Antique Canning Jars




Determining the Value of Lovely Antique Canning Jars

Antique canning jars can be a beautiful addition to your home’s collectibles.  Some may have value to them, but many don’t.  Canning jars were in common use throughout the country for over a hundred years, and each family needed so many jars to preserve the harvest from their farm or garden that there are still many families who have hundreds of old jars gathering dust in their basements or barns.

Upon purchasing or finding a stash of lovely old mason jars, the first question that often comes to mind is whether the jars may be worth something, and how can you find out?

Each company’s jar is different, but in the case of Ball jars, you only need to know which logo to look for in order to date the jar.  The company changed the logo imprinted into the jar every several years, so once you find the Ball logo chart, all you need to do is compare it to the jars in question, and you can accurately date your jars to within approximately the correct decade.  You can find the Ball logo chart here.

But how can you tell if your antique jar is worth anything?

The mason style jars, with a metal lid and glass jar, which used a rubber gasket as a seal, were patented in 1858.  Jars were embossed with this patent number for over fifty years.  But the jars which also had a unique embossing design will carry more value.

If the jar has a misspelled word in the embossing, this is rarer and can raise the value of the jar.  Other jars that may command a higher price are jars with a more rare or experimental type of closure, such as Peerless, Putnam?s Trademark Lightning, and the sought-after A. & D.H. Chambers Pittsburgh, Pa jar with the five-pointed star.

Color can also define the value of a jar.  Aqua and amber jars were more common, while the  cobalt and black jars were the rarest.  You can find more information and examples of canning jar glass colors here.

Size is also a consideration.

Since quart, pint, and jelly jar sizes are the most common, a larger, unique size may have more value.

The jar’s age, of course, is given the greatest weight when determining value.  If you find indented rings or pontil marks in the jar’s bottom, that indicates a hand-finished jar completed by a glass blower and was most likely made prior to the industrialization of canning jars in 1858.  A machine-made jar that dates after 1915 will have seams that run from bottom to top of the jar.

Square jars could also indicate rarity, since they never gained popularity among homemakers, despite their space-saving design.

The condition of the jar may be the greatest determining factor in jar value if it has cracks, chips, or other damage, it will be far less valuable, but a good-condition older jar with the original lid could be worth significantly more.

For more information on the value of antique canning jars, the books 1,000 Fruit Jars or Redbook 9 (if you can find it–it’s out of print) could be of great use.

No matter what the value may be of the jars you own, they have an undeniable aesthetic value when you see an aqua mason jar on a picnic table filled with fresh-picked daisies, or a lightning jar with the glass lid and bailing wire clamp, filled with jelly beans.