Tour Company Stuff, New Podcast Recommendations, WM 31, Star Trek, Musings

I haven’t written anything in a couple of months now, which is hurting my mission of this blog being the first thing that comes up when you Google my very unique name. I’ve still got to chase Spokeo and Quirky off of the first page of results, but that will come. I will take this opportunity to update y’all on happenings with the tour business (why I’ve been so busy), My Wrestlemania 31 predictions, some cool new Podcasts that I’ve been getting into, and pretty much just muse about stuff that I’ve been thinking about.

DSC01521Big Things For the Tour Guys

Big things going on for me with the Richmond Tour Guys. First off, tour season has restarted! I finally get to give tours again. I’ve even brought on 2 guides so I can have some weekends off occasionally. One of them is a recent VCU Grad with a degree in History and the other is long time Church Hill (the oldest neighborhood in Richmond) resident who will be doing 2 tours of Church Hill per month.

That reminds me, I have added a tour of Church Hill which will take place on Saturdays at 3:30 PM and Thursday evenings at 5:00 PM. I’m very excited for these as Church Hill has so much rich history share and the tour ends around a pub, so I may be able to have a pint or two with some of the more interesting tour attendees.

I was also contacted by Taylor’s Classic Travels that has a trolley that they rent out for private events, wine tours, brewery tours, and weddings. They have been hired by The Brownstone and Butler’s Unique Catering to do a tour of Church Hill and are using me to guide the tours. I’m very excited to make this connection and work with Terra and Joe.

If you want to buy tickets to this all-you-can-eat brunch, ride a trolley, and witness me blow your mind with my awesome tour guiding, the link is here.

After I get back from visiting family and friends on the West Coast in June, I’m going to start charging for tours and see if this has legs as a full-fledged business. So if you want to come on the free tour, get it while it lasts!

I’ve also had a ton of other opportunities come my way as well that I’m working on, but can’t mention yet on such a public forum…..

New Podcasts

Entrepreneur On Fire: Since the tour business has been going so well, I have decided that I need to update my business IQ. Since I have no formal business training and I am too busy to read any non-history related books since I’m writing and developing two new tours; I get it in during my morning cleansing ritual (shower, shave, getting dressed, etc.) and driving time (which I have much of) via Podcasts.

Entrepreneur On Fire has given me some, as the host John Lee Dumas would put it, “mind blowing insights” into my business. Basically, he spends a half-hour interviewing various entrepreneurs about their business, how they built it, and finding out their habits. I have gained more insight into how to run, market, and view my business than I could possibly have otherwise.

Ironically enough, the first one that I listened to was an interview with a guy who started Museum Hack which gives entertaining tours of museums in New York.

I was hooked.

Now I listen to the almost every podcast Lee puts out. If you are an entrepreneur, side-preneur (me!), or want-repreneur, this is a great Podcast to check out. It has quickly risen to the top of my podcast Queue.

What the Speak!: This Podcast is all about Public Speaking. Bryan Kelly interviews public speakers of all sorts and learns about their journey, which teaches me all sorts of tips and tricks.  Being a Tour Guide, a lot of what I do is performance based speaking. Since I have no formal education in public speaking (other than a one semester Speech class Freshman year of college where my final project was an epic speech on the word F***) I decided to look for a podcast on the topic.

One Google search later, lo and behold, What the Speak comes up. It really put what I do into perspective. Even without being able to see myself giving tours, I can already see things that I need to work on and improve.

The Thomas Jefferson Hour – Switching gears, this podcast is all about the most famous of Virginians… Thomas Jefferson. Clay Jenkins, award winning Humanities Scholar and Thomas Jefferson researcher, gives in-character interviews as Thomas Jefferson to give his view. It sounds really hokey, but it is one of the most incredible podcasts that I listen to. Jenkins has studied Thomas Jefferson so in depth, that he flawlessly answers questions off the cuff, citing primary sources for reference.

Actually, learning about Thomas Jefferson and all that he accomplished in field literally ranging from A to Z (he even knew how to tie arteries!) will really make one feel intellectually inferior.

Wrestlemania 31 Predictions

Wrestlemania 31 is coming up  and I’m not super thrilled about the card.

The match I’m most looking forward to is Bray Wyatt vs. The Undertaker. Now that the Undertaker has had his streak broken (last year by Brock Lesnar) it’s fair game as to whether he can win or lose. There’s no assumption that the streak will continue because it’s been broken. They could have Taker lose, and have that be the nail in his coffin as he passes the torch to the self-titled “New Face of Fear” Bray Wyatt, or he could win and redeem himself. I hope he loses and rides out into the sunset…. although by the looks of it he may have trouble getting on the horse. It’s a tossup, but I’ll say Wyatt wins which will fit into the narrative on next year’s Wrestlemania where Undertaker will hang up the boots if he loses and his opponent is some heel who just wants to “put him out of his misery.”

