Raise a Toast to the Iconic British Drinking Vessel—The Toby Jug

This Clarice Cliff Toby jug modeled as Winston Churchill brought $3,233.59 on eBay UK in 2014. It is the most valuable Toby jug on the Worthopedia.

Everyone in Britain has seen or maybe even owns a Toby jug, and although they are collected worldwide, it is much more of a novelty item made to represent British life, similar to how red telephone boxes are perceived. Toby jugs experienced a surge of popularity in the late 20th century, especially with American buyers.

The first and most common type of Toby jug is a large, plump man dressed in 18th-century attire, typically with a long coat and tricorn hat, which forms the pouring spout.

The first Toby jugs were produced in Staffordshire, England in 1760. If you feel you want to learn even more about these delightful novelty Jugs, you can always visit the American Toby Jug Museum in Evanston, Ill.

One thing that makes Toby jugs so charming is that there is a mystery behind when they originated. One theory is that they were modeled after a man called Henry Elwes, who was known as “Toby Fillpot” or “Toby Phillpot” (which is a play on the term “fill pot,” as in to fill a flagon of ale). Due to his keen interest in drinking, he was mentioned in the old English drinking song “The Brown Jug,” published in 1761.

Another theory is that it is modeled after Sir Toby Belch from Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” Much like Toby Fillpot, he is well known for his love of consuming alcohol.

This exceptional antique German sterling silver cream jug has been realistically modeled into a Character/Toby Jug. The heavy-set figure is embellished with chased decoration in the form of 18th century attire, incorporating a waistcoat and long outer-coat. It is selling for $997.25 at A.C. Silver.

A set of 12 Second World War Allied leaders Toby jugs is a limited-edition product commissioned by the American Toby Jug Museum. You can get an individual mug for $475.00 or get the complete set for $5,000.

Both Toby jugs and character jugs have been used throughout recent history for satirical purposes, especially in Britain. As you can imagine, there are many examples depicting politicians and other well-known individuals. Toby jugs have always been a sarcastic representation of real people or the habits of real people, although some antique jugs do cross the line to be more offensive than mocking.

From 1877, Royal Doulton started making more decorative pottery, which lead them to become one of the biggest and most well-known manufacturers of Toby and character jugs. The company’s first “character jug” was created by Charles Noke in the 1930s. There are thousands of designs available depicting many different characters.

Although Toby jugs are often associated with pottery and ceramics, the materials used to create toby jugs can vary including the use of papier maché and sterling silver.

This Royal Doulton character jug depicting the prototype version of Nelson Mandela is marked Pascoe & Co. It sold for $5,000.

Toby Jug Versus Character Jug

Character jugs are often mistakenly called a Toby jug. The Toby jug arrived first and the character jug derived from the Toby jug. An obvious difference is that the character jug only features the head and shoulders of a figure, whereas a Toby jug displays the entire body of the character. Due to this fact, the character jug is often referred to as a “face jug.”

FUN FACT: The world’s largest Toby jug is 40 inches tall and was commissioned by the American Toby Jug Museum at the start of the 21st century.

So whether you use this jug as a drinking vessel for ale, a pouring jug for cream or as a small pitcher to top off your guests’ beverages, it can be said that they should certainly be novelty and fun for all who use them.


Emma Wright is part of the luxury goods sales team and web content contributor at A.C. Silver; specializing in luxury antique jewelry and silverware. Emma has a strong passion for the world of antiquities and jewelry, with particular interest in the uses of silverware and all things Art Deco and Art Nouveau.

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