By Steve Hathcock
Special to the PARADE
Every once in a while I will get an email from someone asking me for help in identifying something they found while exploring our Island. “Mister Hathcock,” the email started, “I am writing to you, about a
bottle we found in a wash-out area about 12 miles north of the city limits of South Padre Island. It is amber colored and the lettering on the bottle that has the words “1759-1959 Special bottle drop -Atlantic
Ocean to celebrate and commemorate Guinness bicentenary 1959.” Inside are pieces of paper that have become water logged due to the cap having a hole in it (from the rust?). Can you tell me anything about the bottle? Christina H.
First off, congratulations on your find! A friend of mine, Rod Bates, of Port Isabel, found a bottle like yours (with an intact cap) in the 1970s. As a collector of the rare and unusual he knew not to open it
until he found out more about it. He does remember 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
As to the value of the bottle? A few years back I e-mailed Mike Peterson, a collector friend of mine
from Great Britain, who specializes in beer memorabilia. He told me how during the summer of 1959, the good folk of Guinness Beers dropped almost 4000 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 UK and I would estimate their current worth, unopened, at around $450 in U.S. dollars while an opened one is worth around $60” 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, whose displays are currently in storage, 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.