha says:

    I’ve found a clear, glass bottle that I’d like to have more information on, if possible. It’s a half pint bottle (“half pint” embossed on top of bottle, next to neck). Hearts and vines/flowers cover the entire bottle. It has either an “I” inside of a circle or a “1” inside of a circle. It also has other numbers and letters on the bottom. Any information would be great! Thanks

  2. Jesus Jesse Brito Sr says:

    I have a bottle with Hires improved root beer. Bottom C 27. Manufactured by the Charles E. Hires CO. Philadelphia, PA U.S.A.

  3. Debbie says:

    Hi, I have an amber bottle approx 9″ tall, bottom is 5″ in dia. with top neck of 1 1/4″ dia. Cork top, not screw type. The “Federal Law Forbids” language is at the top of the 5″ dia. part of bottle.
    On the bottom of the bottle is: D 90, then under that is: 12 (A in wavy circle) 51, then under that is: .11 or .ll
    One side of the bottle (at the top) has a raised flat circle, approx. 1 1/2″ in dia.
    I would just like to know who made this bottle. Any help would be appreciated.

    • David says:

      Debbie, from the markings on the bottom, I believe your bottle was made by Armstrong Cork Company (Glass Division) in 1951. The “A in a circle” was their mark, and the “51” is a date code for 1951. They made a lot of amber bottles of various types.

  4. I have an old forester bottle. Clear glass, gold flaring cap, half way up the bottle the glass is protruded in a circle shape on all 4 sides. Its bottled in bond, 100 proof-4/5 quart. It has a state of ohio department oc liquor control sticker on it with the number 0506108 60. It has the federal law forbids saying on the bottom and also .64 59 on one bottom side and OlD l0 on the other.

    • David says:

      Hi Patrick,
      The only info I can pass along is the bottle was made by Owens-Illinois Glass Company, at their Alton, Illinois plant. The “64” is a liquor bottle permit number which was assigned to the Alton location, and the “59” is a date code for 1959, which is the year the bottle itself was made. I am suspecting the “60” in the long series of numerals might indicate the liquor was actually bottled in 1960?
      Best regards,

    • Keith Hickman says:

      I recently found a brown bottle from national distillers buried in my back yard . I would like to have it dated…. what are the steps in doing so?

  5. Leslie Burke says:

    How far back did liquor decanters ( glass or crystal) become the norm in the family household?

    • David says:

      I can’t say I can give you a definite answer. But may I make these observations, and they are to the best of my limited knowledge:
      1) Decanters (in GLASS) have been made since (I believe) at least the 1830s, perhaps long before? (Hopefully, someone who lands on this page can write and correct me with better, more detailed information!)
      2) Most older decanters, say pre-1880, were primarily used in commercial settings, such as taverns, bars, steamboats, hotels, inns and clubs. They were handmade, typically hand-blown, and expensive to make as well as purchase.
      3) Mass-manufactured glass decanters became very common and popular in the 1930s-1940s, and extending on into the 1970s, especially those which were originally sold with liquor in them (as ordinary bottles, sold retail in liquor stores etc) and which were often saved by the householder to be used AS a decanter (or vase). Lots of the cheapest type end up for sale in thrift shops and at flea markets.
      4) Many households never did (and still don’t) have decanters as part of their household furnishings. Why? Because they are non-drinkers. I have no idea what percentage of Americans do not have alcohol of any kind their homes, but I think it is a higher percentage than generally realized. In my opinion, having decanters never has been the “norm”, although as time has passed they have become much more common in homes, often used as an item of “decor”.

  6. Mike says:

    I found a bottle on the beach that has the federal law prohibits print and has the 4/5 quart at the bottom. On the bottom of the bottle it has St. Croix sugar cane industries. St. Croix VI. It has the number 1206 on the bottom along with ppg in the center of the bottom and on the left side of ppg is the number 5 and on the right side of ppg is the number 52. The bottle has a cork top and is clear glass.

  7. Hannah says:

    I found a dark amber colored bottle halfway burried under the ground, it was a long neck bottle and says federal law prohibits sale or reuse of this bottle and around the bottom it said 4/5 quart and the bottom of the bottle reads: Francisco Palau Cuba De Santiago with a compass imprinted on the middle…. does anyone know anything about This?

  8. Bruno says:

    i found a half pint (written down the side) bottle that has “Federal Law Prohibits Sale and Reuse of this Bottle in a diamond shape just below the neck and the serial number is r-126 (then it has a “s” enclosed in a circle) 31-6 , anyone have info on it?

  9. Gary says:

    So If a person has a bottle marked, “Federal law forbids sale or reuse of this bottle” and sells it to a collector friend of his on ebay will they see black suvs with 12 men in suits and dark sunglasses surround their house and arrest all members?