Triple H vs. Sting will be good. They are both incredible in-ring storytellers. Seeing Sting in action in front of 80,000 people again will be nuts. He’s been in small arena’s with TNA for the last 12 years. It’s hard to say who’s going to win, but my money is on Sting to fit with the Wrestlemania hero’s win narrative. The match will be very good.

John Cena vs. Rusev is a feud that I have really been enjoying. There’s just something so old school and nostalgic about a Russian talking smack about the US and the hero standing up and fighting for the country he loves. (Rusev’s actually Bulgarian, but WWE doesn’t have much regard for the geographic knowledge of their audience). They had a really good match at Fastlane and I think this one will be good as well. Cena goes over for the feel good moment.

Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar…. eh.. the build up to this has been atrocious. I mean it’s basically Paul Heyman giving awesome promos and Roman Reigns fighting off the Authority. I like Roman Reigns, but I don’t buy him as a Wrestlemania main eventer. Not yet at least. Lesnar has officially re-signed with WWE, so I think he wins since Reigns is proving to be a non-starter for much of the WWE Universe. I still think Rollins is going to cash in Money in the Bank at WM 31.

By the way, that crowd is going to be very ruthless to Roman Reigns.

The Intercontinental Title Ladder Match is going to be a fun match, but there are better ways to use the guys who are going to be in it. Daniel Bryan was main-eventing Wrestlemania last year and now he’s been jammed into a match with 6 other guys who have nothing else to do on that Sunday night. The build up has been somewhat amusing, mostly thanks to R Truth’s antics, but overall it’s a real non-starter. I say Bryan captures the title in order to bring some prestige back to it.

The Bellas vs. AJ and Paige is also a real non-starter, mostly because I do not like the Bella Twins. Nikki is so sloppy and unbelievable as a credible threat. Paige and AJ can wrestle circles around them. Either way, it’ a Divas match, so the WWe will probably either give them 3 minutes or just bump them when Sting/Triple H goes too long. Because that’s what WWE does to Divas at Wrestlemanias. Paige and AJ for the victory.

Andre The Giant Battle Royal: Who knows? After Cesaro won last year and was summarily buried, it doesn’t feel like this Battle Royal matters as much as it did last year when it was new and could potentially be a stepping stone to greater things. I don’t rightly know who will win; or care for that matter. So…uh… let’s jut say that…uh…. Curtis Axel wins and gets pushed to the stars! Axelmania!

Star Trek

A few months ago, I decided to watch Star Trek, the original series on Netflix. I had never watched it before and had a much different idea of what it was in my mind prior to watching it…..

Zounds! What an incredible show! I mean the production value isn’t incredible, but the messages and morals are mind blowing. Spock’s insights into humanity from a purely logical perspective and his verbal exchanges with Captain Kirk are highly entertaining. The show really makes one think about humanity and society’s faults as well as our greater qualities such as a soul and free will. Things that we take for granted are put on display in different species that lack these things.

I’m almost ashamed I hadn’t given it a chance before. I’m smack dab in the middle of season 2 right now.

Other Thoughts

  • I was at Sweetfrog by the theater the other day waiting for my beautiful girlfriend to meet me and ventured over to see what was playing and realized I had never heard of any of the movies that were playing. You see, Melanie and I cut our cable cord a year or so ago and have not looked back since. Between the internet, Netflix, and Hulu, we don’t miss anything AND we get to save money and not watch all of the commercials. The commercials we see are not the same as they are on actual TV so we never see movie previews. I’m pretty sure they’re all going to be terrible anyway. Anything that’s grandiose enough to win awards is not worth paying to see in theaters anyway when it will be out on VOD and DVD in 2 months.
  • Light beer is disgusting. I use to drink it if it was present at a gathering. I liked it okay. I accidentally bought Yuengling Light the other day and was severely disappointed to taste that flavorless beer when I was expecting delicious Yuengling.
  • Yuengling, for my West Coast compatriots who haven’t heard of it, is a great East Coast beer. It’s like a step above Bud/Coors/Miller in terms of taste and maybe $1 more expensive for a 6-pack, but not quite as expensive or heavy as craft brews. I had never actually heard of Yuengling until I moved to the East Coast, because apparently it isn’t distributed West of the Mississippi. It is the oldest brewery in the country, by the way.
  • I want to have a Podcast in the worst way…. soon…..

Remember everybody, Matthew Maggy says “zip it up and zip it out!”

 

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Historical Hobbies: Antique Bottle Collecting

Through my job at Restoration Builders of Virginia, I meet a lot of fellow history enthusiasts of all stripes. One day, a gentleman named Ty called the office to ask if we ever found old bottles and mentioned that he would to buy them.

My interest was piqued.

And while our lead carpenter wants to hold onto her treasures that she has found during our jobs, I decided to go check out the meeting of the Richmond Area Bottle Collector’s Association. It also gave me a chance to flirt with my passing interest in journalism that has surfaced since learning more about my Dad’s life as a newspaper man.

This post originally appeared on my blog over at my tour company website: Richmond Tour Guys:

One man’s trash from 100 years ago, is another man’s treasure today. Today’s topic is antique bottle collecting as a hobby.

Richmond has a deep history. This history is preserved and bequeathed by official entities such as university historians, museums, historic sites, and preservation organizations. Also filling this role are several layperson historians, antiquarians, bloggers, and (of course) tour guides. One of the most important but often overlooked players in this endeavor are the amateur archaeologists and antique collectors who recover, store, and track old rubbish. Refuse from 100 years ago can reveal much about the history of the City of Richmond.

A few nights ago I attended a meeting of the Richmond Area Bottle Collector’s Association. I learned a lot about bottles, the hobby of bottle collecting, and what this refuse can tell us about the history of Richmond.

What Bottles Reveal About the Past

Bottles come in all different shapes and sizes: cathedral, slug plate, whiskey flask, bitter bottles, medicine flasks, ink bottles, and many, many more. Some hold miracle tonics, elixirs, and medicine. One such product on display at the Association meeting was “Celery and Caffeine,” a potent elixir to fill the imbiber with vim and vigor, no doubt! One of the more famous quack medicines from Richmond was “Valentine’s Meat Juice” a Beef Extract that claimed to treat a range of ailments and was prescribed by doctors into the 1950s.

Rooney’s Malt Whiskey by Straus, Gunst, & Co.

Of course, many of these bottles contained alcohol. In many instances, these bottles are the remnants of Richmond distilleries that have long since disappeared. Most of these are such unexceptional aspects of Richmond history that many people have never heard of them. If not for these bottles, their names might be lost to history. One such distillery was Strauss, Gunst, & Co., a Richmond distillery that operated from 1866 until 1919 (Prohibition) that produced multiple whiskeys; including the Rooney’s Malt Whiskey pictured here.  Another distillery was the Phil G Kelly Company that operated in Richmond from 1905 to 1915 and sold many variations of whiskey using the label “Straight Whiskey” and was sold largely through mail order. The “straight” label was there to differentiate themselves from watered-down fake whiskeys that were passed off as real whiskey by unscrupulous distilleries that sought to con consumers.

Phil G. Kelly, Co. Straight Whiskey

Phil G. Kelly, Co. Straight Whiskey

Fun fact: some whiskey bottles look like medicine. That’s because during Prohibition, distillers often sold their whiskeys as “for medical use” and you could still obtain whiskey via a doctor’s prescription.

The Hobby

The hobby itself is like any other hobby. You like something and think it is neat, so you collect it. This creates a demand and thus a market of buyers and sellers. Collectors range in age from teenagers on up to retirees.

Most collectors that I asked started collecting any old bottles and then at one point narrowed it down to specific types of bottles that they especially fancied, so that their collection didn’t get out of hand. One gentleman I met specializes in collecting local Coke bottles. Another collects Pepsi bottles.

They don’t seem to have any sort of feud going.

One gentleman specializes in early 20th Century bottles for German bitters. The president of the club, Bruce, specializes in bottles featuring Cowboys and Native Americans. There are some folks that collect bottles of certain shapes. Bruce’s wife, who showed me around and explained a bit to me about the hobby, collects cathedral bottles. These are ornately shaped bottles made to hold pickles. The gentleman I contacted about the club initially, Ed, collects ink bottles. Some collectors specialize in bottles from a certain geographic area such as Baltimore, San Francisco, and of course, Richmond.

Christo, another Richmond, Va manufacturer

Christo, another Richmond, Va manufacturer

A few of these collectors may be experts on their bottle type and have written books on the subject. Ed Faulkner, the gentleman that I originally contacted, had written a book on antique ink bottles with his wife. One of the other gentlemen mentioned that they wrote a book on Coke Bottles.

