The Easter holidays had a group of enthusiastic collectors from as far away as the Falkland Islands meet at the Expressions Arts and Entertainment Centre in Upper Hutt for the 44th National Bottle and Collectables Show.
The event, organised by Paraparaumu collector Dave Smithson and the Wellington Antique Bottle and Collectables Club, started on Good Friday afternoon. The hall opened just for collectors to set up the venue, their exhibits and sales tables.
By early evening everyone had made their way to the Cosmopolitan Club where the Kiwi Auctions event was to take place. The star of this show was a ceramic toothpaste lid from the chemist Stephen Gilbert of Auckland which featured a pictorial transfer of a tattooed Maori head and was expected to reach a very high price.
Three hundred and sixty-six lots were to be sold by auctioneer Warren Roberts.
A two-gallon stone jar from Masterton’s Burridge Brewery was one of the first. Burridge operated from 1898 through to 1954 and was unique because for the majority of its existence, Masterton was dry. They could brew beer in the district but could not sell it. This jar was sold for a very modest price which paled in comparison to the Gilbert lid which eventually sold for more than $21,000.
The Expressions Hall opened on Saturday morning at 6.30am for further set up and allowed for sales and trades among the collectors.
A few Wairarapa items were available, including two scarce chemist bottles.
One was from the Masterton chemist Herbert Theodore Wood who had taken over his brother’s Queen Street pharmacy in 1898 and the other was from William Henry Toohill, who had a shop in Eketahuna that he established in 1905. Toohill had previously served as a dispenser in the army during the South African War.
By 10am everything was ready and the doors opened to the public. The numerous exhibitions had collectors competing in 70 different categories including one for junior collectors under the age of 16.
The displays were amazing with a huge range of bottle types in every variety of colour. The exhibits weren’t just restricted to bottles either with tins, toys, telephones, New Zealand pottery and bottle-themed books all having separate displays.
Greytown collector Gary Hall entered a fantastic collection of 15 different bottles and containers all from Wairarapa, which included some real rarities.
These included a green soda syphon from Masterton cordial maker Boustridge and Cottle, a marble-stoppered bottle made from two different colours of glass from J Fuller of Greytown, a rare Lamont’s Patent from Frank Pelling who opened a factory in Kuripuni in 1882 and a ceramic toothpaste lid from chemist Herbert Wood.
Judging of the exhibits started at 11am and continued over the course of the day. In the meantime, public and collectors perused the exhibits and sales tables and some real gems were bought and sold. This included a vintage Coca-Cola bottle that was recovered from the sea off Vanuatu, one of hundreds left behind by American servicemen stationed there during World War II.
By 5pm the hall had closed and a dinner was held at the Cosmopolitan Club ahead of the prizegiving. Hall’s Wairarapa bottles came second in his category of bottles and containers from one New Zealand town or district. The judges would have had a hard time deciding on their choices as the quality of the exhibits was fantastic
Sunday was the final day of the show, and many of the displays now had coloured ribbons laid on them indicating category winners.
Just after lunch on the third day the numbers of visitors had started to dwindle and the long process of packing up began. By 5.30pm the hall was empty and the 44th National Show, deemed a great success, had come to an end. Dave and the Wellington Club should feel proud of what they were able to accomplish.
The 45th National Show is scheduled to take place in Tauranga in March and will be hosted by the Auckland Historical Bottle and Collectables Club. Who knows what treasures will be on display and up for sale? We will just have to wait 11 months to find out.