Most Valuable Antique Stoneware Jugs (Most Rare One Sold for $8,125)

Antique Stoneware Jugs: Valuable Vessels of Early America

In the days before refrigerators became a household staple, stoneware jugs were the go-to vessels for storing and preserving all manner of liquids and foodstuffs. From whiskey and beer to pickles and cream, these durable, versatile containers kept perishables fresh in cellars and springhouses across early America. Today, antique stoneware jugs are highly prized by collectors who appreciate their rich history, folk art appeal, and investment potential. In this post, we‘ll explore what makes certain stoneware jugs so valuable and highlight some of the most sought-after examples that have sold for impressive sums in recent years.

Evaluating an Antique Stoneware Jug

Several key factors determine the value of an antique stoneware jug. Perhaps most important is the jug‘s age. As a general rule, the older the jug, the more valuable it will be, with specimens dating back to the early-to-mid 19th century commanding the highest prices. However, age alone does not guarantee value. Rarity is another crucial consideration – jugs produced by prominent makers or potteries in limited quantities will be more desirable to collectors than mass-produced pieces.

Condition is also paramount when assessing an antique jug. Chips, cracks, and other damage can significantly diminish a piece‘s value, while jugs in pristine shape with crisp, clear designs will fetch top dollar. Look for well-defined maker‘s marks or stamps indicating the jug‘s origin, as pieces crafted by celebrated artisans or from noted pottery towns are always in demand.

Lastly, a jug‘s decorative elements play a huge role in its collectibility and price. Cobalt blue designs hand-painted or stenciled onto the surface are a hallmark of the most valuable stoneware jugs. These charming folk art motifs range from simple floral or geometric patterns to more elaborate depictions of animals, people, or patriotic symbols. Generally, the more visually striking and finely rendered the decoration, the greater the jug‘s appeal and value to collectors.

Most Sought-After Antique Jugs

Within the world of antique stoneware jugs, certain makers, styles, and forms reign supreme in terms of desirability and price. Salt-glazed jugs from the early-to-mid 1800s are perennial favorites, cherished for their beautiful sheen and light orange peel-like texture. Master potters in the Northeast including J. & E. Norton of Bennington, Vermont and Crolius & Remmey of Manhattan, New York produced some of the finest examples.

Figural jugs shaped like human or animal faces are another popular category commanding high prices due to their whimsical, sculptural quality. The Martin Brothers of London crafted some of the most coveted character jugs in the late 19th century, with their stoneware "mugs" featuring expressive, grotesque visages. American "face vessels" of the South are also highly collectible, believed to have originated with enslaved African potters in the Edgefield District of South Carolina.

Patriotic and political jugs celebrating American leaders, military victories, or campaign slogans are yet another class of stoneware coveted by collectors. From jugs bearing the likenesses of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin to "Old Tippecanoe" log cabin jugs honoring William Henry Harrison‘s 1840 presidential bid, these vessels serve as compelling relics of America‘s early history and national identity.

Record-Breaking Jug Sales

In the past decade, several antique stoneware jugs have achieved impressive, headline-making prices at auction, underscoring the enduring demand for these humble yet historically significant vessels. In 2012, a rare "Whites Utica" double-handled stoneware jug sold for $7,600 at Crocker Farm in Maryland. Produced by the White family of potters in Utica, New York circa 1850, this highly ovoid jug featured a vibrant cobalt decoration of a horse, dog, and flowers. Its large size, crisp artwork, and excellent condition drove its value to nearly five figures.

Another notable sale occurred in 2022 when a cobalt decorated "Old Abe" Lincoln stoneware jug dated 1862 realized $4,750 at auction. Made by S. Johns of Randolph, Vermont during the Civil War, this cylindrical jug bore a stenciled design celebrating Abraham Lincoln‘s legacy as "Honest Abe" and savior of the Union. Its timely, patriotic message and appeal to militaria collectors no doubt bolstered its hammer price.

That same year, a pair of grotesque two-headed face jugs by famed Georgia folk artist Lanier Meaders fetched an impressive $8,125. Meaders, who passed away in 1998, was a third-generation potter renowned for his ugly face jugs inspired by the African-American face vessel tradition. Large, expressive, and masterfully modeled, these contemporary jugs showcased the enduring influence and value of figural stoneware.

Tips for Collecting Antique Jugs

If you‘re interested in starting an antique stoneware jug collection or adding to an existing one, there are several things to keep in mind. Begin by educating yourself about the different types of jugs, makers, and styles as well as the key attributes that drive value. Familiarize yourself with common appraisal factors like age, condition, marks, and decoration as discussed earlier.

When you‘re ready to begin acquiring pieces, shop around and explore various venues. Antique shops, flea markets, estate sales, and online marketplaces like eBay and Etsy can all be fruitful sources for finding stoneware jugs at different price points. Auctions, either in-person or online, are another avenue to consider, especially for rarer, high-end specimens.

Always thoroughly inspect any jug before buying, looking out for condition issues like cracks, chips, or restoration. Don‘t forget to examine the base for a maker‘s mark or other clues about the piece‘s origin and age. If the price seems too good to be true, be wary of reproductions or fakes, which have become increasingly common in recent years. When in doubt, ask the seller for more information or walk away if something doesn‘t feel right.

Once you‘ve started acquiring jugs, be sure to display and maintain them properly to preserve their condition and value. Avoid placing them in direct sunlight, which can fade painted designs, and keep them away from heat sources that may cause cracks. Dust jugs regularly with a soft, dry cloth but avoid using water or cleaning solutions that can damage the surface. If a more thorough cleaning is needed, consult a professional conservator to ensure it‘s done safely.

A Legacy in Clay

From their humble beginnings as utilitarian food storage containers to their status today as highly collectible folk art, antique stoneware jugs have left an indelible mark on America‘s cultural heritage. These remarkable vessels, crafted by skilled artisans and decorated with charming, hand-drawn designs, offer a tangible link to the past and a window into early American life.

While the most valuable specimens regularly fetch four or five figures at auction, there are still many wonderful antique jugs available at accessible prices for budding collectors. By learning to recognize the qualities that distinguish the finest examples, diligently searching for pieces that speak to you, and caring for them conscientiously, you can assemble a collection that will bring you joy and maybe even financial rewards for years to come. So the next time you spot an old salt-glazed jug or cobalt decorated crock at a flea market or antique shop, take a closer look – you may be holding a true treasure of Americana in your hands!

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 0 / 5. Vote count: 0

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.