Cash and Treasures, as mentioned in a previous post, is a Travel Channel show that features kid friendly places. Host Kirsten Gum, an engaging sort, heads to where you can dig up treasure with or without kids.
Episode: Digging for antique bottles
What are they? Antique bottles. As in bottles. As in antiques. As in old.
Location: Gum headed to the Sacramento Valley in California, however, you can dig for antique bottles anywhere people lived years and years ago. You have to promise not to go all shovel happy, though. There are rules involved for where and how you go rooting around.
The Sacramento Valley offers promise for good digs because of the influx of people who settled here after gold was discovered in 1848. To find bottles, you have to find an outhouse. People used to throw out their trash down the holes. These days, the holes are often buried, and in this case, under a parking lot outside a store.
Gum asked the owner if she, along with Lou Lampert an antique bottle expert, could dig through the asphalt if they put it back the way they found it. This was more than a day process. By the time they were done, they were 12-feet down. The dig, hat involved specialized tools and a backhoe, was worth the trouble. The uncovered treasure included a still full champagne bottle, an embossed cobalt blue bottle (Gum’s favorite), an ale bottle, and a late Civil War era gin bottle–all dating between 1860 and 1880.
Antique bottle digging probably won’t make you a fortune, but it’s fascinating. As Lampert and Gum pointed out, you can learn a lot from people’s trash. For example, one bottle once contained Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup for teething babies.
To find places to dig, look at old parcel maps that can be found at libraries, museums, historical societies and on-line. Once you locate a place to dig, make sure you ask for permission, and be careful. The full champagne bottle broke which Lampert said may have been caused by the change in air temperature when the bottle was brought from the hole to the surface.
For more tips on digging for bottles, check out Gum’s blog. The backhoe was to speed things up. You could do a dig without one, I think.