It’s easy to recognize the jars, but often hard to find out more about the company. Information may be scarce, but the jars aren’t! There are no fence sitters when it comes to the brown jars made by California Originals.*
You either love them or hate.
And for if you’re trying to identify the non-brown jars, look for cold-painting and matte glazes on the licensed pieces like Winnie the Pooh characters or the DC Comic heroes. Some of my favorites are the Sesame Street character jars from California Originals — in fact the Cookie Monster is the jar that really started it all on my way to collecting. Thanks Susan!
History of the Company
California Originals had it’s start in 1945 as Heirlooms of Tomorrow, making fine quality porcelain lace figurines. How the company changed directions from those intricate figurines to the brown cookie jars it became known for is a mystery to me, and others, as we tried to research the company. But they made the move with both a name change and a company move to Torrence, California where the production of pottery artware began.
California Originals closed its doors in 1982.
California Originals jars prices can be all over the map, the simple brown jars can start from around $15, but will fetch quite a bit more than that for the jars that are a little harder-to-find. It’s when one gets into collecting the licensed jars that prices can be will be higher, think Superman, both brown and silver, Wonder Woman and Woody Woodpecker — they all command premium prices. Other jars that are hard to find, with a price to match, are Walt Disney Snow White, Pinocchio, and Eeyore are all sought after pieces.
Note: Snow White, Woody and Pinocchio are some of the jars that come in two finishes, a full-color version and an antique white glaze.
California Original jars are usually marked with a number (three or four digits) and USA somewhere on the lower rim, on the back or near the bottom of the jar. The Disney jars will have a Walt Disney copyright on the jars, also on the lower rim.
The jars are flat bottomed, with no marks on the bottom that I am aware of, just on the edges. The marks are not evident — you have to look for them.
The image shown here is typical, it’s from the Cuckoo Clock jar.
*Several companies produced brown wood-grain color jars, but California Originals, Twin Winton and Treasure Craft were the most prolific. The California Original finishes are quite distinctive, when it wasn’t brown, it was often in a matte finish and many times done in cold paint or with cold paint embellishments.