Send me an E-mail
(Please, no questions
 about value.)

Instructions for sending photographs of your pieces with your question.

Who was one of the most versatile artists of the Art Nouveau Movement?

Victor Horta
Vincent Van Gogh
Emile Gallé
                     To see the answer

Art Nouveau
by Uta Hasekamp

Art Nouveau was a phenomenon with many faces. Between 1890 and 1910, artists developed a variety of styles from the plant-like forms of the Belgian-French Art Nouveau to the ornamentation of the Viennese Secession. They were all striving to create a new, modern style and pursued a comprehensive renewal of art and, in some countries, a renewed national identity.

More Books


Art Nouveau—
Goodbye Art-Academy

Although the Art Nouveau style wasn’t around for a long time, its influence affected every form of art, from architecture to pottery to furniture design and even glass and pottery. This short video gives a brief overview of the Movement.

Click on the title to view.

And look for other videos in selected articles.

Have Bob speak
 on antiques to your group or organization.

More Information

Can't find what
 you're looking for?

Go to our Sitemap

Find out what's coming in the
2022 Summer Edition

of the

"Splendor in the Glass"


Share pages of this ezine with your friends using the buttons provided with each article.

Download our
Decorative Periods and Styles Chart

Read our newest glossary:

Antique Furniture Terminology
 from A to Z

courtesy of AntiquesWorldUK

Videos have
come to

The Antiques

Expand your antiques experience.

Look for videos
in various

Just click on the
arrow to play.

Featured Antique

La Plume Poster Alphonse Mucha

Collecting Pieces of the Medicine Show
by Bob Brooke


The practice of pharmacy has undergone tremendous changes since shelves held bottles filled with essential oils and crude drugs like arsenic, strychnine, creosote and chloroform. So why would anyone want to collect such things. For a small group of collectors, it’s a passion–pure and simple.

As national drug chains build cookie-cutter look-alike stores all across the nation, collectors and auctioneers are discovering unsold treasure from old pharmacies—prescription stock bottles, over-the-counter preparations, prescription records, stationery and other items dating as far back as the late19th century—hidden in basements or behind walls.

The Appeal of Old Medicines
Pharmaceutical collectors are especially captivated by patent medicines that predate the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act. Medicine at the turn of the 20th century could be deadly serious or a real hoot. The label of Eli Lilly's Elixir No.114 revealed its ingredients included belladonna, a poisonous plant of the nightshade family. The use of belladonna would have had a calming influence on the patient taking the elixir.

And let’s not forget such “miracle cures” as Becks Great Indian Liniment, guaranteed to cure headache, colic and cramps due to gas, coughs, colds and muscular pains. Medicine showmen, traveling around the country in elaborately painted wagons, made and distributed the majority of these magic elixirs during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Alcohol formed the base ingredient in most–Beck’s Liniment was 147 Proof–but many also contained opium and cocaine. The ingredients combined with the outrageous claims on the labels, led to the passing of the Pure Food and Drug Act.

What to Collect
Beginning collectors should educate themselves by looking for old medicines at antique shows, knowing the difference between medical antiques and pharmacy antiques, visiting pharmacy museums, reading drug store guides, and developing good relationships with dealers.

Collectors usually collect bottles made before 1920 for their shapes and those made after 1920 for what the bottle may have contained. For example, there’s a market for bottles containing substances with notoriety such as qualudes, which the government outlawed because of their abuse. A bottle that contained them is worth $15 to $50 for the nostalgic value alone.

Most highly prized are the apothecary bottles, especially those containing cocaine, opium, Spanish Fly, Cannabis and even embossed poison bottles with the skull and crossbones. Some people like to collect bottles from specific drug companies, perhaps ones they worked for, especially if the company is no longer in business like Powers & Weightman. Today, the DEA strictly controls the sale of many of these substances.

Collectors love to collect specific medicines, such as those used by women for cramps,. menstrual cramps, hot flashes, and sore breasts. Medical personnel often collect items related to their specific medical field. A respiratory therapist, for example, might collect items such as inhalers, vaporizers, and cough remedies. But patent medicines with interesting or graphic labels, as well as quack remedies or cures also intrigue collectors.

Civil War Era medicines and items are particularly hot with collectors. Dog and cat lovers like veterinary medications, especially those with a picture of a particular breed on the label. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, veterinary medicines were an integral part of a pharmacist’s inventory. More recently, veterinarians, themselves, dispensed them, but that’s changing and pharmacies are once again filling veterinarian prescriptions.

Collectors also gravitate towards the tools of the pharmacist’s trade, including tincture presses, ointment mills, mortar and pestles (especially with advertising on them], signs and advertising. Commemorative items, such as signs and tools with drug company names on them, are particular favorites.

People also collect items related to their town or particular companies, like Whitehall Tatum, which made bottles, labels, show globes and related glass items. But collectors should also be aware of any of the major companies that have roots in early pharmacy but are still operating today, such Merck and Co., Wyeth Labs, and Phizer Company.

Influences to the Collectible Medicine Market
The pharmacy market has been adversely affected by eBay and 911. Before 911, there was a good market for labels on apothecary bottles. Since 911, the price has gone down because there are so many offered on eBay. If it’s a controlled substance on the label, it’s highly collectible.

Generally pharmacy collectibles are hard to come by. While collectors will find the occasional item in antique shops, they’re more likely to find them at antique shows.

Since there are so many different items that are possible to collect in the pharmacy category, collectors should try to concentrate on collecting one or two types of items early on.

Currently, about the only collectors clubs that deal with pharmacy collectibles are bottle collectors’ groups.

To read more of my articles, please visit my Web site.

< Back to Collectibles Archives                                         Next Article >

Antiques Q&A

Antiques and More on

The Antiques Almanac on Facebook

No antiques or collectibles
are sold on this site.

How to Recognize and Refinish Antiques for Pleasure and Profit

Book: How to Recognizing and Refinishing Antiques for Pleasure and Profit
Have you ever bought an antique or collectible that was less than perfect and needed some TLC? Bob's new book offers tips and step-by- step instructions for simple maintenance and restoration of common antiques.

Read an Excerpt

Auction News
Get up to the minute news of antiques auctions around the country and the world.

Also see
The Auction Directory

Antiques News
Read breaking news stories from the world of antiques and collectibles.

Art Exhibitions
Search for art exhibitions in museums and galleries around the world.

Home | About This Site | Antiques | Collectibles | Antique Tips | Book Shop | Antique Trivia | Antique Spotlight | Antiques News  Special Features | Caring for Your Collections | Collecting | Readers Ask | Antiques Glossaries | Resources | Contact
Copyright ©2007-2019 by Bob Brooke Communications
Site design and development by BBC Web Services