Picking has taken on an all new meaning lately what with the rising popularity of television shows about the art, vintage shops with a remarkable array of treasures and online auctions at every turn. With renewed attention, picking is becoming a household word, with collectors and picking enthusiasts setting out each weekend in search of those one-of-a-kind items they want to add to their trove.
Local antique picker Jeff Mason has been in search of those unique treasures for the past 30 years and has an extensive collection of North Carolina milk bottles and vintage signs.
“I started collecting various things at an early age, but the day my uncle gave me a White House vinegar bottle, well that’s when the bug bit me to start searching for more bottles, Mason recalled. “I would drive to Daisy’s junk shop often to search for pieces to add to my collection. I bought a piece of pottery at the shop and to this day continue to pick local thrift stores, yard sales and live auctions.”
Mason started out collecting only eastern NC milk bottles, then quickly it turned to collecting milk bottles from all over the state. Bottles are valued by a number of factors, primarily rarity, crudity, color, and geographical location.
His collection includes vintage signs, NC pottery, old medicine bottles, as well as soda and milk bottles. He has over 900 milk bottles in his collections.
“The crown jewel of my collection is a bottle from Clinton Bottle Works. It is over a hundred years old. I do not sell any of my local pieces, they are for my own enjoyment,” shared Mason, pride evident in his voice.
“Sometimes I will buy an entire collection for one piece so that I can complete a set I have been searching for. What I love most is finding a long-lost treasure on a shelf or in the dust of an old barn.”
Mason attends several antique festivals a year and sets up shop to sell and trade his bottles. Twice a year he sets up a booth at the antique festival in Liberty and Cameron. He also attends eight bottle shows that are held throughout North Carolina.
Mason said regardless of what you might collect, it is often the thrill of the hunt that creates the most fulfilling part of getting the collection completed.
There will always be people who appreciate the fine craftsmanship and beauty contained in glass, he pointed out.
Mason shared, “During my down time, I am always looking for a new destination, for the next old barn, store or house to pick through.
Right now, Mason currently owns and operates Natural Art Enterprise in Clinton, but his heart is in the hunt.
“I am looking forward to the day I can pick full time,” he attested.