How to Find the Value of Old Vintage Mason jars and canning jars, like any other collectable, can range in value between only a few dollars and several thousand dollars. Though many of us would like to venture into grandma or grandpas old fruit cellar and discover a jar that is worth several thousand dollars, the odds are against us. Because, like any other collectable, price is dictated by rarity, collectability, and condition.
Most mason jars you may come across in the antique store, an old fruit cellar, or elsewhere are generally valued between five and fifteen dollars; these are the most common jars. Clear jars that were made into the 1960’s and 1970’s will usually sell for between two and five dollars; these include the Mason “Star” Jar, most clear Ball, Kerr, and Presto jars, but there are exceptions. Before ruling out your jar as a worthless piece of glass, consult a reputable book, I prefer, as do many collectors, the “Red Book, The Collector’s Guide to Old Fruit Jars,” by Douglas M. Leybourne Jr. currently on its tenth printing and available for forty dollars at redbookjars.com (don’t spend the exorbitant mark up prices on amazon).
Most blue jars bearing some variation of the Ball logo will usually sell for less than fifteen dollars. However, numerous variations exist within Ball jars, so much so that Mr. Leybourne has dedicated nearly fifty pages of his book to Ball jars, the most valuable being the “Ball Perfection” (not to be confused with Perfect Mason) line of jars ranging in value between $100 and $4000. There are also a few so rare that they have never been evaluated for a price.
Aside from the jars that were sold to be used in the home for canning, many companies produced their products in what were labeled as mason jars, and are often found more in one region where the product was produced than another. For example, the “Reliance Brand Wide Mouth Mason” jar is found more commonly in the Pacific Northwest. This was a coffee company located in the Seattle are long before Starbucks. These jars can be seen in numerous antique store and old pantries across the region, far more so that in any other part of the country, and even though the Red Book values these at between ten and fifteen dollars, may be worth a little less since the region is more saturated with them.
Another element that affects the value of a jar would be the color. Though a jar may bear the exact same embossing, right down the apostrophe in “Pat’d,” color can make what would otherwise be a ten dollar jar, a $1000 jar. This is the case with the “Ball Mason” Red Book number 234, where values range between two dollars, and $2,000. Generally speaking, the most valuable and desirable colors are the cobalt blues, shades of ambers, green, or milk glass.
Finally, many jars are most valuable as a complete unit. In order to fetch its best price, it will need the jar, the lid, and matching closure mechanism, and colored jars with a glass lid need the matching lid to fetch its full value. A jar lacking any one of these components could be discounted as much fifty percent of its value.
The final word on the value of the jars is that they are worth what someone is willing to pay for them, Mr. Leybourne himself in the foreword of his book states that the final price will always be set by the seller and the buyer and that his book is a guide to reach that end.
Author: J. Ashley