Thereâ€™s a reason Chuck, Tim and Stan Rash are known as the â€œBottle Brothers.â€
Go into Chuckâ€™s garage, and youâ€™ll find the walls covered with thousands of antique bottles. As if that wasnâ€™t enough, the brothers also have a shed full.
â€œWeâ€™re getting to the point where something is going to have to go,â€ Stan said.
The Bottle Brothers have been collecting bottles since the early â€™70s when Chuck was a teenager and his two little brothers tagged along on bottle-hunting expeditions.
â€œThey wanted to be like big brother,â€ Chuck said.
Now middle-aged, the men have formed the Piedmont Bottle Club. Membership spans from Lexington to Shelby and â€œeverywhere in between.â€
The club is ready to put on its first big event â€“ a free antique bottle and pottery show and sale. It will take place April 14 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the VFW on Country Club Road in Lincolnton.
A total of 35 tables have been sold to vendors. Featured in the show will be Paul Haynes displaying memorabilia from Haynes Dairy, John Pattersonâ€™s collection of North Carolina milk bottles, Reggie Lynchâ€™s display of North Carolina soda and whiskey bottles and, of course, the Bottle Brothersâ€™ collection.
There will also be a free appraisal table. For those who have an old bottle or piece of pottery collecting dust on their mantle, this is the place to find out what itâ€™s really worth.
Bottles range in price from $1 to thousands.
When it comes to their collection of thousands of bottles, the Bottle Brothers have bought some at shows and dug others up from the ground.
The treasure hunt is the most fun, they say. When looking through gullies and outhouse holes, theyâ€™ve found bottles worth hundreds of dollars.
â€œA lot of people think youâ€™re crazy â€“ youâ€™re out digging in the trash,â€ Stan said.
Getting dirty, however, is part of the fun. The three brothers have collected other things over the years, but nothing compares to bottles.
â€œWe started collecting ash trays and certain shaped rocks and shoe strings,â€ Stand said.
They went through a baseball card phase as well, but eventually got over it.
â€œYou canâ€™t play in the dirt,â€ Stan said. â€œYou canâ€™t dig up baseball cards.â€
Besides enjoying the hunt, the brothers also appreciate the history of the bottles.
â€œEvery bottle, it just tells a story,â€ Chuck said.
In the early 1900s, there were four different bottling companies in Lincolnton. The men have developed quite a collection of local bottles.
They all have their favorites. Stan likes bottles from the golden age of advertising â€“ brightly colored ones that have sayings on the back like â€œMake mine a Spiffy â€“ itâ€™s a swell cola drink.â€
â€œItâ€™s like an art,â€ Stan said. â€œToday, itâ€™s just an old plastic bottle â€“ no character about it.â€
His brother, Tim, has a different preference.
â€œI like the painted label, but I like the embossed more,â€ he said.
Besides soda bottles, the three brothers have poison bottles, whiskey bottles and milk bottles bottled by Coors Company during Prohibition.
When they meet with the Piedmont Bottle Club, the men talk about recent finds and trade with each other. One member even showed off a bottle worth $4,000.
â€œThe wives donâ€™t want to talk about them, so we get a bunch of men together,â€ Chuck said.
Those interested in joining the club should call (704) 732-0373.
Want to go? The Piedmont Bottle Clubâ€™s Antique Bottle and Pottery Show and Sale will take place Saturday, April 14 at the VFW on Country Club Road in Lincolnton. The event runs form 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is free and open to the public. For more information or to reserve a table, call (704) 732-0373.
by Sarah Grano