Amateur Archaeology

The most compelling part of this hobby is the “treasure hunting” or amateur archaeology aspect. One gentleman, Tom, invited me to a privy dig. It is exactly what it sounds like… you find an old toilet hole and dig in the area where the excrement would have gone. These often doubled as trash cans. Everything organic (ie: the poop) has decomposed and turned into dirt while everything inorganic, such as metal and glass, are artifacts waiting to be discovered by the adventurous digger. Said diggers may keep them, turn them over to a museum, or sell them for profit. Often the digger will strike a deal with a property owner to split the booty in exchange for the right to dig.

Treasure hunting does not take place only in toilets. One teenage bottle collector shared what he found when he went digging down by a creek bed. Not only did he find bottles, but he found an old pipe and some arrow heads. Another way that treasure-hunters score booty is digging through people’s barns and sheds in rural areas. People often have junk lying around that they are happy to let people pick through. Some of these everyday items to the history enthusiast are treasures.

As evidenced above, bottle collecting also tends to cross over with other antiquing. A gentleman named Craig brought a giant iron skillet that he found while cleaning out under a ladies house for her to display at the meeting. Another collector brought a 1923 Shockoe Creek Sewer System bond that he purchased at an estate auction. I also saw some old soda and beer signs.

Richmond Area Bottle Collector's Association Meeting - Show & Tell

Richmond Area Bottle Collector’s Association Meeting – Show & Tell

Clubs

Most Geographic areas have a Bottle Collector’s Association. The one that I visited was the Richmond Area Bottle Collector’s Association which has been around since 1970.

People come from all over the region as far as Virginia Beach to come to this meeting every month. The meetings contain a show & tell where people show off recent finds, collectors put out bottles for sale, and of course: club business such as finances and newsletters and what not. At every meeting there is a different program. The particular night I was there, they were voting in a competition with categories such as “Best Find,” “Best Richmond Bottle,” “Best Dig Find,” and “Best Non-Bottle,” among others. It’s a place where like-minded treasure hunters can come together and share their findings.

Each club will usually host a show once per year and bring in vendors from around the country to buy and sell bottles. It’s also a good chance to have a bit camaraderie between collectors, a chance to find that one bottle that you need to add to a collection, and maybe make a bit of coin.

Table With Good For Sale

Goods for sale at the meeting


The Bottle Market Place

Apparently, bottle collecting can be a pretty lucrative or at least self- sustaining hobby. In the antique bottles marketplace, one can buy and sell at one of several aforementioned bottle shows and expos that are held around the U.S., on-line, or at auctions. Some bottles sell for thousands of dollars. If one digs something up under an old house, it may be worth $100 or so.

That’s a pretty good profit margin.

In my conversation with Bruce, the club President of several years, he mentioned that the hobby is self-sustaining for him, as it is with many others. He doesn’t pay bills with the hobby, but on the whole doesn’t have to spend any of his income to keep the hobby going. A revenue neutral hobby is not always easy to come by.

The value of the bottles depends on a myriad of factors. One is location. Years ago there may have been towns right next to each other that had their own bottling plants. For example, Coke and Pepsi were bottled in Richmond, Petersburg, Norfolk, and several other cities that were within a relatively close distance to each other. The location was stamped very prominently on the bottle. A Richmond bottle from 1903 may be worth more than a Petersburg bottle from 1903 because Petersburg produced less of them.

Color is also a factor in the value of the bottles

Color is also a factor in the value of the bottles

Another factor in the value of the bottles is when it was made. My biggest question was: “Without dates on the bottles, how can you tell the age?” I was informed by Cliff that it is quite easy to tell. Pre-1845, bottles were often made hand before complicated machining processes came about and you can tell by the rough nature of the bottle. Certain methods of producing bottles would come in and then out of fashion as new processes were invented. One could also figure out the age of bottles by who produced it. If you know that our old friend, the “Phil G. Kelly Company” only produced whiskey from 1905 to 1913, the bottles would be from that time frame.

Color is also a factor. A green 1904 Richmond Coke bottle might be worth more than a clear 1904 Richmond Coke Bottle.

Bottles may be valued as low as $2. At the meeting that I attended, one Petersburg Pepsi Bottle purchased for $10 at a flea market was appraised at $500-$600.

I was told that some bottles go for as much as $15,000… that’s not a typo. This is potentially big business for something that was dug out an old toilet.

As valuable as some of these bottles may be monetarily, the true value lies in the preservation of Richmond’s history through these every day treasure-hunters.