By kalea hall
Reed Metzka doesn’t have a method for growing his milk bottle collection.
He just talks to people.
Talking to people is what led him to have the collection of more than 150 milk bottles and some whiskey bottles. One of his rare finds is a “Purity Old Rye Whiskey” bottle inscribed by “The John H. Fitch” from — most likely — before Prohibition.
“It’s just amazing,” Metzka said. “I just love doing it.”
Metzka, 73, of New Middletown, began his journey with milk bottle collecting about 20 years ago when he acquired a house. Inside he found a treasure in an advertisement for an F.W. Buyers Dairy in Petersburg, Ohio. He sold the advertisement and since then has been intrigued by the world of collectible milk bottles.
Metzka runs a hauling business and through it has met several people to either give, trade or sell him milk bottles. A Ralph Battin Dairy milk bottle he has is one of three known to man, and he got it for free. The bottle is so rare, in fact, that an antique collector did not believe it actually existed.
“There are a lot of people who collect bottles,” Metzka said. “I concentrate on finding the good stuff.”
What makes a bottle a “good” find includes the rare item that comes from a small dairy, in mint condition, with a unique design and possibly even a two-tone paint job.
Metzka looks for bottles with the Youngstown name. Altogether there were once more than 50 dairies with a Youngstown mailing address, and then there are the suburban dairies from communities such as Poland, Lowellville and Struthers.
Metzka’s favorite bottle is from Kunder’s Farm Dairy of New Springfield. This dairy is one of the many that went by the Youngstown mailing address. This “war bottle” depicts a flying, vintage warplane in red. “You can keep ‘em flying by buying U.S. defense bonds and stamps,” is painted around the plane.
“It’s like an ego with these milk bottle collectors,” Metzka said.
The goal of a collector is to try and collect an entire set of bottles.
Right now, Metzka is looking for two different-sized bottles to add to his Petersburg Creamery collection.
He found his Fitch treasure when he went on a random search through a small Ellwood City, Pa., antique shop.
“I said, ‘that’s [Austintown] Fitch High,” Metzka said was his reaction when he found the bottle.
He knew he had to have it, that it is one of a kind and he would cherish along with the rest of his collection.
“I get up, I sit in my chair, and I look at my milk bottles,” Metzka said.