Available from a variety of local shops and Internet retailers, antique stoneware crocks are just as useful today as they were in decades past. As you start or expand your collection of these practical and pretty kitchen items, it also helps to understand a bit about the qualities that add value and differentiate a modern reproduction from an old find.
Where to Buy Antique Crocks
Whether you prefer to shop online or browse the aisles at your local antique store, you'll have lots of options. These vessels were kitchen essentials throughout the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries, and antique examples abound.
The following websites are great places to find antique crocks:
- Prock's Crocks and Antiques - This online antique store specializes in antique crocks, including many popular brands.
- eBay - The mega auction site has a constantly changing selection. You'll find crocks from every era and manufacturer.
- Tias - This online antique store is the perfect place to look for genuine antique crocks.
- RubyLane - Another great option for antique crocks, RubyLane also has a continually changing selection.
- Etsy - This artist marketplace is also a fabulous place to find vintage kitchen items like antique crocks.
- Z&K Antiques - This antique shop has a great selection of antique stoneware, including crocks.
While you may find the best crock selection online, the weight of these items can make shipping expensive. Some collectors prefer to shop closer to home. You can find crocks at antique stores and flea markets, as well as estate sales, auctions, and garage sales. Don't forget to check out Craigslist too.
Antique Crocks vs. Modern Reproductions
Popular from the 1700s through the 1900s, crocks were useful kitchen staples throughout the United States. Today, they are prized for their simple beauty, which originates in the manufacturing process. Manufacturers used a salt glazing process to create a glass-like finish on the crocks when they were fired. Before they were fired, the crocks were often decorated with beautiful cobalt blue designs. This manufacturing process offers clues to a crock's authenticity.
Since antique crocks are so collectible, there are many reproductions on the market. Before you make your purchase, be sure to examine it for the following characteristics:
- A shiny, glass-like surface with occasional bumps, which indicates that the crock was salt-glazed
- Simple decorations, which appear to be painted on freehand, rather than printed or stamped
- Decorations that are beneath the surface of the glaze, instead of painted on top
- Hand-drawn or stenciled numbers and letters, rather than precisely printed markings
- A thick wall, which may bow out in the center
- A patina of use, including duller spots, dark areas, and crazing
According to eBay Guides, it's also a good idea to be wary of crocks with vintage advertising on them. If you find one that has an advertising logo or slogan on it, examine it carefully. Be sure the printing is glazed into the surface, rather than applied as a decal, sticker, or paper label.
Design and Value of Antique Crocks
The value of an antique crock will depend on many factors, including the desirability of the manufacturer and the designs printed on the crock. When determining a crock's value, keep the following in mind.
Since nearly every city had a stoneware crock manufacturer, you'll find dozens of different makers as you browse the selection of antique crocks. Often, crocks feature a maker's mark somewhere on the bottom or side of the piece. Redwing is the most popular manufacturer with collectors, so these crocks bring higher prices than others. A Redwing crock is marked with a single red wing.
The crock's condition is also important to its value. Chips, cracks, and extreme wear will bring the final value down. In most cases crazing (a crackled appearance) does not affect value and may actually contribute to the authenticity of the antique vessel.
Another factor in the condition of a crock is its completeness. Many crocks came with lids. If the crock still has the original lid, it will tend to be more valuable. Similarly, the presence of original handles and other pieces will contribute to its value.
Although crocks are useful and collectible in any size, some shapes and sizes are more sought after than others. Large examples, which were rarer than smaller crocks, will fetch more from collectors.
Some of the cobalt designs on crocks are exceptionally detailed and beautiful. These generally command higher prices than others. As a general rule, the more blue design you see, the more you can expect to pay. However, only original blue designs enhance the value of the crock. Check carefully to make sure the blue decorations weren't added after the piece was fired.
A crock will often be more valuable in the area where it was made. Local potteries will generally command a higher price in their own area because there is a higher concentration of collectors. Additionally, crocks are heavy and can be costly to ship.
Timeless and Practical
Although they are popular for their simplicity and craftsmanship, antique stoneware crocks are also very practical in today's home. Use your crock to display kitchen utensils by the stove, keep magazines handy near to your favorite chair, coral kids' toys, or store kindling next to the fireplace. No matter how you choose to use your crock, you'll love the timeless beauty it brings to your home.