By STEVE HATHCOCK
Special to the PRESS
“Mister Hathcock,” the email started, “I am writing to you, in the hopes you may be able to tell me something about a bottle we found, while walking along the beach on South Padre Island last summer. It is amber colored with an embossed message that reads as follows: “1759-1959 Special bottle drop, (Atlantic Ocean) to celebrate and commemorate Guinness bicentenary 1959.” The bottle cap is very rusty, but intact. Inside, are a couple of pieces of rolled up paper. I have shown the bottle to several collectors who all agree, I should not open the bottle until I can find out a little more about its origin and present value. Can you tell me anything about the bottle?
First off, congratulations on both your find and the scope of your self-discipline in resisting the urge to open the bottle and read its contents. A friend of mine, Rod Bates, of Port Isabel, found a bottle like yours in the 1970s. He remembers seeing several opened bottles that summer. Though he had not made copies, he was able to recall the message invited the lucky finder to, “try a bottle of Guinness Stout.”
As to the value of the bottle?
I emailed Mike Peterson, a collector friend of mine from Great Britain, who specializes in beer memorabilia.
Here is what he had to say:
“Hello Steve, This is a nice item and quite scarce. On no account should it be opened as this will reduce the value considerably. During the summer of 1959, the good folk of Guinness Beers dropped almost 4,000 cases of specially embossed and sealed bottles into the Atlantic. The ocean currents carried many of the bottles to their intended targets along the Eastern Seaboard. Lucky beachcombers reported finding bottles as far south as Florida and northward into Canada. Each contained several pieces of paper including a rolled up scroll with a message from “The office of King Neptune”, a letter, a gold label and instructions on how to make the bottle into a table lamp.
Lately, I have been hearing from other beachcombers who are finding the bottles in the last several months.
“Apparently, many of the bottles drifted north where they became trapped in ice floes near the Arctic. Recent thawing of the ice pack has released them. They are quite rare here in the U.K. and I would estimate their current worth, unopened, at around $150.00 in U.S. dollars.”
Mike was kind enough to email me a copy of the scroll, which is quite large and ornate, while Rod Bates has graciously donated his unopened bottle to our Historical Museum of South Padre Island.
Editor’s Note: In the future, the Historical Museum will build a special display highlighting not only the Guinness, but several dozen other bottles containing messages that have been found on the shores of South Padre Island.
To view our current museum displays please visit the South Padre Island Visitors Center located at 610 Padre Blvd. Open 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily and 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. weekends. Closed on holidays.
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