If you can your own fruits and vegetables, you might be surprised to find that the value of old canning jars is often significant. If you are using the ones your grandmother left you, that jar of spiced peaches might be worth more than you think. Collecting canning jars got its start in the 1960s with a renewed interest in canning and other domestic arts.
Why It's Sometimes Called a Mason Jar
While canning jars have been around for a long time, it wasn't until 1858 that the screw-on lid was created. Prior to that time, flat tin lids were attached to the jars with wax rings. John Mason was a tinsmith in New York and perfected a machine that would cut threads into the lids, creating a jar with a reusable, screw-on lid. This process was easier and more reliable than the tin lid and wax method. Although other companies began creating the jars, Mason held the patent, and so the style of jar became known as a Mason jar.
Determining Value of Old Canning Jars
A number of factors go into the final value of a canning jar.
Thousands of canning jars were embossed with the Mason patent date, November 30, 1858. Jars actually were embossed with this for over 50 years so the embossing in itself should not be the sole criteria for determining date and value.
An embossed design that is unusual or unique will fetch more than the 1858 embossing on a jar. Sometimes you can find a jar that has a word misspelled and mishaps like this make the jar rarer and add to the value.
There are a variety of closures for canning jars from the tin lids to the modern screw on lids. When a jar is found with its original closure, it will be more valuable than when it isn't.
Companies experimented with numerous types of closures, most of which were very detailed, unusual, and impractical. Unique closures might not have been favored by yesteryears homemaker but they are a hot commodity among today's collector.
Some types of closures are:
- Putnam's Trademark Lightening
- A. & D.H. Chambers Pittsburgh, Pa (with a five pointed star - very valuable)
- The Stark lid and jar was produced in the 1920s but never marketed because of the Depression. Several of these jars and closures were found in an old warehouse.
Canning jars come in a variety of colors besides clear glass. The most unusual of these are worth more money than the common colors. Some colors, from the most common to the rarest, are:
- Dark Amber
- Milk Glass
Color can be difficult to describe. What is light blue to one person may seem aquamarine to another. You can see a variety of colors on the Hoosier Jar Color Page. This can help you identify the jar you have more accurately.
Most jars are quart sized with some being pint or jelly jars. Larger canning jars are unusual and can be go for much higher prices at auction depending on other factors.
Age is an important factor in the evaluation of canning jars, especially since they are made of glass and breakable. Generally the older the jar the more it is worth. Here are some tips to help you figure the age of your jar:
- Pontil marks and indented rings found in the bottom of the jar : It means that it was hand finished by a glass blower. These marks will usually be found on jars made before 1858, although a few were made after that time.
- Seams also help determine the age of your jar: Seams that go all the way up the jar indicate it was machine made, probably after 1915.
How the jar is shaped can make a difference in the value. Square jars, for example, were made by many manufacturers as early as the 1890s. Although they took up less space in the pantry they were never as popular as the regular canning jars and so are a little rare making them a little higher in value.
Of course the better the condition of the jar, the more it will be worth. Chips and cracks will diminish the value of old canning jars significantly while a jar in good condition with its original lid will be worth as much as 50% more than a similar jar without the lid.
Values of Antique Canning Jars
Here are some antique canning jar values found recently on the Internet. These should not be considered true values but are supplied to give you an idea of the worth of canning jars.
- Teal blue half-gallon 1858 - $5,000
- Quart sized Cadiz jar - $1,000.00
- Vacu-Top canning jar - $5.00
- Ball Ideal Aqua - $24.00
- Western Stoneware - $34.99
- Atlas Olive green - $8.99
If you are an aspiring collector, you may want to pick up a copy of Redbook 9, available on Amazon. This book is no longer is print but you can get descriptions and basic values of your jars. Another book to consider is 1,000 Fruit Jars.
Going through your canning jar stash may be rewarding in more than one way once you understand the potential value in these important historical containers.