We sought to determine whether specific characteristics of vertebral fractures in elderly men are associated with low bone mineral density (BMD) and osteoporosis. Mister osteoporosis Sweden is a population based cohort study involving 3014 men aged 69 to 81 years. Of these, 1427 had readable lateral radiographs of the thoracic and lumbar spine. Total body (TB) BMD (g/cm²) and total right hip (TH) BMD were measured by dual energy x-ray absorptiometry. The proportion of men with osteoporosis was calculated from TH BMD. There were 215 men (15.1%) with a vertebral fracture. Those with a fracture had lower TB BMD than those without (p < 0.001). Among men with a fracture, TB BMD was lower in those with more than three fractures (p = 0.02), those with biconcave fractures (p = 0.02) and those with vertebral body compression of > 42% (worst quartile) (p = 0.03). The mean odds ratio (OR) for having osteoporosis when having any type of vertebral fracture was 6.1 (95% confidence interval (CI) 3.9 to 9.5) compared with those without a fracture. A combination of more than three fractures and compression in the worst quartile had a mean OR of 114.2 (95% CI 6.7 to 1938.3) of having osteoporosis compared with those without a fracture. We recommend BMD studies to be undertaken in these subcohorts of elderly men with a vertebral fracture. Cite this article: 2015;97-B:1106-10.