My Recent Buy: Red Wing Cookie Jar
“My Recent Buy” will be a regular feature in The Insider. What did you buy recently that brings a smile to your face? Share the object and your story with our readers. Send the story of your buy and two to four images to email@example.com. Your recent buy might appear in a future issue. This week we bring you a recent buy made by our very own expert, Harry Rinker.
I buy antiques and collectibles based on the simple premise that when seeing one and a voice whispers in my ears – “Buy it. You were meant to own it. You need to take it home with you,” I purchase it. This mystical voice has served me well. The mystical voice revealed itself at the end of a recent estate sale when I encountered a glazed ceramic squat cookie jar. I bought it for $17.50.
During appraisal clinics, I jokingly criticize participants who bring me beer steins with no beer, candy dishes with no candy, pie plates with no pies, and cookie jars with no cookies. “Worthless,” I exclaim. “The value rests with what is in them.”
I grew up in the post-war cookie jar era. My parents’ home, my grandparents’ home, the homes of my aunts and uncles and great aunts and uncles had cookie jars. They were never empty. Baking cookies was not a holiday event. It occurred whenever the cookie jar was depleted.
Our family cookie jar was a Taylor, Smith, and Taylor Apple jar. This particular jar sold for $10 in November 2017.
Our family cookie jar was a Taylor, Smith, and Taylor Apple jar. My father was an individual who strongly believed that “everything should last a lifetime,” the exception being toasters. Every two years, the toaster on our kitchen nook table was replaced by a new model. Our Apple cookie jar was still in use when I moved out and went to college.
I never got caught up in the cookie jar collecting craze of the 1980s and 1990s. The figural jars were too cute for my taste. In fairness, my Hopalong Cassidy collection included two variations of the Hopalong Cassidy cookie jar. Who could resist the saddle shaped lid? I am certain I owned other cookie jars in the past but am hard pressed to remember them. Flashes of a spun aluminum jar with “COOKIES” in black on the side keeps popping up in my mind. Several of the canister sets in my canister set collection had a cookie jar.
I buy antiques and collectibles based on the simple premise that when seeing one and a voice whispers in my ears – “Buy it. You were meant to own it. You need to take it home with you,” I purchase it. This mystical voice has served me well.
The moment I saw the cookie jar, I knew I was going to buy it. The age was old, the shape intrigued me, and I wanted to study the spongeware further.
The mystical voice revealed itself again at the end of a recent estate sale when I encountered a glazed ceramic squat cookie jar with an off-white body, a decreasing stepped ring bottom, center band with a red and blue spongeware design, a similar decreasing stepped ring top ending in a raised collar, two demilune attached handles (each with spongeware decoration), and a lid with a sponge decorated edge and a raised circular knob in the center. There was no maker’s mark. The spongeware decoration had flowed throughout a quarter of the band. The raised knob was unglazed at the top but had a recessed center that was plugged with a piece of the body clay. I bought it for $17.50.
I recently read that it takes only milliseconds for a collector to know whether he/she is going to buy something or not. I like to think I spend a little more time making a decision, but I am only deluding myself. The moment I saw the cookie jar, I knew I was going to buy it.
Once a collector buys an object, it is easy to rationalize the decision to buy. The cookie jar was early, certainly not part of the post-1945 cookie jar craze. Second, the shape intrigued me. Third, I wanted to study the spongeware decoration. Fourth, the lid knob did not seem right. Its construction was not consistent with the rest of the piece.
[Author’s Aside #1: When teaching authentication, I encourage students to look at a piece and ask these questions: Is everything consistent in the construction of the piece? Am I seeing what I expect to see for something made during that time period? Inconsistency usually indicates the piece has been tampered with in one way or another.]
The real reason I bought the piece is I did not know who made it. It held the promise of another fun research adventure. There was no doubt in my mind that it was American.
Researching starts with the question: Where do I begin? When I owned Rinker Enterprises, the answer was the library. I would have started by looking through the cookie jar price guides and then the spongeware price guides if the first look was unsuccessful. I sold the Rinker Enterprise library in 2010. Over the past eight years, I have assembled a modest antiques and collectibles reference library. Alas, it contains no cookie jar or spongeware reference books.
My choice narrowed down to one source – the Internet. I debated what search words to use. My first search choice was “spongeware cookie jar.” BINGO! The fourth cookie jar in “Images for Spongeware Cookie Jar” was identical to the one that I just bought. The image was captioned “Red Wing Vintage Saffron Spongeware Cookie Jar.” Wow, Red Wing!
Red Wing’s Saffron line was made from a lighter weight clay than its traditional stoneware pieces. Although some pieces had spongeware decoration, most did not. The Red Wing Union Stoneware Company produced its Saffron line between 1906 and 1936. My purchase was early, but not as early as I thought.
[Author’s Aside #2: Every collector wants to think his/her item was one of the first, not one of the last made. My advice is simple. Think the last.]
Like every “take a chance” buyer, I wanted confirmation that my eye, skill, and expertise allowed me to purchase the Red Wing cookie jar at a bargain price. No collector ever wants to admit he/she paid full price or, heaven forbid, too much. Time to check WorthPoint’s Worthopedia.
I was heart broken to find a similar but not identical example sold on June 13, 2017, on eBay for $10.00. It only had blue spongeware on the central band. In the good news department, an example identical to mine with a replaced wooden lid sold for $42.00 on April 23, 2017. In the not so good news department, an example identical to mine but with a broken lid only brought $12.99 on February 13, 2016. I had to remind myself that these prices did not include the cost of shipping, which clearly added another 10 to 15 dollars to the cost.
I did my search by “Sales Date,” a good method to test in which direction the market is heading. This revealed prices fell considerably following the 2008-2009 Great Recession and have not recovered. I was able to confirm that my lid is correct as made. There was no finial on top of the round knob handle. Most of the lids I saw did not have the spongeware decoration around the outer edge, a plus for my example. My bargain was not as much of a bargain as I thought. There were no shipping costs involved, but there were time and transportation costs.
My Red Wing jar is now displayed on the top of my Grandfather Prosser’s blanket chest as part of one of “my things to own” collection. It is not filled with cookies. It often is easier to give advice than to follow it.
PS: I saved my mother’s recipe box. When I retire, I am planning to start cooking with them. Her Chocolate Chip Toll House Cookie recipe is on the top of the pile.
Rinker Enterprises and Harry L. Rinker are on the Internet. Check out Harry’s Web site. You can listen and participate in Harry’s antiques-and-collectibles radio call-in show “Whatcha Got?” on Sunday mornings between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Eastern Time. It streams live on the Genesis Communications Network. “Sell, Keep Or Toss? How To Downsize A Home, Settle An Estate, And Appraise Personal Property” (House of Collectibles, an imprint of the Random House Information Group), Harry’s latest book, is available at your favorite bookstore and via Harry’s Web site.
Harry L. Rinker welcomes questions from readers about collectibles, those mass-produced items from the 20th century. Selected queries will be answered on this site. Harry cannot provide personal answers. Send your questions to: Rinker on Collectibles, 5955 Mill Pond Court SE, Kentwood, MI 49512. You can e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Only e-mails containing a full name and mailing address will be considered. Please indicate that these are questions for WorthPoint.
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