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Collecting Mania: Cookie Jars Part 2

Updated on March 20, 2011

Brush Pottery Company began business in Zanesville, Ohio, in 1907 and made cookie jars from 1946 until 1971. Brush used a combination of air brushing and hand painting on its jars, which are marked "Brush/U.S.A.," "Brush," "U.S.A.," or "W" with a number. Brush is known for its Davy Crocketts, clowns, Squirrel on Log, Cow With Cat Finial, pigs, and owls.

From 1908, when it began in Abingdon, Illinois, until 1934, Abingdon Pottery was the largest manufacturer of prison toilets. By 1939 the company had turned its attention to cookie jars, producing 16 different jars before the art department was phased out in 1950. The jars, which include Mother Goose characters, hippos, and grannies, are usually ink-stamped "Abingdon U.S.A.," have embossed mold numbers, and are hand painted.

Beginning in the 1940s until it closed in 1961, Shawnee in Zanesville, Ohio produced many variations of its own cookie jars. For example, while made from a single mold, Smiley Pig - one of the company's most successful items - was finished completely differently from jar to jar. The same is true of his mate, Winnie, and other jars, including Puss 'N Boots, Mugsey dog, Cooky the Dutch girl, and Happy the Dutch boy.

Red Wing Pottery in appropriately Red Wing, Minnesota operated from 1878 to 1967, producing many distinctive jars, including the King of Tarts, chefs, monks, bunches of bananas, pears, and Dutch girls.

Metlox in Manhattan Beach, California was in business from 1927 to 1989 and made high-quality jars, which are marked in a variety of ways. Their Little Red Riding Hood is extremely sought after, as are their rose and yellow tulip.

High-priced jars are generally those that have crossover appeal into other collecting fields, such as black memorabilia and cartoon characters. McCoy's yellow or aqua "Mammy" jar, for example, can garner well over $1,300, while American Bisque's Fred or Wilma Flintstone sells for as much as $1,500 to $2,000.

Hard-to-find jars are also worth their weight in gold. Brush Pottery's Peter Pan or Metlox's Little Red Riding Hood will set you back as much as $900; Shawnee's Puss 'N Boots, Dutch Boy, or Dutch Girl go for over $400.

On the lighter side, there are vintage jars that sell for less than $200, including Abingdon Pottery's Humpty-Dumpty ($150-$200) or Pineapple ($90-$100), Metlox's Clown bust ($85-$115), and Red Wing's Bunch of Bananas ($60-$80). By cookie-jar standards, some are downright cheap, such as McCoy or Metlox's Strawberries ($35-$45) and McCoy's Thinking Puppy ($40-$50).

There are those who prefer to search for new jars, which are easily found in department stores and specialty shops, and which fit into most collecting budgets. Many new jars are available for under $50 each.

While finding cookie jars in mint condition is the obvious goal, it is not always the easiest. Jars with 100 percent of their paint intact are hard to locate; as a result, minor paint loss or flaking does not significantly reduce the price of a jar - especially if it's rare and decorated over the glaze (as opposed to painted, then glazed and fired).

Chips, cracks, or repainting are another story. Unless it is extremely uncommon, don't bother with a jar with these flaws. A discernible chip or crack will reduce the price of a jar up to 50 percent, while a chip or crack that isn't visible (such as on the underside of the lid) will cause the price to fall as much as 25 percent to 30 percent. A jar without its lid lessens the value by up to 40 percent. Repainting - especially a bad paint job - can render a jar almost worthless.

As with so many other popular collectibles, it was just a matter of time before reproductions began to stir up trouble. A number of cookie jars have been reproduced in the last eight years, and while some are clearly marked, others are not; it's the latter that cause problems with novice collectors.

An example of a carefully marked reproduction is the McCoy Pontiac Indian Head, reproduced in a limited edition of 300 in 1990 by George Williams III of North Carolina. These jars are marked as commemoratives and would be hard to mistake for originals.

However, there are jars marked "McCoy" that are actually reproductions made in the early 1990s. Some to watch out for are: Mammy, Mammy With Cauliflower, Rocking Horse, and Little Red Riding Hood. Other reproductions that can easily fool collectors are Brayton Laguna's Married Mammy, Pear China's Mammy, Brush's Elephant With Ice Cream Cone and Peter Pumpkin Eater, and American Bisque's Casper.

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      Brenda Munday 5 years ago

      I have a "Smiley" cookie jar that my Grandmother had from the middle 50's. he has his eyes closed with a green scarf around his neck and brown overalls. He is in mint condition because we have always taken really good care of him, no chips and his glaze is still bright and pretty...Can any one tell me what he is worth? Saw one on a collecting show on TV that said he was worth $3000....can't believe I have something worth that much!!!

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      dewittsr 7 years ago

      Thanks for your great post. I am somewhat of a cookie jar addict myself. Having bought and sold many on eBay, I can attest to the fact that the price you pay is dependent as much on condition as rarity. I did some extensive research on the subject of price vs. condition. If you would care to see the results, it can be viewed here: