Collecting, cleaning, displaying, researching, and appreciating TRIVETS and related go-withs!
The last time I blogged about Sprinkler Bottles was back in February 2016. Since then my collection has grown and I’ve learned even more about them; so it’s time for an update.
Before steam irons were available, sprinkling water onto fabric prior to ironing helped to release the wrinkles. Many ceramic sprinkler bottles date from the late 1920s through the 1930s, making them true depression-era collectibles. Others were manufactured in the 1940s to early 1950s. By the late 1950s consumers began purchasing steam irons; of the few sprinkler bottles still being made, most were of plastic. Metal or plastic laundry sprinkler tops were also available ~ just push one into a soda pop bottle for an instant sprinkler bottle!
Sprinkler bottles are interesting to collect and come in a variety of designs. I’ve only found a few references; they’re pictured above and listed below. Learning as much as possible about sprinkler bottles is important; it will help you avoid fantasy bottles, poor quality reproductions and bottles that began life as something else ~ such as a liquor bottle or cruet.
The second edition of Collectibles for the Kitchen, Bath & Beyond by Krause Publications (softbound, 2001) contains the most information in one place ~ a 22 page illustrated chapter detailing the most collectible ceramic, plastic and glass sprinkler bottles.
These three magazines have useful articles; I found my copies on eBay.
● Summer 1994: “Damp It!” by Carol & Jimmy Walker; American Country Collectibles
● Fall 1996: “Figural Sprinkler Bottles” by Cathy Cook; Flea Market Finds
● August 2010: “Ceramics by the California Cleminsons” by Donald-Brian Johnson; Antiques and Collecting Magazine
And in these two issues of Iron Talk Journal the Walkers discussed sprinkler bottles.
● March/April 1997: “Not Quite Sprinklers ~ Imposters and Pretenders”
● July/August 1998: “Clothes Sprinklers ~ Special Single Subject Issue”
Sprinkler bottles can be challenging to acquire due to their scarcity. Fragile and used weekly for laundry, most met their inevitable demise and were then discarded, leaving few behind as collectibles. But I’m fortunate because, through membership in Pressing Iron and Trivet Collectors of America (PITCA), I met Jerry Marcus, a very experienced and prolific collector. Jerry sold me a Turquoise Clothespin sprinkler bottle back in 2011 and from that day forward I was hooked.
Jerry Marcus brought some great sprinkler bottles for sale!
Each year Jerry brings an assortment of sprinkler bottles to the annual PITCA Convention, enticing fellow members to add “just one or two more” to their collections. Searching out unusual sprinklers, in nice condition with minimal crazing, can be frustrating. But fortunately Jerry seems to know what we need and always brings a tempting selection to pick from, at a fair price. I recently purchased two wonderful bottles from him at the 2018 convention; you can see them in the Gallery.
Condition, as with any collectible, will affect value. Age related crazing (see above) is to be expected in vintage ceramics; try to select sprinkler bottles with as little crazing as possible and upgrade as the opportunity arises. Avoid sprinklers with cracks or chips, as those defects can devalue them. Be on the lookout for sprinkler bottles that are signed and/or still have the original foil label or hang tag; those are the most valuable and desirable.
Good Luck and Happy Collecting! Other blog posts on sprinkler bottles:
I frequently get emails asking for the current value of sprinkler bottles.
For current prices realized, check under Advanced/Sold on eBay and under Price Results on LiveAuctioneers. Note the design and quality of the bottles being offered and compare that to yours.
While many fear the preservation of Black Americana serves to prolong racist prejudices, others collect these objects to ensure that America’s troubled past isn’t forgotten by future generations. In the words of David Pilgrim, founder of the Jim Crow Museum at Ferris State University in Michigan, “Use items of intolerance to teach tolerance.” The discussion continues at Collectors Weekly Black Memorabilia.
The ceramic bottles in my collection vary in height from 6″ to 9″ and are a good representation of the types of bottles you’re most likely to see. Clicking the first image will open a Slideshow. There are controls at the bottom of each screen to enlarge the image to full resolution. Click again (+) to zoom in.