My dad is a big whiskey and wine connoisseur… or at least he likes to think he is (please don’t tell him I said that). I noticed that he likes to keep all his old empty bottles - most of these even end up on display. Unopened bottles are kept in the cellar, because apparently light and heat can have a negative effect on the liquid. Empty bottles get pride of place on the kitchen counter. He also keeps the old corks, which he puts in a giant vase.
I used to think he was just a pack rat, or overly sentimental. Then I saw the going rate of empty bottles on eBay . An empty Star Wars bottle from the Skywalker Vineyards sold for $14.99. An old fire-damaged bottle of Chateauneuf-Du Pape from the 1990s sold $24.99. Remember, these are things that could have been thrown into the garbage.
Apparently, there’s a bit of money to be had with old wine bottles and corks. So I did some research and found two ways to make money: by selling notable bottles on eBay and by making bottle art and selling them on Etsy.
I’ll talk about these two methods in greater detail later. First, we need to discuss where to actually get bottles and corks.
Where to Get Empty Bottles
There are a lot of ways to get old bottles. The most common way is to call up friends and relatives and check if they have any old bottles lying around. You’ll be surprised by what you find. Most of my relatives have house bars, and as a result, lots of old, empty bottles.
You can also call up bars and restaurants in your vicinity. Empty bottles and cork are considered garbage. If they don’t have a recycling program, you’d be doing them a big favor by taking them off their hands.
Once you bring home your loot, be sure to clean them thoroughly. You wouldn’t want to send a bottle to a buyer if it contains mold or grime.
Selling Empty Bottles on eBay
There are basically two types of bottles you can sell: notable (or collectible) bottles, and regular bottles. Notable bottles used to contain notable wines, or came from notable vineyards. The two bottles I listed above are examples of these. Regular bottles used to contain your supermarket-variety wines.
Notable bottles should be sold as collectibles. To find out of your bottle falls in this category, Google the brand of the wine. If wine was sought-after, the empty bottle should fetch you a good price on eBay. Collectors and experts will be your target market.
Regular bottles should be sold as decoration or as an art medium. These bottles have no value beyond their physical appearance. Artists, interior decorators, or homemakers will be your target market for these.
Get the Bottles Up and Listed
As mentioned earlier, you need to do your research before setting your minimum bid or Buy It Now price. That also means looking for similar eBay listings. If you’re selling a notable bottle, you can increase the price a little bit, but try to keep the price enticing. As a general rule, notable bottles start at around $5, while regular bottles start at $.50. Corks start at $.10.
You’ll have lower profit margins with regular bottles. But since buyers of these bottles normally use them as art materials, I would suggest selling bottles in lots of three or five. That way you earn more per listing, and move your inventory faster.
Another reminder: be sure you label these bottles as Used or as-is, even if they’re in good shape.
Selling Upcycled Bottles and Corks on Etsy
Upcycling is the act of taking an object, usually something old and bound to be thrown away, and turning it into something new and awesome. If you’ve got some crafting skills or a creative flair, you can look into turning bottles and corks into works of art. You can, in theory, sell these on eBay as well, but Etsy would be the better place to do so. Etsy has cornered the market on people looking for handmade and upcycled products.
You can do so many things with bottles and corks: turn them into flower vases, paint them and turn them into home décor… you’re only limited by your imagination.
This largely depends on your skill level, quality of work, and demand. I would suggest you browse around Etsy to get a feel for where you are in terms of skill level, and how much people are charging for similar works.
The Verdict: Legit or Scam?
This is a legit way to earn some money selling stuff that would otherwise be sent to the landfill. It may look like trash, but there’s definitely a market for these. You just need to have a sharp eye for notable bottles, or have some artistic talents.
These two methods were how I made money with old wine bottles and corks. Have you done the same? Or maybe you’ve upcycled other items?
Let’s hear your stories!