Before you can even estimate or set a price for that antique or vintage McCoy figural cookie jar or other ceramic ware made by the company, you must establish the date that it was made. The company produced ceramic ware under a variety of names from 1899 until it closed in 1990, with some McCoy pieces highly collectible. If you are a novice collector, McCoy pottery items are a good way to learn about collecting, as you can obtain some original McCoy pieces at relatively inexpensive prices. Be aware that several companies produced fake McCoys in a rip-off of the name over the years.
Age by Hallmark
Through the various incarnations of the company over its 91-year lifespan, the company used specific hallmarks, also known as maker's marks, to signify an original McCoy items, but not all items were marked. In the pieces that were, the company used its name in different stylized designs to signify production years, but in its beginning years, the company used the number 4 set inside a shield inside a circle. During its first years, the company also used the number 9 inside a circle placed inside a shield. It helps to know that not all items marked McCoy are real, as the name was often used illegally to make fake McCoy pieces.
Identify the Designer
If you can identify the designer of the McCoy pottery piece, you might be able to establish its value. For instance, an original McCoy monkey head planter, designed by one of the company's chief designers, Sidney Cope, has an estimated value of $400, at the time of publication, when most McCoy pieces range from $25 to $200. As a rare piece, the monkey head planter commands a higher price. To identify designs created during Cope's time with the company -- from 1933 to 1966 -- look for a simple "N" and "M" hallmark, sometimes stylized with "USA" beneath it.
The Pottery Line
A catalog produced by the company in 1904 identified four pottery lines that were being made at the time. Some of the items made were often marked with the line's name to which it belonged. The lines named in the catalog included: Carnelian, Rosewood, Light Blends and Rainbow. Look for the line name listed on the bottom of the item near the company's hallmark, if present. The company continued to produce specific pottery lines throughout the years, which can help you date the item or estimate its value.
Books, Appraisers and Auction Sites
Once you've established the age of your item, or you have a general idea of when it was produced, research McCoy pottery references books, collectors' and auction sites to estimate the value of your piece. If that doesn't help you establish its price, contact an antiques collector or appraiser -- one who specializes in ceramics -- to determine the value of your item. You can also compare your item to photos released by the McCoy Pottery Society that depicts fake pieces that were made under the name.
As a native Californian, artist, journalist and published author, Laurie Brenner began writing professionally in 1975. She has written for newspapers, magazines, online publications and sites. Brenner graduated from San Diego's Coleman College.