Art & Antiques: Mid-century cookie jars recall nursery rhymes

Little old woman who lived in a shoe cookie jar worth $300. Submitted photo

Little old woman who lived in a shoe cookie jar worth $300. Submitted photo

Mid-century cookie jars recall nursery rhymes

The cookie jar held a place of honor in American kitchens in the 1950s and 1960s when it was part of the overall home décor as well as an important piece of serving ware. Cookie jars were of good size in order to hold many cookies for America’s growing families in the years following World War II.

The fact that these vintage collectibles were positioned in “the front lines” (a.k.a., on the kitchen countertop) of busy post-war American kitchens makes their condition a vital trait when assessing their value on the collectibles market. Chips, cracks, and scratches to the surface decoration are key factors when evaluating vintage cookie jars.

The American baby boom sparked cookie jar production as Americans were having more babies and eating more cookies during the late 1940s and 1950s. Over the decades, cookie jars featured popular characters and cultural icons such as Felix the Cat, Howdy Doody, Mickey Mouse, Snow White, World War II American G. I.s, and Betty Boop, to name a few. The variety of cookie jars and the opportunity to collect so many different examples may contribute to the fact that many collectors just can’t stop collecting these cherished objects from childhood.

With cookie jars as with cookies, it’s difficult to have just one. I have reviewed cookie jar collections all over the United States and most are assembled in large numbers of cookie jars dating from the 1950s with values for the collections reaching into the $10,000 to $20,000 range.

Some examples of the market for good quality cookie jars in good condition from the mid 1900s include a Brush Pottery company cookie jar in the shape of a cow resembling the famous Borden milk mascot named Elsie from circa 1945-50 is worth $500. McCoy’s Aunt Jemima cookie jar sold for $325, a Robinson-Ransbottom Pottery firm’s Oscar cookie jar brought $500, and the popular Little Red Riding Hood cookie jar by Hull commanded $1,500 recently. Nursery rhyme characters were among the most common types of cookie jars such as Mother Goose, Humpty Dumpty, the Little Old Woman who lived in a Shoe, and Puss ‘n Boots, to name a few. It makes perfect sense that nursery rhymes would be the featured theme for cookie jars as the characters were recognizable to youngsters.

In the late 1980s, after the death of pop artist Andy Warhol, the cookie jar market enjoyed a market spike. Warhol was an enthusiastic collector of cookie jars and viewed them as important objects of American culture. His famous estate auction brought cookie jar collecting to the forefront and put the sweet collectibles on the map. Warhol’s collection of hundreds of vintage cookie jars brought more than $250,000 at auction. The Warhol auction attracted new collectors to amass American cookie jars. Today, collectors remain committed to the cookie jar category and amass large numbers of jars from Maine to California.

Celebrity Ph.D. antiques appraiser, author, and award-winning TV personality, Dr. Lori presents antique appraisal events nationwide. Dr. Lori is the star appraiser on Discovery’s “Auction Kings.” Visit www.DrLoriV.com, www.Facebook.com/DoctorLori, or call (888) 431-1010.

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