In the late 1700’s, the British devised a way to keep their tasty morsels fresh.
They invented the biscuit jar. It took about 125 years for this idea made its way across the Atlantic, but it finally did and in the early part of the 1900’s American glass factories introduced their version of the container. They called it the “cookie jar.”
By the 1920’s the cookie jar was a staple in homes throughout America. These early jars were made of glass with either a matching top or a graduating screw-on lid. Many of the glass patterns of the Depression era were available in cookie jar form. While a few glass jars are a nice addition to an advanced collection, it is the ceramic or pottery cookie jars introduced in the early 1930’s that are most commonly collected.
The first ceramic cookie jar made in the U.S. is commonly credited to the Brush Pottery Company of Zanesville, Ohio. It was a plain green cylinder shaped jar that simply said “Cookies” on the front. Collectors watch for early Brush cookie jars, most of which are marked BRUSH U.S.A. on the bottom. But please beware if you are a novice to collecting in this field. Brush jars, especially the very early ones, have been reproduced in large quantities. This is where you would be wise to invest in an identification guide and do your homework before you shop.
Following Brush’s lead, the major American pottery companies were offering a line of ceramic jars by the mid-1930’s. Competition was fierce and designs became more innovative with the introduction of cookie jars in the shapes of figures, as well as in the shape of vegetables, fruit, and animals. Famous figures from children’s stories, such as the Hull ‘Little Red Riding Hood” were an instant success and remain popular to this day.
McCoy cookie jars, produced in Roseville, Ohio from 1930 to 1987, are another favorite with collectors. Their very first jar, A black “Mammy” in a long white work dress is a valuable addition to any collection, as are the first issue fruit and vegetable shapes. Very early pieces are marked with a number inside a shield.
After 1938 the jars were marked with the embossed McCoy name. In 1967 McCoy sold out to Mount Clemens Pottery Company and it changed owners again when purchases by the Lancaster Colony Corporation in 1974. If you intend to be a serous collector, it would be wise to study the McCoy marks as the marks changed after 1967 and the jars since that date are of little interest to collectors.
Other late 1930’s potters of note include: American Bisque, of Williamstown, W. Va., known for their cartoon character cookie jars marked U.S.A., Red Wind of Minnesota best known for their 1940’s apple, grape, pineapple, pear, bananas and grapes cookie jars designed by Belle Kogan,and their 1941 series of “Thou Shall Not Steal” figural jars; Metlox one of the leading California potters is best known for their late 1960’s and early 1970’s animal series.
Of special note are the the “Katy-Cat” and the “Year of the Dinosaur” series;,and the Shawnee Pottery company of Ohio, noted for their Winnie, Smiley, and Muggsie jars. When looking for Shawnee cookie jars it is important to remember that Shawnee was purchased by the Terrance Ceramics Company in 1961. Although Terrance jars are of similar quality, they are of little interest to collectors.
The 1980’s and early 1990’s saw tremendous returns for some private cookie jar collections. One of the most famous liquidations came at auction when the estate of pop icon Andy Warhol was sold. Warhol had been an avid collector of cookie jars for most of his adult life.
After his death his collection of 125 jars sold for more than $250,000. Friends confided to the auction handling the estate the he was an incredible ‘tight wad,” purchasing most of the jars at flea markets and having less that $500 invested in the entire collection! Way to go Andy!
Until next time,
Linda Hamer Kennett is a professional liquidation consultant specializing in down-sizing for seniors and the valuation of estates and may be reached at 317-429-7887 or firstname.lastname@example.org.