Left: "carlopeto" and John at the St Louis Show in 2004
John Sullivan is well known in the mini bottle collectors world, not only because of his many years
dedicated to the hobby, but also due to the innumerable anecdotes he is always willing to share
with us. John is a frequent traveler; he also contributes with articles on several collectors' magazines.
Below you can read about John's collection, from his own words:
How long have you been collecting miniature liqueur bottles?
John: 44 years !!
Wow - So far, that is a record. Where and how did you start?
John: I started while I was in the Navy in San Diego in 1962.
I had just gotten married and we moved into an apartment.
One of the neighbors was a retired couple who had traveled around the world.
They had picked up mini bottles from around the world and had a nice display
in their living room of about 50 mini bottles.
My wife and I thought they were very interesting. He gave me a couple of the minis
and I was hooked.
They had stopped selling mini bottles in California during the Second World War.
However, my wife and I had saved up $200 to spend in Las Vegas upon my
discharge from the Navy and our return home to Wisconsin.
In those days, food and hotels were very cheap in Las Vegas and we were really going to
make a night of it. But as luck would have it, when we parked our "loaded" VW Bug,
it was right in front of a liquor store. And guess what? The store had a big display of
mini bottles in the window. Well.... I spent $180 of our $200 on mini bottles that night
and needless to say, our "Big Night" in Vegas had to be delayed for a few years.
In 1969, I moved to Los Angeles and soon met David Spaid. Shortly thereafter,
David, George Lisenko, Dick Weiss, Linus Earl, myself and a few others started the
Lilliputian Bottle Club, which ran for more than 30 years.
Really fascinating story! How many mini bottles do you have today?
John: I haven't got a clue. When you count my duplicates, I must have
10,000 or 12,000
That's a large number. Do you specialize in any specific kind?
John: Right now I specialize in vodka, whiskey, rum, mini beers and also I ultra specialize
in cognac not from France, Pre-Prohibition whiskey bottles and Pre-Prohibition whiskey jugs.
I also have a nice collection of tequilas and gins and figurals, even though I do not specialize in those.
Which are your favorite bottles?
John: The pre-Prohibition whiskies (Thomas Moore, Old Sullivan, etc.) and the Dovgan vodkas.
In order: Vodkas, Whiskey, Pre-Prohibition
click above: the "Dovgan" vodkas and the "Sullivan" and "Thos Moore" whiskies
How would you describe yourself as a collector?
John: I am a very passionate collector. When I see a bottle that I REALLY want,
I will do almost anything to get it.... write letters, pay high prices, offer crap, etc.
Where do you find most of your bottles?
John: I get most of my bottles now from collectors around the world in trades and also on eBay.
What is limiting your ability to grow your collection even further?
John: Right now there are no limiting factors. However, having said that, I have run out of
display room and must now put my vodkas and whiskies in boxes until I move to another
house with more space. But I still collect as ardently as ever.
Tell us about your involvement with the MMBC.
John: Well, this is very interesting. I attended the first MMBC show in Chicago at the
Ramada Inn. I had just bought a collection of 11,000 bottles from an estate about
90 miles from Chicago. I had been negotiating the purchase of this great collection
for two years. This is the collection that has become known as the "Rockport Collection".
People are still talking about this collection. I had to take out a second mortgage on
my house at 17% interest at that time to buy the collection.
I ended up keeping about 1,200 bottles from the collection and sold the rest at the
first show and paid off my loan before the first payment was due.
These were great bottles. Every advanced collector at the time who came to the show,
benefited from that collection. Linus Earl got 500 whiskies that he needed;
200 of which he had not seen nor heard of before, and he was one of the leading
whiskey collectors at that time! David Hood, who was a leading blown glass collector
at the time, found 20 pieces he needed.
Then, I never attended another show for 21 years. Then, my good friend George
Lisenko told me he was going to the show in St. Louis. Another friend, Tony Natelli,
also said he was going, so I decided to go too. Now I have attended the last 5 shows
and been a member of the Club for the last 5 years as well.
Any advice or comment for fellow collectors?
John: As the others have said, a new collector should start to specialize as soon
as possible. There are too many bottles out there and too little space for all of them.
A few years ago, John Sullivan built his own website without any previous knowledge
about web design or programming. He did it all himself, and now he receives lots
of visits (plus the inevitable spam on his guestbook - Ha). You can visit his website at:
John is always eager to hear from other collectors. Remember... he's got several duplicates!