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The Most Valuable Antique Stoneware Jugs

Antique stoneware jugs are highly prized by collectors for their rich history, folk art appeal, and stunning craftsmanship. Used to store everything from water and grain to beer and whiskey, these sturdy vessels were a staple of 19th century American life. Today, the most valuable and rare examples can fetch thousands of dollars at auction.

Whether you‘re an experienced collector or simply appreciate the rustic charm of antique pottery, join us as we explore the fascinating world of collectible stoneware jugs. We‘ll delve into the history of these humble yet beautiful objects, reveal what makes certain jugs so valuable, and share some of the most incredible examples to hit the auction block in recent years.

A Brief History of Stoneware Jugs

Stoneware is a type of pottery fired at extremely high temperatures, resulting in a glass-like, impervious surface. Stoneware production began in the United States in the early 1800s and flourished in regions with abundant clay deposits, such as New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and Texas.

Most utilitarian stoneware was made for storing food and drink. The durable, easy to clean, and relatively cheap vessels were used to store everything from pickles and sauerkraut to cider and whiskey. In an era before refrigeration, stoneware crocks and jugs helped preserve perishables in cellars and springhouses.

By the mid-1800s, stoneware production had grown into a major industry with hundreds of potteries operating across the country. Each region developed its own distinctive styles and decorative motifs. Many potteries employed skilled artists to hand paint cobalt blue designs on their wares – these decorated pieces are among the most sought after by collectors today.

Advances in glass and ceramic production in the late 19th and early 20th centuries led to the gradual decline of the stoneware industry. By 1920, most American potteries had closed their doors. The surviving antique jugs offer a tangible link to this bygone era and are treasured as authentic examples of early American folk art.

What Makes an Antique Jug Valuable?

Like any antique, a stoneware jug‘s value is determined by a combination of rarity, age, condition, and aesthetic appeal. Jugs by prominent makers or from potteries known for their craftsmanship and artistry are especially desirable.

Maker and Origin

Many potters and potteries are well-known and collected for their distinctive style and quality. For example, pieces marked "Crolius" or "Remmey" from Manhattan, "Seymour" or "S. Hart" from Connecticut, "Cowden & Wilcox" from Pennsylvania, or "H. Remmey" or "P. Cross" from Philadelphia are highly coveted.


In general, the earliest jugs from the late 18th and early 19th centuries are the rarest and most valuable. However, certain makers and styles from later in the 1800s are also highly collectible.


As with any antique, condition has a major impact on value. The best pieces have no cracks, chips, or repairs. Mint condition jugs are increasingly rare and command the highest prices. Jugs with minor flaws can still be quite valuable if they are exceptional in other ways.


Jugs with elaborate, finely executed cobalt blue decoration are more valuable than plain or minimally decorated pieces. Designs range from simple floral motifs and birds to patriotic emblems, animals, humans, and ships. The decoration‘s quality and rarity are key factors.

Form and Size

Ovoid and semi-ovoid jugs tend to be more desirable than cylindrical forms. Handled jugs are generally worth more than those without handles. Miniature jugs under 6 inches tall are highly collectible, as are massive storage jugs over 16 inches tall. Jugs with unusual features like double spouts or figural designs also stand out.

Record-Breaking Auction Results

Exceptional antique jugs have sold for hefty sums in recent years as collector interest has grown. Here are a few of the most impressive auction results:

$252,000 for an Anna Pottery Stoneware Temperance Jug

In 2004, an 1859 Anna Pottery temperance jug sold at Crocker Farm for $252,000 – a record for American stoneware. Made by Cornwall and Wallace Kirkpatrick, this 8-gallon jug is decorated with snakes and frogs and features a poem about the evils of alcohol. It‘s considered a masterpiece of the Kirkpatricks‘ eccentric and inventive style.

$111,600 for a Manhattan Stoneware Jug w/ Elaborate Incised Decoration

This 18-inch jug, attributed to Thomas Commeraw or David Morgan in the late 18th century, features extensive incised floral decoration and a bright blue glaze. It sold at Crocker Farm in 2008 for $111,600, setting a record for incised Manhattan stoneware.

$95,600 for a J. Swank & Co. Stoneware Presentation Harvest Jug

Made by Johnstown, PA potter Jacob Swank in 1863, this highly decorative 5-gallon jug features a cornucopia, fruit, grains, and a presentation inscription. The jug exhibits superb artistry and sold at Crocker Farm in 2022 for $95,600.

$44,850 for a Figural Cannon Stoneware Jug

This extremely rare Civil War era jug in the form of a cannon was made in Washington, PA around 1862. It sold at Crocker Farm in 2021 for $44,850, a testament to the desirability of such unusual figural designs.

Evaluating an Antique Jug

If you‘re considering buying an antique stoneware jug or having one appraised, there are several key things to look at:


Check for a maker‘s mark or stamp on the jug – usually on the base or back near the handle. Many prominent potters marked their work, and pieces with a clear, readable mark are more collectible. Do research to ensure the mark is appropriate for the jug‘s attributed age and origin.


Examine the jug carefully for any cracks, chips, or repairs. Check the bottom for signs of wear. A blacklight can help detect restoration. Old, professionally done repairs are acceptable for most collectors but will lower the value compared to pristine examples. Avoid jugs with large cracks or missing pieces.


Look closely at the glaze on the surface – it should have a hard, glass-like finish with some texture and crackling. Deep, vibrant cobalt blue decoration is desirable. Watch out for decoration that looks too glossy, perfect, or new – this can indicate a reproduction or forgery.


Familiarize yourself with the typical forms and proportions of early stoneware. Avoid anything that feels clunky or asymmetrical. Also watch out for details like too-perfect handles which could indicate a reproduction.

Evaluating antique stoneware takes practice and knowledge. When in doubt, consult an experienced appraiser or specialist before making a major purchase. They can help authenticate a piece and give you a realistic idea of its market value.

Finding Antique Stoneware Jugs

Antique jugs turn up regularly at auctions, antique shops, flea markets, and estate sales. Online marketplaces like eBay are another source but require extra caution, as photos can hide flaws. Auction houses that specialize in early American ceramics, such as Crocker Farm and Skinner, are excellent places to find vetted, high-quality pieces and to get an idea of current market prices.

Building a Collection

Collecting antique stoneware jugs can be a fun and rewarding hobby. There are many different directions to take a collection, from focusing on a particular region, time period, or potter to collecting jugs with similar motifs or forms. Building a collection takes time – start by learning as much as you can and focusing on quality over quantity. Connecting with other collectors and dealers can help you find the best pieces and get advice.

Caring for Antique Jugs

Antique stoneware is durable but still requires careful handling. Avoid picking jugs up by the handles, which can crack under pressure. Wash jugs gently by hand and dry thoroughly before storing. Keep stoneware out of direct sunlight and away from extreme temperatures which can cause crazing and fading. Store jugs in a secure location where they won‘t get knocked over. If you notice any chips or cracks, have the piece evaluated by a professional conservator to prevent further damage.

With proper care, these antique treasures can retain their beauty and value for generations. Whether starting a serious collection or just incorporating a few choice pieces into your decor, antique stoneware jugs are a wonderful way to connect with America‘s rich artistic and cultural heritage. Their eye-catching designs, historical significance, and investment potential make them a smart choice for collectors and connoisseurs alike.