Bottle show now the East's largest

March 05, 1998|By James Bready | James Bready,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Andy Agnew is a bottle collector, not a theologian. But he has an irrefutable definition for the term Seventh Heaven. After six years of being co-chairman of the Baltimore Antique Bottle Club's annual show and sale, on Sunday he'll be there as an ordinary mortal.

After all the responsibility, the going from slip-up to personality clash to crisis, on this year's great day -- at Essex Community College Athletic Center -- he'll go from bottle to bottle.

He'll have a chance at some of the good stuff.

Obviously Agnew -- a 36-year-old, Virginia-born government chemist -- is a patient man. He also has his own definition of good stuff.

"Most of us concentrate on local bottles, in a single category," says Jim Choplick, club president. "One guy has 100 embossed local beers, all different; another guy has 200, but maybe they're scruffier.

"Andy's a generalist. What he goes after is a single, outstanding beer. And a superb example of flask, jar, ink, bitters, medicine, figural, soda, nurser, gin, poison, milk, spring water, barber, whimsy and so on, from anywhere in the country.

"An expensive idea, if you're in a rush," Choplick says. "But you should see the pontilled olive-green pineapple bitters that Andy nabbed last year at a Frederick auction, at a tenth of its value."

You also have to know your way around in the many bottle reference books. Sunday at 8 a.m., when the doors open for what has come to be the East Coast's largest annual indoor bottle show, the bottle library will increase by one: "Baltimore Bottle Book," edited by Dr. William A. Andersen and published by the local club; a softbound, first-ever listing and description of the 2,500 or so known, embossed, old-time, Baltimore-area bottles. Show day only, the price is $15. Next day, $18, if any copies (of 150) remain.

Will books run out? Will the food be enough? Will weather force one or more of the 158 dealers from across the country (two from England) to cancel, setting off a scramble among other dealers to spread out over the vacancies, among Essex's 231 tables? Will one or more dealers turn out to have brought reproductions or other junk?

That's for Rick Lease to worry about, as show chairman; and Greg Warren, the bottle club's replacement official handling dealer reservations.

Don't try to dump your problem on the fellow over there in Aisle H -- that one, holding an amber, handled Griffith & Hyatt up to the light. Andy Agnew's blissed out.

Pub Date: 3/05/98

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