Before becoming an auctioneer, I had no idea the huge variety of items people collect and consider valuable. Vintage perfume bottles is a category I would never have suspected to be valuable.
But we regularly sell beautiful vintage perfume bottles worth hundreds of dollars or more. In fact, we sold an Art Deco Bohemian Czech perfume bottle made of malachite, a vibrant green crystal, a couple years ago for $1,000.
Beautiful colored perfume bottles from the 1920s can even be worth as much as $20,000 or more.
Before you begin a mad dash to the bathroom to grab your, or your wife’s, outdated perfume, I should explain what vintage perfume bottles are and are not.
By vintage perfume, I do not mean the bottle of Calvin Klein Obsession from 1985 you may, or may not, still have somewhere in the back of your bathroom cabinet. Although, surprisingly, there is a market for unopened perfumes from the 1980s that have been discontinued.
People get attached to their favorite scent and, if it’s no longer in production, may now be willing to pay $100-$150 for a perfume you paid $20 for in the early ’80s.
But the bottles I’m referencing are beautiful works of art. Many people have these perfume bottles in their homes, or inherit them from their mother or grandmother, without realizing what they are worth.
Some of the most valuable bottles that come through our auction house were made by Lalique, Baccarat and DeVilbiss.
Collectable perfume bottles are typically made of glass or crystal, although they can occasionally be metal or plastic. They feature a base and stopper that are usually made from the same material.
The bottles can be filled and re-filled with fragrance. Many of them were originally sold empty so customers could add their own favorite scent to the bottle.
To apply the fragrance, one would tip the bottle to add perfume to the stopper and then use the stopper to dab the perfume onto their skin. Later models, especially those made by DeVilbiss, have an atomizer so you can spray the perfume.
How do you know if your perfume bottle could be valuable?
In general, fancier shaped bottles and more colorful ones are likely to fetch a higher price at auction. Many times, bottles made in Czechoslovakia – especially those made with malachite – are more likely to be valuable.
Check the bottom or the lip of the bottle for a stamp showing who made the bottle. If you have a bottle made by Lalique, Baccarat or DeVilbiss, it’s definitely worth getting the bottle appraised.
Even if you can’t find the maker of the bottle, if it is particularly unique or beautiful, we recommend consulting with a certified appraiser or taking advantage of a free appraisal fair. You don’t want to throw away or donate a bottle that could be worth thousands.
Erik Hoyer owns EJ’s Auction & Appraisal in Glendale.