Recently I received an email from Bob Moore, Vice-President of the VBCA. The message was of extreme importance: "Would the bottle be 7-1/4" tall and have a 'D' on the bottom?"
In case you're wondering, the VBCA is the Violin Bottle Collectors Association. The reason its vice-president contacted me is that I recently took a brave step into the other side of eBay -- selling. One of my listings was an aqua violin-shaped bottle with a tarnished metal hanger I'd picked up in a little antique shop several years ago.
Bob's email was a little spooky. He seemed to have intimate knowledge of my bottle, as though he'd seen, like those people on T.V. when I was a kid, right through my computer. Gingerly, I picked up my bottle and looked at the base (yes, there was the "D"!). Then I got out the ruler and measured (7-1/4", just as he'd said!).
I sent him an email back, confirming his suspicions, wondering if a 7-1/4"-tall violin bottle with a "D" was a good thing, or if Bob was basically trying to say, "Hey, Lady, get your piece of junk off eBay!"
Bob promptly replied: "The bottle just looked like a Dell small violin, what we collectors call a SV2."
Hm. So what I had was an SV2. Wow. An SV2! But what exactly did that mean? I emailed Bob again. Now the VBCA's mysterious vice-president began to talk: "The Dell small violin bottle in aqua is common compared to the other two categories of SV's ... the SV2 was made by Dell Glass Works of Millville, NJ."
New Jersey, huh? Now I was becoming a little curious. I let it go for a few days, then realized I'd forgotten to ask Bob when these violin bottles were made. I emailed him yet again.
"The Dell SV's," said Bob, "were made in the forties and fifties ... sold as a decorative gift item ... meant to hang on the wall and most folks planted ivy in them and let it grow all around the kitchen. If you could find a Sears catalogue from that time period they'd be there."
Well, now that was interesting. So my bottle had hung in someone's kitchen once, someone not unlike my mom, I imagined, smiling in her crisp, flowered apron and neatly sprayed hairstyle. I began to feel a little guilty for putting my bottle up for sale, for never having paid any attention to it, to feel a growing fondness for what I'd always considered the tacky outcast of my bottle collection. It really was kind of pretty after all, and wouldn't my daughter enjoy it when she was older....
I checked my auction: no bids yet. Then I did a Google search for violin bottles and found the VBCA's website, where I secretly scrolled through images of violin bottles, or "viobots," in amber, green, and purple, luminous as Jolly Rancher candies, hearing all the while Bob's prompting from one of his emails: "You might want to give some thought about getting into viobots. They are inexpensive so far, and very colorful!"
But I wasn't ready yet to collect, to display my VBCA membership card proudly next to my driver's license, to become "one of them."
Still, that night I lay in bed with a gnawing worry. What if someone bid on my bottle? What if I was really meant to keep it? (Hadn't I always loved violin music?) What if my sweet, common little SV2 would soon be in a stranger's kitchen, hanging there on a strange nail in a strange new place, wondering where I was?
I couldn't take it anymore. In the morning, a day left to go on my auction, I did it. A few clicks of the mouse and the auction was ended. The viobot was still mine....
I'm still resistant to the idea of collecting violin bottles, but I do seem to be noticing them more and more on eBay. And I'm looking for a nice place to hang the one I've got, the one that almost got away. Bob's aura hovers around it now, and when I pick it up curiously I can hear him whisper: "That curiosity will turn into a collection, Elise. That's what happened to me...."
published in the Hometown Herald Spring 2004