Established in Roseville, Ohio in 1910, the Nelson McCoy Sanitary Stoneware Company quickly established itself as a success by selling functional and decorative pottery. Today, collectors still value pieces by McCoy, often choosing to collect specific examples of the company’s products. One of the more popular collecting specialties is the McCoy cookie jar. Because authentic pieces are highly sought after, the market has become flooded with fakes and reproductions. Successful collectors need to educate themselves on how to recognize an authentic piece and avoid the fakes.
Know patterns that are often faked. Just because a cookie jar has the McCoy name on the bottom does not mean that it is the real McCoy. Many patterns of jars are marked with the McCoy signature but are not from the actual company. Familiarize yourself with these patterns so you will know to walk away when you find a “deal” on one of these pieces. Two of the most common fakes are the Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White jars. However, there are many others, including Cinderella, Goldilocks, Rocking Horse and Elsie Cow.
Study guidebooks. Educating yourself on authentic McCoy pottery is the best way to learn to recognize an authentic versus a fake piece of pottery. Visit your local library or bookstore to find books about McCoy pottery. Study these reference guides to familiarize yourself with real McCoy cookie jars, including their patterns, sizes and glazes. If you find a cookie jar that is marked “McCoy” but is not illustrated in any collectors’ guidebooks, it probably is not an authentic piece.
Check the jar’s measurement. Usually, there are subtle differences between a fake McCoy jar and an authentic one. Check the size. Measure the longest part of an authentic McCoy jar. When comparing this to the size of a reproduction, the fake is usually slightly smaller than the original, normally around 6 percent smaller or more. The McCoy Collectors’ Society website includes measurements of authentic McCoy pieces that you can use for comparison.
Recognize other characteristics of fakes. Look at the glaze and analyze whether the colors are different from the original. Compare the weight of a reproduction versus an authentic piece. The fake will often weigh less than the original. Many of these subtle variations will only be recognizable once you have read about and handled many of the authentic McCoy jars.
Network with experts. Get advice and opinions on a cookie jar’s authenticity from veteran McCoy collectors. Join a collectors’ society to network with other McCoy enthusiasts. Go to art pottery shows in your area to find knowledgeable collectors.
Shelia Odak has over 10 years writing and editing experience for consumer and trade publications including "Radio/TV Interview Report." She has worked for over nine years in education and holds a Ph.D. from Georgia State University. Odak writes on a range of topics including education, literature and frugal living.