Bottle collection a 40-year passion for New Plymouth builder

New Plymouth builder Vaughan Morresey is passionate about history, a love which began as a small child.
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ

New Plymouth builder Vaughan Morresey is passionate about history, a love which began as a small child.

Hundreds of years of history sit on shelves in Vaughan Morresey's home.

Glass bottles of different hues and design are the 53-year-old's pride and joy, a hobby he is unashamedly passionate about.

Morresey says his love of collecting old bottles began as a youngster in Stratford, when he dug up his first specimen.

Vaughan Morresey reckons his bottle collection is worth about $20,000.
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ

Vaughan Morresey reckons his bottle collection is worth about $20,000.

"I just got the bug from there."

READ MORE:
Water bottles a 'classroom disruption'
Bottles recovered after wine library burglary stored well in Marlborough
* 'Bottle-flip' craze has parents flipping out
Refunds promoted for empty bottles
Two bottles with messages inside wash up in Whangarei Harbour

"I'm a treasure hunter at heart," he says.

Vaughan Morresey shows off one of the items in his prized collection, a stone-made ginger beer bottle it took him five ...
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ

Vaughan Morresey shows off one of the items in his prized collection, a stone-made ginger beer bottle it took him five years to acquire.

Years ago, Morresey had a "massive" collection but it was decimated after a burglar fleeced him of some of his bottles and smashed the rest.

It put his collection back to square one.

Now, Morresey sources bottles from around the globe, but the ones which matter the most to him are the Taranaki finds.

Vaughan Morresey's bottles include "quack cures" for ailments like diabetes.
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ

Vaughan Morresey's bottles include "quack cures" for ailments like diabetes.

"I'm just trying to get a good Taranaki collection together." 

"Taranaki is a good place for digging, it's got a lot of history here," he says.

While he boasts a much more modest collection now, for Morresey the focus is on quality, not quantity.

Vaughan Morresey consults a book all about different styles of bottles which are known to exist in the world.
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ

Vaughan Morresey consults a book all about different styles of bottles which are known to exist in the world.

"Some collectors you go to just have wall to wall bottles.  I've been there, done that," he says.

His bottles line the mantelpiece, shelves and along the windowsill of his New Plymouth home.

Its there where the greens, blues and browns of the glass act like prisms when the light shines through.

This simple beauty is one thing Morresey's loves but the story behind the bottle and how its gets into his set is what excites him.

Any bottle that's chosen off the shelf, he can tell "one helluva story" about.

Take the stone-made, ginger beer bottle Morresey has had on his wish list for 30 years.  

One now sits pride of place in his home, his reward after a five year pursuit of the bottle's previous owner.

Morresey says he tapped the man on the shoulder every chance he got until the day the bottle owner turned up to his house and offered them up.  He kept one and used the other to trade for another bottle.

This anecdote highlights how important personal relationships and networks play in the bottle trading world.

Money is one asset but if someone doesn't like you, they won't sell you a thing, Morresey says.

As a builder, Morresey has been able to dig at construction sites.  His latest find is a small blue bottle from Teed & Co, a piece he values at $1500.

But while he believes his entire collection is worth $20,000, money rarely comes into the equation.

"I could fall in love with a $5 bottle," he says.

It is a global love affair too, Morresey says. 

"It's massive, it's a world wide thing."

"I've got friends with million dollar collection on their shelves," he says.

But the ability for some collectors to pay top dollar is one reason why Taranaki collectors are so keen to keep their finds in the province.

"A lot of collectors hate for them to go out of the province, because you'll never get them back," he says.

For his own assortment, Morresey is always on the look out for new bottles.

He says he has enlisted the help of fellow builders and plumbers who visit sites and might come across abandoned artefacts. 

"I'm in their ear and got them on the look out," he says.

Morresey quips there's even a bit of friendly competition among the tradies to see who can "get one on my shelf".

There is always the chance of stumbling across the "one bottle nobody's seen" as well, he says.

"That's the beauty of them, you'll never get one the same."

 - Stuff

Ad Feedback
special offers
Ad Feedback