The Most Valuable Cookie Jars

Vintage Cookie Jars
Photo Credit: Victor Nightengale's collection by Jay Cox, on Flickr

Starting a cookie jar collection can be fun, and it might take you on a trip through America’s most wonderful times. Cookie jars of the past are now highly sought after collectibles - they're no longer just for holding cookies! You should know what you’re looking for if you intend to collect for top dollar, but you can also just have a good time picking up cookie jars that appeal to you for their color, style, or size. If it is a birthday gift for a family member or friend, be sure to look into their current cookie jars and find out what draws them personally to a cookie jar.

What are some of the most valuable cookie jars? They’ll have been made by the Nelson McCoy Company in Roseville, Ohio. This company made the now famous Roseville pottery and also some of the most widely collected cookie jars on the antique circuit today. Prior to the 1920s there were no cookie jars in America. But as the Depression era unfolded, cookie jars started to become a prized kitchen item. They were made in all different shapes and sizes including rabbits, clowns, fruits, bears and figures of people. Back in the day, people bought cookie jars to use in their kitchens much like we’d buy a canister today. They weren’t thinking they’d be valuable, but instead that they were simply useful storage for their home baked cookies.

So what are some of the most valuable designs today?

If you have a Mammy with Cauliflower McCoy cookie jar from 1939 you are in luck. This, the first jar the company ever made is the most valuable cookie jar. This red dressed African American woman is the character from Gone with the Wind, the classic movie that came out the same year the jar was made. It will fetch you upwards of $1,300 if you can find it. Because of its rarity, this jar was often reproduced by imitators. You can easily find faux McCoy Mammies all over the place. You’ll find her with and without a plate of cauliflower.

A company called American Bisque made Fred and Wilma Flintstone character cookie jars. If you are lucky enough to find either one, you could cash it in for up to $2,000 or more. Look for other story book characters like Peter Pan, Puss in Boots and Little Red Riding Hood. Jars like this are worth a cool grand or more. For some reason cartoon characters are highly collectible. If you see a Humpty Dumpty jar, pick it up right away as it is very rare. You may also want to look for a rare holiday cookie jar.

Many other jars are also valuable. If you’re serious about collecting for money, get yourself a good antique cookie jar values guidebook. Take it with you when you visit antique malls and flea markets. Slink off to the side and look up the value of a jar you see that you’d like. Of course, you don’t want anyone seeing you look up the price or you will find that the asking price on a $3 cookie jar just went up to $300. If someone else thinks it’s valuable, you may not get it for a low price. If you overpay, don’t expect to recoup your losses by reselling it. It may become part of your permanent collection unless you want to take a loss.

There are societies and groups all over the place who meet to swap and show their cookie jar finds. Get in with a good group and you’ll have fun with your new hobby of collecting vintage jars.