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Got Antique Stoneware Jugs? One Just Sold for $34,000 — Find Out If Yours Has Value

If your jug was made in the 1700s, get excited!

America has a long history of hand-crafted stoneware jugs, which were once a staple in every kitchen from the 1700s to the 1880s. They were used for holding water, milk, and everything in between — and as it turns out, there is quite a market for these antique pieces. Wise shoppers pick them out at estate sales and on eBay, then re-sell them for a higher price. If they’re really lucky, they’ll find a jug that is 200 years old or more and has few imperfections — these sell for at least $7,000. So, what makes a jug valuable, and if you own one, how much can you expect to earn by selling it? Learn about the stoneware market and how to determine your selling price below.

A Brief History of Stoneware Jugs in America

Up until the 1700s, most stoneware in America was imported from Europe; the British prohibited American potters from making stoneware, ceramic, or porcelain pottery. When Americans were finally able to make their own stoneware (often called earthenware or red-ware because of the red-brown rusty colors), the market blossomed. The earliest American pieces were rough around the edges, with minimal glazing that sometimes only reached halfway up the jug. (However, many of these colonial pieces are still very valuable because of their age.)

In the mid-1700s, Americans took notice of the pretty, white-salt glazed pieces made in Staffordshire, England. This ornate porcelain style became very popular, and many colonial homes contained Staffordshire pieces. (Wondering what salt glazing is? It’s when an artisan adds salt to the kiln before firing the pot at a high temperature. The salt vaporizes and interacts with the silica and a substance called alumina oxide, which creates a glassy, orange-peel-textured coating of sodium silicate.) Today, salt-glazed stoneware from 1700s and 1800s sells for a pretty penny.

In the same time period, Americans also prized porcelain pottery from China. This stoneware was made from a non-absorbent, white clay which made the pottery longer-lasting. Plus, buyers loved the delicate styles with hand-painted nature scenes. (Some pieces even featured extravagant dragons.) Fine, hair-like cracks actually increase the value of this stoneware, because they indicate that the pottery is old.

Examples of Rare Stoneware Jugs

While most antique stoneware jugs sell for around $200 to $300, a few rare pieces sometimes appear that have remarkable value. For instance, Morphy Auctions in Pennsylvania listed the below rare stoneware jug as having a value between $7000 and $10,000. What makes it so pricey? It dates back to the mid-19th century from Bennington, Vermont, and it has an intricate design of a cobalt blue stag leaping over a split rail fence in a pasture. The imperfections are minor: a shallow chip just above the base, and a few minor glaze imperfections.

Morphy Auctions stoneware from 19th century
Rare stoneware from the 19th century, stag leaping over a fencecourtesy of Morphy Auctions

If jugs can’t sell for a high amount of money on their own, selling them in sets of two or three can increase their value. For instance, Morphy Auctions listed these three, decorated American stoneware jugs as costing $900 to $1,200. They date back to the second half of the 19th century, originally from New York and Vermont. One of them — the middle piece with a freehand, sideways blue floral — is made by the well-known manufacturer Nichols and Alfred in Burlington, Vermont. All three jugs are in very good condition with minor discolorations and small flakes in the glaze.

set of three rare stoneware jugs from NY and VT
Set of three rare stoneware jugs from NY and VTcourtesy of Morphy Auctions

Sometimes, less is more when it comes to stoneware. The Crocker Farm Auction in Sparks, Maryland recently valued a small, cylindrical jug with no decorations at $2,040. Why did this one sell for so much money? It has the maker’s mark (a stamped “T”) of Shimuel Timmerman, a famous potter from Lanier County, Georgia. The tiny size makes it delicate and ornate, and the glossy alkaline glaze was masterfully applied. In addition, the imperfections are small — just a chip at the base and a worn section on the bottom.

What’s the most stoneware can sell for? In 2022, Crocker Farm sold an extremely rare, two-gallon jug featuring a rooster for $34,800. It was designed by John Young & Co, an esteemed manufacturer in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania — and the rooster was painted using a special cobalt slip technique.

Signs That a Stoneware Jug Is Valuable

Above all, an antique stoneware jug is valuable if it was hand-painted, made in the 1700s or 1800s, and has a maker’s mark. Here’s how to tell if your jug is hand painted and salt-glazed:

  • It has a shiny, glass-like surface with sparse, tiny bumps (from the salt).
  • The jug has decorations, usually in a cobalt blue ink, and looks hand-painted. (You can see imperfections or brush strokes.)
  • Decorations lie beneath the glaze.
  • There are hand-drawn, carved, or stenciled numbers and letters on the jug signifying the maker.

Other signs that you have a valuable jug on your hands? It is antique (at least 100 years old) and was handcrafted by a master artisan. Intricate designs may also increase the value. Note: If your jug does not have a maker’s mark but you believe it is very old, contact an antique appraiser.

Factors That Detract From a Jug’s Value

Stoneware jugs that do not have an artist’s signature or manufacturer’s mark on the bottom, have cracks or chips, or have muted colors tend to be less valuable. There are always exceptions, however. For instance, this antique jug with muted colors, imperfections, and a faded design is selling for $2,500 on eBay. It’s high in value because it dates back to 1850-1899, it’s huge (it holds 20 gallons), and it was made by Williams and Reppert in Greensboro, Pennsylvania — another renowned manufacturer.

Famous Stoneware Makers

One of the easiest ways to determine your jug’s value is to find out if a famous potter made it. Check out this list of renowned manufacturers and artisans below:

  • Caldwell
  • Davenport and Spode
  • John Young & Co
  • Longport
  • Nichols and Alfred Burlington, Vermont
  • Roberts Binghamton, New York
  • Shimuel Wilhelm Timmerman
  • Turner and Wood
  • Wedgewood

Ultimately, your best bet at determining the value of your stoneware is to ask an appraiser or two. Asking multiple professionals will give you a better idea of the pot’s value. It will also help you determine whether an appraiser is undervaluing the jug in the hopes that you will sell it to them for less.

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