May 23, 2018
Blogs and Columns Latest News | Poll Questions | Mark Eves | Any-Deer Permits | RCV Strategy

In some collecting categories, reproductions can devalue originals

Courtesy of
Courtesy of
A celebrated first folio edition of “The Birds of America” by John James Audubon, including “Common American Swan,” sold for $7.9 million recently at Christie’s New York.
By Danielle Arnet, Tribune Media Services

Q: I need an honest appraisal for this 1948 Mammy cookie jar. It’s 11 inches tall and has “McCoy” on the bottom. The paint is a bit worn, but that’s to be expected. Could you please tell me how much this jar is actually worth and how to sell it at value?

A: This question is a twofer. Smart collectors, can you recognize the subtext in the query?

First, our reader wants info on her cookie jar. Add to that unstated but sincere questions about true market value. The clues are “honest appraisal,” “actually worth,” and selling “at value.” Our guess is that she’s done some digging on value and the results are confusing.

Small wonder, after one takes a look at cookie jar price guides. One text shows a jar painted like the reader’s. Book value is $75. But a version with blue glaze is $300. P.S.: Paint on the reader’s jar is very worn.

Another book shows only the blue version, puts McCoy in parentheses — perhaps it’s not a real McCoy — and lists the jar as too rare to price.

So, what’s an owner to believe?

Chicago dealer Mercedes Di Renzo Bolduc has bought and sold cookie jars for decades and currently has four jars similar to the reader’s in her shop at

Looking over an image sent by the reader, she pronounced the jar as original and dated it from 1939 to the early 1940s.

“It’s definitely old and original,” Bolduc said. But the McCoy mammy cookie jar has been reproduced endlessly. One would think that reproductions boost value for true originals, but that’s not always the way it works.

Sometimes, reproductions devalue the old and authentic. And that’s the case with this jar.

“In 1989, this jar with good paint would sell for up to $350,” Bolduc told us. Original cookie jars were hot then. Today, buyers settle for reproductions because they’re cheap and easily available.

The original jars were cold painted in a process where color was hand-painted over a fired-on glaze. Through the years, washing and wear has removed much of the paint from originals, especially face and hands color. Any repainting hurts value.

Retail value for the old jar with worn paint is under $200. Auction results show the jars selling for $40-$160. Remember that when buying, dealers pay half or less.

We saw 33 McCoy mammy jars, including many obvious fakes, listed on eBay. Checking completed sales, few sold. Top sale was $164.95.

FYI: Di Renzo Bolduc also specializes in Pyrex and kitchen collectibles. She is at

Q: Do my old Solingen scissors have any value? They’re very heavy.

A: Solingen is a city in west-central Germany renowned for its history of blade making. From Medieval times on, the area has been famous for fine swords and knives. Later products include razors and scissors.

Several prestige manufacturers are based there today, including knife makers Wusthof and J.A. Henckels. The Solingen name has long implied quality.

That said, there are vast numbers of scissors bearing the Solingen mark, including barber shears, embroidery scissors, poultry shears, small pruning shears, etc. We found 115 scissors, many old, listed on eBay.

In completed sales, the highest result was $103 for a circa 1900 pair with fancy handles and an ornate scabbard. Most sales for old Solingen scissors averaged under $30.

Auction action

The Duke of Portland first folio edition of John James Audubon’s “The Birds of America” recently sold for $7.9 million at Christie’s New York. The complete set of 435 hand-colored engravings done 1827-1838 was in four volumes bound in Moroccan leather. Called double-elephant folios, the engravings are over 3 ft. high.

Historians think the entire first edition numbered 200 completed copies produced in 11 years. One hundred sixty-one copies were created for paid subscribers. Today, only 120 complete sets are known to exist. Thirteen are in private hands.

This set belonged to the 4th duke (1768-1854). It sold to a private American collector.

Collector quiz

Q: Where were medals and ribbons worn on WWII women’s Army uniforms?

A: On the left side of the uniform above the upper pocket area. On formal evening uniforms, miniatures of the medals and ribbons went on the left lapel. Source: “Women for Victory: Volume I” by Katy Goebel (Schiffer, $89.99). Covers the Army Nurse Corps, Navy Nurse Corps, Army hospital dietitians and Army physical therapists.

The role of American servicewomen during WWII is finally getting its due, collectorwise. Watch for interest in women’s uniforms, medals, insignia and the like to rise.

Danielle Arnet welcomes questions from readers. She cannot respond to each one individually, but will answer those of general interest in her column. Send email to smartcollector@comcast.netor write Danielle Arnet, c/o Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 60611. Please include an address in your query. Photos cannot be returned.

Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

You may also like