Protect Yourself from Fakes and Counterfeits

Counterfeit Winnie Pig Cookie JarThere are basically three different types of jars that a novice (and sometimes expert) collector can fall prey to. As long as people continue to collect - reproductions, fakes and counterfeits will be with us. It comes with the territory. It is your job as a collector to protect yourself by knowing the differences between them, and how to spot them.


Reproductions come in two varieties - manufacturer's and artisan. An authentic manufacturer's reproduction is a piece that a pottery originally made and has decided to reintroduce. Sometimes a skilled artisan will reproduce a rare or popular jar. All reproduction jars are distinguished by being clearly marked as such and it would be very difficult for a shyster to pass one off as an original. There is nothing wrong with having a reproduction as long as you know that that is what you are buying and pay accordingly. Reproductions fill a niche by offering collectors the means of having a jar that would normally be to expensive to own.

Fakes are simply pieces that are marked with a certain pottery trademark, but that pottery never made that piece. Unsuspecting buyers assume that the jar is authentic because it has a particular mark. If you are not aware that the pottery never made the jar, you could be easily swindled. For example, there exists a Little Red Riding Hood cookie jar, that has the McCoy mark on it, but the Nelson McCoy Pottery never made a Little Red Riding Hood cookie jar. Fakes abound on the internet.

A counterfeit is a cookie jar that was made for the sole purpose of defrauding and deceiving the public into believing that it is an expensive original. The counterfeit looks like the original piece, in both the overall shape, colors and markings. Counterfeit jars are predominately high priced collectible jars. Rarely do these unscrupulous thieves go to the trouble to make a jar for an original that sells for less than $100.

Counterfeit Purple Cow Cookie Jar
Today fakes and counterfeits abound everywhere cookie jar collectors are likely to look. They can be found at flea markets, yard sales, and littering the internet. Due to the quality of some counterfeits they are even showing up in antique stores and antique malls. In defense of the owners of these shops, they have often also been duped. Few legitimate antique dealers would knowingly pass off a fake or counterfeit as an original.

Flea markets, yard sales and the internet however are a different story. While many quality originals at good prices can be found at these forums, the specter of getting burned by a fake or counterfeit is prevalent. Some sellers are going to unwitting offer them as originals. Others are going to sell them knowing full well that they are counterfeit. It is estimated that 15% to 25% of all the jars being sold now are not legitimate.

However the purpose of this article is not to discuss the ethics of counterfeit cookie jar sellers - but rather, how YOU can protect yourself from their tentacles. The only real protection that a collector has is KNOWLEDGE. Know your product. Know your hobby. You are the one laying down your hard earned cash. You are the only one that can protect your interests. And remember, when it comes to collectibles few warranties, verbal or written can be enforced in court.

Here are some considerations that savvy collectors consider before they finalize a cookie jar purchase.

Counterfeit Little Red Riding Hood Cookie JarCounterfeit Sitting Horse Cookie JarCounterfeit Goldilocks Cookie Jar

1) - Rare jars are more likely to be counterfeited because they bring higher prices. Think about this - if all the Shawnee "Smiley" pigs, and Hull "Little Red Riding Hoods" that we see on the internet where in fact real, these jars would not be rare. If you run across two or more "rare" jars in the same location extreme caution is advised.

2) - Counterfeits are always smaller than the original. The reason for this is that they are produced using an authentic piece to make a new mold. Since the clay shrinks when it dries, and shrinks even more when it is “fired” in the kiln, counterfeits come out slightly smaller than the original.

3) - One way to avoid a counterfeit is to measure the height of the cookie jar that interests you. Compare it to the same dimension of an authentic piece as listed in an authoritative guide book. A counterfeit is indicated, if the measurement of the suspect piece is six percent, or more, smaller than the same measurement of an authentic piece. A note of caution - there can be some slight measurement differences between authentic pieces. So, if the measurements made of a suspect piece are close to that of the original, other telltale characteristics should also be investigated.

4) - If a cookie jar "feels" a little "light" it is probably a counterfeit. This is because the thickness of the clays used in most of the vintage jars where generally greater than the clay thicknesses used by the imitators.

5) - The best way to avoid fakes is to know what pieces were actually made by the pottery whose piece you are looking at. If you find a jar marked “McCoy”, and it is not pictured in any of the McCoy reference books, the chances are very great that it is a fake. Remember, fakes may have an authentic looking mark on them, but regardless of that, they are fakes.

6) - For cookie jars on eBay, acquiring the exact height of a piece for sale may be difficult to ascertain. Sellers of fraudulent pieces typically know why you are asking for a measurement, and they usually respond with answers like “almost” or “nearly”. If a seller does not respond to your question with an exact dimension, it would be better to avoid doing business with them.

7) - For eBay jars always check a seller's other auctions, completed sales, and feedback ratings. Always suspect any dealer that seems to have an abundance of rare and hard to find high priced items. Also look for low feedback ratings or very few feedbacks. There are quite a few eBay sellers that routinely list fakes and reproductions. When their reputations catch up to them they close shop and reopen under another name.

Counterfeit Cow Jumps Over the Moon Cookie Jar8) - Avoid unknown variations. If you see a high priced jar in a glaze color or paint pattern that is unusual, steer clear of it. Don't allow yourself to think since the price books haven't listed this color it must be rare and valuable. That is exactly the reasoning the scam artists want you to use.

9) - Look at the color of the clay on unglazed areas of the jar and compare it to the known clay color of a legitimate jar. Many vintage manufacturers used a clay that was slightly "yellow" or "gray", whereas the counterfeit jars are almost always a pure white. Again a note of caution here. Not ALL vintage potteries used slightly off color clays. Most of the California potteries used a whiter clay body. The only way to be sure is to compare to a known original.

10) - Examine the bottom and inside lip of a suspect jar for wear. Again, while it is not one hundred percent reliable, you should be highly cautious of any jar that is supposed to be sixty or seventy years old that has a shinny bottom and no scratching under the lid.

11) - "Crazing" does not necessarily mean old. As the mechanics of the causes for crazing became known, so to did the ability to prevent or CAUSE it. The imitators know that if they cool down their counterfeit jars in a certain way they can quickly add "crazing" to give them the appearance of age. A counterfeit telltale clue is an even all over crazing pattern. Genuine crazing rarely affects a jar evenly.

12) - Some of the scammers have discovered that "cold painting" gives their pieces the aurora of age, thus deceiving more buyers. They "cold paint" a desirable jar then flake off portions of the painting to give the illusion of an aged jar. In most cases the colors of the paint don't quite match up to the originals.

As long as there are collectors willing to pay high prices for rare jars there will be unscrupulous people that will try to take advantage of them. However, knowing how to spot them will protect YOU.

Is there a way to protect yourself from fakes and counterfeits on eBay? The answer is, Yes. See Protect yourself.

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