Saturday, March 14, 2009

Collecting Whimsical Bottle Cap Figures: Retro Assemblage Art

Having Some Collectible Fun
Do you need a little fun in your life? How about adding a touch of whimsy to your next party or gathering by serving nuts or candy in a "Bottle Cap Figure". Way before re-cycling was a household name, clever collectors saved their soda pop caps and used them to create funky characters which were not only decorative but practical. These colorful assembled "people" are collectively called "Bottle Cap Men" and are often referred to as a form of Outsider Art.
Assemblage Art
Bottle Cap figures which can actuallly be men or women are a form of assemblage or folk art in which odds and ends are added to a figure made from old bottle caps. Common household items such as thumb tacks, curtain rings were often used for embellishments.. Most stand 12 inches high. On eBay they are generally listed under the category “Bottle Cap Man”. Characteristically these figures held a bowl in front of a wood block that serves as the bodice. Metal, plastic and colored aluminum and other materials are often used for the bowl which might hold snacks such as popcorn, nuts and chips.

"Nuts and Butts"
Collector Philip Lamb has coined the term "Nuts and Butts" to describe how many of these these fiigurative constructions are made to both hold an ashtray and bowl for serving nuts. Sometimes the bottle caps are sprayed a color and other times they are left in their original form showing the vintage of the caps used.
Carmen Miranda
These hand made art forms have been around for ages and incorporate the popular images, personalities and advertising icons of their times. They were especially common during the 1940s -1950s. Many of these charming figures are reminiscent of the 1951 United Fruit Company’s “Chiquita Banana” advertising icon adorned with a head bowl filled with plastic fruit. Interestingly, the Chiquita Banana symbol herself resembles the character of the very popular 1940s Brazilian movie actress Carmen Miranda. Some collectors have suggested that indeed these figures were souvenirs from tropical islands which may explain the Carmen Miranda connection.

Tribal Influences

Many bottle cap figures appear to show other influences as well. . Earlier Bottle figures can have a folk art feeling or may be a bit more primitive looking with nose rings, large dangling earrings, painted faces on dark stained wood tones suggestive of an African tribal look

When colored aluminum or pastel color ornaments are added to these whimsical figures these additions would give you clues that the piece was made in the 1950s or later when these materials dominated the market.
Who Has the Big Collection?

Today baby boomers as well as younger collectors are falling in love with these scavenger art figures.Expect to pay $24.00-28.00 for these kitschy objet'd'art pieces. If you would like to see one of the largest collections of Bottle Cap art check out Another useful site which covers the history and background of Bottle Cap folk art is

Top two photos courtesy of Photo by: Don Manley,
C. Dianne Zweig is the author of Hot Kitchen & Home Collectibles of the 30s, 40s, 50s and Hot Cottage Collectibles for Vintage Style Homes. She is also the Editor of an actively growing internet based resource community for people who buy, sell or collect antiques, collectibles and art. You can find Dianne’s fabulous retro and vintage kitchen, home and cottage collectibles at The Collinsville Antiques Company of New Hartford, CT, a 22,000 feet antique emporium with an in-house retro cafĂ©.

To read more articles by C. Dianne Zweig click on this link:
C. Dianne Zweig’s Blog Kitsch ‘n Stuff

Email me at

Visit my website,

Dianne is a member of:
The American Society of Journalists and Authors
The Authors Guild, Inc.

No comments:

Post a Comment