For the many lovers of fun, colorful kitchen collectibles, cookie jars are the "sweetest" of them all. What was once little more than a mundane, functional storage item has become one of the world's most widely embraced collectable pieces, and they are rarely used for their intended purpose these days.
From teddy bears to Elvis Presley's famous face, the sizes and shapes that can be found are almost endless, which makes it quite easy for prospective collectors to find at least one or more that they just have to have.
The most well known name in the collectible cookie jar world would have to be that of Nelson McCoy, whose stoneware company founded in 1910 in Roseville, Ohio, has produced some the most beloved and sought after pieces in history. Originally known as the Nelson McCoy Sanitary Stoneware Company, the first pieces they produced consisted mostly of food and beverage storage jars and containers, as well as popular household items of the day, including foot warmers and wash basins.
The first McCoy jars for cookies were created in the 1940's, beginning with simple stoneware crocks decorated with fruits and flowers and graduating to the more whimsical designs, such as bustling beehives and animal shapes. Other storage items and household pieces have all but been forgotten by McCoy enthusiasts, save for a select few.
Sadly, the McCoy Pottery was forced to close its doors due to declining sales, but the passion of collectors for McCoy cookie jars lives on regardless. An original from the 1950's or earlier can bring sellers and auctioneers a fair price, while still allowing them to be fairly affordable by the beginning enthusiast.
Perennial favorites among collectors of new and antique jars are those which are shaped like animals, with cats and bears being at the very top of the list. Most collectors are specifically looking for jars that are fun and appeal to them visually, or those which just tickle their fancy such as chickens, frogs or even tiki statues.
There are even some jars that are shaped like stacks of cookies! Not all of them are beautiful, in fact some are downright awful, resulting in a yearly contest by the cookie jar collectors' associations to find the ugliest jar. Even if they aren't as cute as some of the others, they are nevertheless a lot of fun to find.
Antique cookie jars make up the majority of the interest for most collectors, but just as with any collectible, caution is advised when you're out shopping. With the continued popularity of cookie jar collecting, there are unfortunately hundreds or even thousands of fakes that have sprung up all over the market. Some are actually counterfeits created with the intent of deceiving collectors, while others are simply well made reproductions that are being sold without the seller even knowing that they aren't genuine. So how do you tell the genuine article from the fakes?
Ask the seller for the history of the jar and how they happened to get a hold of it. Beware of convoluted stories about family estates and inheritances, since they can often be made up by someone looking to make a fast buck. And if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. As collectors, we're always on the lookout for an incredible bargain, but when an antique jar that you know should fetch hundreds of dollars is offered for twenty or thirty dollars, it's a good idea to think a little longer before making a purchase.
Once your collection reaches a certain point, you're probably going to be wondering what your jars are worth. Experienced antiques appraisers will be more than happy to help you determine their value, but if you're just looking to get a general idea, there are many excellent price guides on the market that can help you out. Another good idea is to assess each purchase you make and get jars that you think are valuable appraised and certified, so that you can build the value of your collection from there.
The world of cookie jar collecting can be fun and even profitable if you're able to find the right piece, but the majority of people aren't in it for the money. They're in it for the pleasure it gives them to discover that one piece that reminds them of their childhood, and of the comforting smell of cookies fresh from grandma's kitchen. If this sounds like you, then chances are you've already got a collection of your own started. And if not, there's no better time than the present to get started!