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Anyone with an interest in old bottles is in for a rare treat this Saturday, March 14, when Cairns Museum hosts an afternoon with antique bottle collector Brad Brown.


The first 10 to book a ticket are invited to bring along a bottle for appraisal and guide to its possible value, and to learn about what to look for in old bottles.

“Never turn a blind eye on a coloured old bottle because it may be particularly special,” Mr Brown said.

“There are some real rarities out there like the Hodgkiss soda water bottle, which was made in Cairns for a while in the 1880s.”

Mr Brown has been collecting bottles for more than 40 years and helped Cairns Museum curate its own collection for public display.

“It was an absolute privilege to help sort out Cairns Museum’s bottle collection a few years ago and now I consider it our (people of the region) collection,” Mr Brown said.

He plans to also bring some bottles from his own collection to the presentation, his first for the Museum.

“It’s just sharing a passion for the old relics, really,” he said.  He believes his oldest bottle, a Roman Tear Bottle excavated in Italy, is 2000 years old and was a gift from a friend on his 21st birthday.

“Tear bottles were apparently used to catch the tears of the widow at her husband’s funeral. I believe I can see the glassmaker’s fingerprint on this bottle so for me it is about holding true history in your hands.

”Bring along your favourite piece – and not boxes of them please – and I will be very happy to give you an appraisal on whether it’s a rarity or just a lovely presentation piece.”

Suzanne Gibson, manager of Cairns Museum, said bottles were one of the items Cairns Museum was most often asked to identify.

As a heritage organisation, we ask people not to remove bottles from heritage sites but most locals dig the bottles up in their gardens or find them under the house and want to know about the manufacturer, what they were used for and the age and value of the bottle,” Ms Gibson said.

“Brad is our ‘go-to’ guy on bottles and he has generously agreed to share his knowledge for a special afternoon at the Museum on Saturday.”

Mr Brown said generally brown and clear bottles were from the modern era.

“There are three things you need to know about finding a true treasure. Usually it is heavy glass with air bubbles, embossed writing with a pictorial trademark, and the colour. If it is a beautiful clear or green glass or deep blue, cobalt blue, then you are on to a winner.

“Especially if it has that trademark and is in perfect condition – no chips, no cracks – this is what to look for,” he said.

The presentation will run at the Cairns Museum in the School of Arts building on the corner of Lake and Shields streets, from 2pm to 4.30pm.

Places are limited. Entry is free to Cairns Museum members and to non-members who have paid for Museum entry.

Places can be booked here:

Cairns Museum may be contacted on 4051 5582 or email

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