Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

October 6, 2013

Farmer stuns visitors with world-class bottle collection

NORTHPORT — John Kilcherman’s not wasting any hours trying to get his pop bottle collection recognized as the world’s largest. Not when he could spend that precious time hunting for more antique bottles to adding to his hoard.

“I ain’t got time for that kind of stuff,” he told a couple of men who perused the collection during a late September afternoon. He’s too busy trying to find the next bottle to add to his collection.

Kilcherman knows his is the biggest and readily points to a previous record published in an older edition of the Guinness Book of World Records. That collector had amassed more than 6,500 different bottles.

The 10,000 glass containers included in Kilcherman’s world-class collection line the walls of a barn adjacent to his Northport home. It’s the same building where he and his wife, Phyllis, sell apples and cider to customers at their orchard, Christmas Cove Farm.

Getting the collection recognized as a world record would require countless hours of paperwork to document each bottle for Guinness officials. It’s the kind of work Kilcherman says would be great for a high school senior project, but not so much for him.

Kilcherman, 83, never passes up an opportunity to talk about the relics of a bygone era that embrace visitors from all sides as they stroll into the barn.

“You get a disease,” he said, adjusting the position of a bottle on a chest-level shelf. “You know it’s hard to get rid of it. I’m pretty sure I’ve got the world’s largest collection. Every bottle you see in this room is different.”

He’s been buying and trading the antique bottles for nearly two decades. The collection began as a project Kilcherman expected would take him a few years. He intended to gather one of each glass bottle made. Little did he know that once silk screening became popular on glass pop bottles, practically every small town in America had its own brand of pop packaged in its own custom glass bottles.

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