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Collecting Terms for Jar Collectors

Which one is the Real McCoy or real Shawnee for that matter?

Over the years there have been numerous jars that have been reproductions, look-a-likes or outright fakes. Here is a simple explanation of some terms collectors might come across and what they actually mean.


An artist jar is simply that, a clay artist, typically making a small production of jar. Often an artist will specialize in a type of jar, e.g. Appleman with his car jars. They often have a distinctive look that identifies them with the artist. Artist jars are often limited editions and can be on the higher end of the price scale.

Artists Proofs

These aren’t seen very often, but do pop up once in a while. These would be the first jars produced out of a mold, when the artist was still perfecting the colors or design of a jar. The Disney Limited Edition jars often sold one or two Artist Proof jars out of their runs, most often right before their run would become available. Since these were rare and hard to get, they would go for much more than the limited editions that would follow. Other companies would occasionally offer Artist Proof jars for sale, but it didn’t happen very often.


To be considered a fake jar, it would have been made to deceive, using the wrong mark and most often copied from the original jar. There are numerous examples of this happening with the name McCoy applied to jars that McCoy never, ever made. After all, to the new collector, if it has a McCoy mark, it must be a good jar. Not if it was made in someone’s garage and marked that way only to confuse the buyer.

There are both Fake Reproductions — where a copy is made of an authentic jar, but sold as the original, often in the case of the more expensive jars. And there are outright fakes with a company name applied to a jar that has nothing to do with the original company. For example, Brush-McCoy shows up on many jars. There is no such thing as a Brush-McCoy cookie jar. None at all. Run if someone tries to sell you one.


This can get a little complicated and it doesn’t always apply to cookie jars. Fantasy items are often seen by antique advertising collectors. An item is made that is completely made up, not a copy or fake or another company, just someone dreams it up and puts, for instance, a Mr. Peanut emblem on it. For example, there is a blue Mr. Peanut glass cookie jar, called the Mr. Peanut robot. There was never anything made like that by the company, hence collectors call it a Fantasy item.

Hobby Jars

A term typically used when describing a jar made by someone for fun and their own enjoyment. Using a commercial mold and slip, ceramic art can be created by home hobbyist.

Often these jars are signed by the person who created it and the work is often not quite up to snuff compared to commercial jars. There are some jar molds available for amateurs to use, Twin Winton comes to mind, that were originally used for commercial jar production.

Limited Editions

A limited edition is when the producer/artist/maker promises that only a certain number of an item will be produced. It could be as limited as 100 jars total or in the case of larger manufacturing companies, such as Vandor in the past, it could be as “limited” as 5000 jars. Not really very limited at all. In the case of smaller runs, jars are often marked as to what number they are in the run, such as 1/100. That would be the first jar produced.


A licensed jar is when the production company contacts the company, e.g. Disney, submits ideas and is granted the opportunity to make a limited number of jars in the design that is approved.


Another can of worms is the unlicensed jar. This is not as big a problem as it once was, but in the golden age of cookie jars, makers would copy images, designs and likenesses and try to cash in on the well known characters making their likeness without permission. Crabby Onion is a company that was infamous for doing this.

With few exceptions, these jars are not worth anywhere near what they would be worth if the license was granted.


New in Box or Mint in Box

Never Removed From Box. Although this works with some collectibles, I would really like to know what condition the jar is before buying it from a secondary dealer, hence would ask a seller to remove it from the box and examine it before purchasing.


There have been instances where an artist/company would make a few prototypes and bring them to the company trying to get a license granted. Sometimes it would be granted and often it wouldn’t — as the licensees are very particular about their likenesses. But when a prototype shows up for sale, especially one that was not commercially produced, expect prices to skyrocket.


Last, but not least, are the reproduction jars. There are several instances where a reproduction jar was made that looks identical to the real thing. If the new jar mold was created from the original jar, there will be shrinkage and the new copy will always be shorter! Sometimes as much as an inch difference in the size. When paying big bucks, know the sizes and also know the differences between the weights, especially when looking at the American made jars, which are almost always heavy substantial pieces.

JD James started off his career making reproduction jars from older molds, but almost always marked his jars on the bottom with his initials. That was not always the case from those who reproduced original jars.

Unfortunately there are also times when the original molds were available from the old companies and jars were made. That’s when it gets a little harder to figure out what is what — hopefully the would-be buyer reads and studies and can tell by the paint, glazes and designs what is authentic.