How to date a buchan bottle

Updated February 21, 2017

Finding and collecting particular kinds of antique bottles is a fascinating hobby, and because it focuses on only a few items, it helps the collector to stay disciplined instead of drifting off to collect dozens of others. Not only is a particular container challenging, but restricting the collection to one manufacturer is even more focused. The Buchan company of Portobello, Scotland, was founded under another name in 1770 and made only bone china. In 1867 A.W. Buchan bought the company, gave it his name, and produced pottery, stoneware and earthenware bottles by the thousands.

Eliminate any clear glass bottles from the search for Buchan bottles. They did not produce clear glass at any time. Include pottery jugs in a collection of Buchan bottles for they made a number of jugs with spouts, handles and stoppers intended for the storage of liquids like oil or liquor. A Buchan bottle may be stamped with the intended contents on the outside or it may be left unmarked.

Identify the appearance of a Buchan bottle or jug by colour and size. Internet sites maintained by collectors often feature good, colour photos which help with identification. Early bottles intended for beer or ginger beer are nearly always limited to the combination of cream and tan colour plus a few solid brown items. They sometimes still have the wire and cork closure attached, but they will always have a bulging top with indentations for securing the wire. A bottle with screw threads around the top is definitely from a later period.

Examine the underside of any bottle appearing to fit the descriptions. Beginning in 1877, the bottles were marked on the bottom with an impressed star and the name of the pottery. Beginning around the turn of the century, the mark changed to an impressed thistle and the word Buchan. Later bottles were more likely to be embossed with raised letters, BUCHAN. Bottles with no marks at all could have been made before 1877, but verifying their age would require finding a similar bottle whose age has been researched by identifying some other marks.

Study any printing on a Buchan bottle. They were often prominently marked for advertising the product inside. Printing is likely to be all black and may include what were early logos like bicycles or boats. Knowing the name of the product or of the company will greatly aid in identifying the age of the bottle because many of the products, like the popular ginger beer, were produced only regionally and for relatively short periods of time.

Things You'll Need

  • Stoneware bottles
  • Photos of Buchan bottles
  • Internet access
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About the Author

Karen W. Waggoner is a retired teacher and lifetime scribbler. She has published short stories, essays in anthologies and periodicals. Waggoner is the author of the memoir, "On My Honor, A Navy Wife’s Vietnam War." She is a graduate of Stetson University, the University of Connecticut and Christian College for Women.