It's all about Condition

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Unlike other types of ceramic and china pieces, the life of a cookie jar is subject to rougher handling and accidents in the hands of small children. Consequently for a jar to survive fifty, sixty or seventy years with no mishaps or wear is truly a rare thing. This is probably why cookie jars enthusiasts are often willing to accept jars in worse condition than many other collectible areas.

When you find a vintage collectible cookie jar, there are three factors that determine what you should be willing to pay for it. Those factors are - condition - condition and condition. The high end prices that you see realized at auctions and in price guides are for jars that are in near mint condition. You should be willing to pay this much only for authentic jars without defects. If you decide to accept a lesser jar, the price you pay should reflect and adjustment according to the nature and severity of the flaws.

The following is a list of some problems often found with vintage cookie jars and common price adjustments you should reasonably expect to pay.

Unfortunately chips happen. They are common to all pottery and they always reduce the pieces value. On cookie jars there are small "ding" type chips and there are large "chunk" type chips. Then there are chips that show and others that are hidden. For a large chip that shows you should reduce your offer by 60% to 70%, unless the jar is very rare. Even if the chip doesn't show you should only be willing to pay 50% of a perfect jars value. Small chips on the other hand are a little more acceptable. For ones that show, a 40% price reduction is in order, while for those that don't show 15% to 25% is common.

Cracks are a lot more serious than chips. Cracks are always at risk of growing or worse yet completely fracturing and rendering the jars value to zero. Tight cracks, called "hairline", reduce a jars value by 40% to 50%, and open cracks by 70% or more. Most savvy cookie jar collectors stay away from cracked jars completely unless they are truly rare.

Cold Paint Missing
The cold painted jars of the 1930s and 40s present a different value gaging dilemma for collectors. Almost all are missing their original paint to some degree. Rarely do these jar become available in mint condition. Therefore acceptance of missing cold paint by the cookie jar collecting community is common, and value adjustments are personal. Knowledgeable collectors often use a sliding scale, to bid on cold painted jars. These adjustments are usually only 10% to 40% less than an excellent jar of the same type, depending on the extent of the paint loss .

Factory Flaws
Don't ever let a dealer tell you that a flaw or defect doesn't effect the value of a jar because it came from the factory that way. All pottery manufacturers have quality control procedures in place and substandard jars are graded out then sent to outlet stores where they are sold at reduced prices. If a jar didn't originally sell at full price why should you pay full price today? A factory flaw should reduce the value of a jar from 30% to 70%, depending on its nature and how noticeable it is.

Bottoms Only - Lids Only
Bottoms without lids, or lids without bottoms, by nature, is unique to cookie jar collecting. Very often for highly desirable jars, the unbroken half of the unfortunate jar still has some value to another collector with the opposite problem. Salvageable halves are openly traded on the internet, in cookie jar forums and on auction sites. Expect to pay 20% to 35% of the full value of the completed jar.

The rarer a cookie jar is, the less defects seem to effect price. That's not to say that chips and cracks don't reduce the value of scarce jars, its just that when very hard to find jars do become available collectors seem to be more willing to accept the flaws in order to add those pieces to their display. Therefore with respect to rarity, it is important to note that the percentage reductions stated above very often are considerably less.


One last word of caution concerning condition - always, always be suspect of any cookie jar in mint condition, as most are counterfeits. That's not to say that all top condition jars are counterfeit, it's just that "mint" and "excellent" conditions cookie jars are truly rare. To protect yourself from scammers trying to pass off counterfeits as originals read and use the techniques in "Counterfeits and Fakes" to ascertain the authenticity of any jar claimed to be in excellent condition.

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