    • David says:

      Perhaps. But, then he or she will wake up and realize it was just a silly dream.
      Seriously, the marking served it’s purpose in years past when it was required on all liquor bottles, but no longer has any relevance in today’s world. The circumstances are completely different now, and the federal government has more important things to worry about.

      • chip says:

        i think that was meant to be a joke bud

        • David says:

          Of course you’re right. But that won’t stop me from replying with a bit of information, in case someone lands on the page and gets the wrong idea. In today’s world of ultra-political correctness, ya never know!

    • Deborah Taylor says:

      .. nahhh.. unless u down south making moonshine here

  10. Jeffrey birchfield says:

    I found and clear liquor bottle that has a date 1876 on bottom as well as a letter B with a circle around it. And on bottom it has D-1 then in left side of the circled B it has 129 then on other side it has 57. It also has a gold cap on top with the letters ND can anyone tell me anything bout this bottle. Also says federal law forbids sale or re-iae of this bottle

    • David says:

      Jeffrey, that’s a liquor bottle made by Brockway Glass Company, “57” is probably the date code for 1957. Also, see my page on the “Federal Law Forbid Sale or Reuse of this bottle” phrase.

  11. Nic Perrotta says:

    I found at an estate sale of a gentleman who worked in the liquor industry a great bottle of Esmeralda ANIS liqueur from Spain with a heavy diamond pattern and “FEDERAL LAW FORBIDS…” near the top of the wine bottle shaped vessel. The bottom reads, “MARTINI & ROSSI MADRID SPAIN” in a circle with a G inside a circle in the center.
    It is indeed from Spain, imported by Renfield Importers Ltd. New York, NY.
    So I imagine other countries also printed the Federal Law statement on exports.
    I searched the net and couldn’t find the same brand/type or the bottle.
    So that tells me it’s either very rare and valuable or more likely, collectors aren’t interested.
    On the other hand it was made by a relatively well known entity, Martini & Rossi (on the rocks. Say y-eh-eh-es.). Not that it really matters. I won’t sell it but any thoughts on value?

    • David says:

      Nic, I have no info on value. Search ebay over a period of several weeks or months with pertinant keywords, and check ending auction prices if any similar bottles should be listed there. Most of these relatively recent liquor bottles (especially mass-produced bottles from Europe) have little value to “hardcore” antique bottle collectors. However, every major brand usually has a few collectors who specialize in their products. Some types of recent liquor bottles have high demand if they are “special edition” , “commemorative” bottles and those are usually saved unopened as collector pieces. Example: CERTAIN Makers Mark whiskey bottles.

  12. Lakota says:

    hi I found an old liquor bottle with no label of where its from or who made it. All it has is a number on the bottom of the bottle. I know its a cork bottle because it doesn’t have threads on the top. It also has “federal law forbids sale or re-use of this bottle.” The number on the bottom is 3D7@12-42. If u could tell me how to find out more information and what its worth that would be great. Thanks a lot!


    • David says:

      Lakota, if there is an “A inside a circle” that would be a trademark/logo for Armstrong Cork Company, who made bottles as well as glass electrical insulators. The ’42’ is probably a date code for 1942. I don’t appraise bottles, but in general these might be considered “generic” liquor bottles which have very minimal value to bottle collectors.
      The more embossed wording (brand name, company, city, state, etc) or design elements there is on the face of a liquor bottle, the better.
      Most bottles with only a number or numbers on the base will have little monetary value. (Although any older bottle may have some value within a historical context, or perhaps have some sentimental value to the finder if found on property passed down within a family, or something of that nature). But I’m speaking of strictly monetary value to experienced bottle collectors.

  13. Adam says:

    It appears that Maraska Cherry Wine (product of Croatia) still carries this inscription on both the front and back of the bottle. I’m not sure why. You can see it clearly in this picture: http://www.wineintro.com/labels/croatia/maraska.jpg

    • David says:

      Hi Adam,
      Thanks for the information! I have no idea either. With the increasing popularity of the “green” movement, encouraging the re-use and recycling of glass, this warning would seem to be counterproductive, especially in Europe.
      The design of the bottle is vaguely reminiscent of some liquor flasks produced in the 1920s or ’30s in the US. There is a slight possibility that the Maraska bottle was designed after one of those, and the original mold was inscribed with the phrase………….but perhaps not. It would be interesting to see what company produces those bottles (assuming they carry a makers mark).
      Searching the Emhart punt marks database, I see one glass company listed in Croatia, Vetropak. http://katalog.vetropack.com/vetropack_b2c/b2c/start.do Of course there is no guarantee those bottles are made there. Anyway, interesting. THANKS for writing!

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