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The Expert Guide to Dating and Collecting Antique Jars

Updated: Mar 28

Whether you grew up canning vegetables with your grandparents or love finding uses for old spaghetti sauce containers, chances are, you know the value of a good glass jar. From arts and crafts projects to home décor, there are a thousand and one ways to use a vintage Mason jar—and luckily, they’re available everywhere! 

You’re bound to come across an antique jar at a Florida vendor mall or thrift store—but what makes a glass jar valuable? What do the different colors mean? Let’s answer all these questions and more with our guide to collecting antique jars. 

Why Collect Jars?

Glass jars can be used in seemingly endless ways, making them versatile, eco-friendly, and stylish collector items around the globe. Certain people stick to vintage Mason jars from one brand, while others are pleased with whatever useable antique jar they come across. The demand for jars is never-ending—so buying used, vintage glass jars makes perfect sense! 

Are Antique Jars Valuable?

Some people wouldn’t think twice when coming across a jar, but they can be worth much more than you think! While most glass jars aren’t worth more than a couple of dollars, certain antique jars can fetch upwards of a thousand dollars. A good rule of thumb: the older a jar, the more it’s worth.  

Pro tip: if you’re unsure of the age and value of a potential vintage Mason jar score, send it in to be professionally appraised

Antique Jar Brands to Look Out For

Antique Ball and Kerr Jars

When you visit your local Chicago antique mall, don’t ignore the jars among the trinkets, salt and pepper shaker collectibles, and furniture! Look for these popular brands, and you may strike gold: 

The Ball Corporation

If you conjure a picture of a glass jar in your mind, there’s a high chance you’re thinking of the classic Ball Corporation design. The original screw-top glass jar was invented, patented, and named after John Mason Landis in 1858. With a long history, timeless, embossed logo, and an airtight seal, the Mason jar style has been a favorite for decades.  

Kerr Glass Manufacturing Corporation

Starting in 1904, the Kerr Glass Manufacturing Corporation began making jars, using Ball’s vintage Mason jars as design inspiration. Within a few years of manufacturing, Kerr released iconic designs, such as the “packers” style or self-sealing jars. If you spot one with the embossed Kerr logo, chances are you’ve found a valuable antique jar, as the company has been bought and renamed a few times in the last 30 years. 

Hazel-Atlas Glass Company

Antique Atlas Jars in Vintage Store

Best known for their use of Depression glass, Hazel-Atlas Glass Company released many popular jar designs in the early 1900s. Each piece was machine-molded and stylish, coming in a variety of lid closures and shapes, from the round E-Z Seal jar to the square Atlas Good Luck jar. 

5 Ways to Date and Value a Vintage Mason Jar

To determine the true value of an antique jar, you must learn how to date it. Pay attention to these five design elements: 

1. Look at the Logo

Most famous antique jar brands have the logo embossed front and center. Key characteristics such as logo size, font, and added embellishment can help you narrow down the exact production year. This is especially relevant for Ball’s vintage Mason jars, as its logo went through many changes throughout the years.

Shelf of Antique Jars from Ball and Atlas

As with all antiques, sometimes a misprint on a logo can raise the value of a jar. Something like a missed letter or backward logo can be a clue that you’ve found a rare piece. 

2. Check the Embossed Details

To the untrained eye, all glass jars may look identical—but that isn’t the case! Most brands put out multiple designs, embossing their specific name on the jar alongside the logo. Although the visual difference between the “eclipse” and the “perfect” vintage Mason jar seems slight, these phrases can be a clue as to their date and value.  

3. Jar Size

Most glass jars at antique mall events and stores are quart-sized, pint-sized, or small jelly jars. However, if you spot anything larger, there’s a good chance it will sell for a higher price, as fewer exist these days.

4. Glass Color 

Antique Ball Jar in Blue

Although most glass jars are known for that clear-bluish shade, antique jars come in a rainbow variety of hues. The more vibrant and unique the color, the more the vintage jar is worth. 

Rarest Glass Jar Colors

Purple—this rich, deep purple glass was made exclusively pre-World War I

Amber—can be found in a variety of light orange-yellow to deep brown-red 

Citron green—an almost glowing yellowish-green hue, similar to its fruity namesake 

Milky white—a popular choice for vintage Mason jars, this is an opaque, classic white color 

Cobalt blue—not to be confused with the pale blue shades of normal glass, cobalt is described as a pure and bold blue

Blue Mason Jars

Of all the colors, the blue Mason jar is one of the most sought-after. The specific shade of blue that the Ball Corporation introduced in the 1890s was believed to block out sunlight, extending the life of the canned food. Blue Mason jars were removed from production in 1937, but they remain popular for collectors everywhere.

5. Type of Closure

Each glass jar company has experimented with different lid closures throughout the years. Each production era used a different closure method, so these small and intricate details are a direct path to determining the date one was made. Watch for the classic screw-on style, wax seals, rubber gaskets, metal clamps, and more!

7 Creative Ways to Use Jars

Mason Jars Upcycled Into Holiday Décor

Whether you plan to try out a family pickling recipe or love to decorate with vintage pieces, there are countless ways to use a glass jar. These are a few of our favorites:

  1. Use a vintage Mason jar as a quirky travel cup

  2. Store makeup brushes on the vanity

  3. Make a home for fireflies in the summer

  4. Fill with a homemade brownie mix and give as a gift

  5. Store dry ingredients in the pantry

  6. Make homemade candles or Epsom salts

  7. Collect and display sand from oceanside vacations

When it comes to collecting antique jars, anything is possible. Become an antique dealer and hunt down valuable pieces at special events, or use the same dime-a-dozen Mason jars in your arts and crafts—we have a seemingly endless selection. 

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