Known for its clever kitsch, as well as more sober examples of dinnerware, vases, and garden planters, McCoy pottery has been popular with collectors for a century. Whether you are drawn to tankards resembling pigs, monk-shaped cookie jars with the ominous inscription "Thou Shalt Not Steal" on their sides, or elegant Art Deco flower vases decorated with geometric designs in pastel hues, chances are your eye has alighted on a piece of McCoy.

One of the hallmarks of McCoy pottery is its functionality. A cartoonish sailor figurine, for example, striding along in bell-bottom trousers with a pack slung over his shoulder, has a slot for coins — he’s also a bank. Similarly, a woman peeking out from under a red brimmed hat appears to carry a basket in her arms, but the object she cradles is designed to hold topsoil and tulips—in other words, a planter.

When the Nelson McCoy Sanitary Stoneware Company opened in 1910 in Roseville, Ohio near a good supply of local clay, functionality routinely trumped style as McCoy focused on serviceable food-storage jugs. Decorative touches to the stoneware were simple, using mostly salt- and slip-glaze techniques, but in 1925, when McCoy built the area's first tunnel kiln, expansion into a new world of whimsy became possible.

McCoy began producing the artware for which it became famous in 1926. Fired in the bright glazes popular in the mid-20s was everything from planters in the shapes of rhinoceroses and pineapples to umbrella stands.

In the market for a cuspidor? McCoy’s were green, with bunches of grapes in high relief on their sides. Designers at the company created green cider sets with mugs shaped like barrels rather than basic beer cups, and instead of giving plants a plain home, McCoy bulb bowls featured parading elephants loping around their circumferences.

In the kitchen, McCoy introduced advances in decoration as well as functionality. For example, its mixing bowls of the 1920s were glazed in green rather than the standard yellow, and embossed with flowers and line motifs — more detail than home cooks had previously enjoyed. McCoy's mixing bowls also nested, so several could be stored in the space of one, a handy trick Homer Laughlin later employed in its famous Fiesta line.

In 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression, the company changed its name to McCoy Pottery Company — the term "sanitary" had fallen out of vogue. Because cash-strapped families...

Returning to its roots, McCoy’s first stoneware containers for baked goods were adorned with understated floral designs, but Duncan Curtiss, a savvy McCoy sales agent from New York, thought his company would do better if it had a little fun with these kitchen staples. Accordingly, McCoy started manufacturing novelty cookie jars, beginning in 1939 with “Mammy with Cauliflower,” whose billowy apron called up warm thoughts of buttery, home-baked goodness.

World War II slowed production (the company made ceramic land-mine casings), but by the end of the 1940s, McCoy’s cookie-jar and jardinière lines were in full swing again.

Most cookie jars from these postwar years are readily available because they were mass-produced, but collectors should be on the lookout for lost glaze and color. Grubby hands reaching for gingerbread snaps and chocolate pinwheels made this pottery form more susceptible to daily wear than other ceramics collectibles.

Despite their use, it's still possible to find well-preserved cookie jars in the shapes of kangaroos, Indians, clowns, Chinese lanterns, turkeys, grandfather clocks, and bananas, to name but a few of McCoy’s styles.

By the 1950s and ’60s, McCoy was producing some of its most sought-after cookie jars, as well as TV lamps, which exploded in popularity during this time. In the '70s and '80s, corporations routinely commissioned McCoy to produce advertising jars trumpeting their brands, Coca-Cola, Harley Davidson, and Quaker Oats among them.

Less likely to be damaged through use were McCoy vases and figurines. Today, collectors can score prime examples of Grecian-esque urns with slim looping handles, or yellow gnome statuettes. Other vases were swan-shaped or triangular, some resembled cornucopias, and still more were embossed with flowers in every shade of the pastel rainbow.

McCoy’s production reached its peak in the '50s, when the company employed almost 500 workers, but the times they were a-changing. By the 1970s, the company was cranking out barbecue sets with Old West themes and punch bowls with matching cups that dangled from the sides.

Earth-toned Lazy Susans held chips and dip at cocktail parties while Woodsy Owl was among the characters to grace the sides of McCoy cookie jars. These were old-looking styles in a youth-obsessed nation, and by 1990, after several ownership and management changes, the factory finally closed its doors.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Gouda Design

Gouda Design

Stuart Lonsdale and Kim Lindley's excellent tribute to and reference on Gouda Dutch Art Pottery and Delftware. The … [read review or visit site]

Cowan Pottery Museum Associates

Cowan Pottery Museum Associates

Dedicated to raising awareness of the ceramic art work of R. Guy Cowan and his Cowan Pottery Studio in northeastern… [read review or visit site]

The Pottery Studio

The Pottery Studio

This 7,000-plus page site lives up to its self-billing as a 'knowledge base' with examples of work from all major a… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Rare Mccoy Pottery Hamm's Root Beer Bear Cookie Jar With Original BoxVintage Mccoy Pottery Wall Pocket Pink Sunflower Blue Bird Wall VaseVintage Nelson Mccoy Pottery Butterfly Vase Planter Small And Nice!!!Vintage Nelson Mccoy Pottery Lily Wall Pocket Light Green GlazeBrush Mccoy 2 Handle Vase, Matte Rose Glaze, Arts Crafts, Zanesville Pottery 19Brush Mccoy 2 Handle Vase, Matte Green Glaze, Arts Crafts, Zanesville Pottery 48Very Old Lg Mccoy Green Jardiniere Flower Pot Planter No Reserve!Beautiful Vintage Mccoy Double Flower Pot Planter 1949 Swallow Bird Vintage Mccoy Periwinkle Blue Pottery Small Nosegay Vase Vintage Original Mccoy Hand Painted Heart Planter Vase Euc - Signed By Artist Mccoy Butterfly Line Vase, 9", 1940s, NmMccoy Usa Pottery Alligator Planter Free Shipping No ReserveMccoy Pottery Ball Vase - Rare Multi-colored Example !Vintage Large Mccoy Pottery El Rancho Covered Bowl Tureen & Lid Sombrero WesternVintage Original Mccoy Orange Wall Pocket. Excellent! Look! Vintage Mccoy Urn Vase 9" X 7,5" Turquoise Color Art Deco Style Two Handles Vintage 1948 Mccoy Green Floral Vase Mccoy Leaf & Berry ( Hobnail ) Aqua Planter W/attached Saucer 3 1/4" TMccoy Aqua Wall PocketVintage Blue Mccoy Quilt W/ Laurel Leaves Patterned Flower Pot Turquoise AquaVintage *** Usa*** American Bisque ''sailer Elephant'' Cookie Jar Antique Green Glaze Yellow Ware Bowl 10" Mccoy MintAntique/vintage Art & Crafts Era Mccoy Art Pottery Matte Green Floral Vase 6"Gloss Teal Bird On Tulip Flower Planter ~ Brush /mccoy?? Vintage Mccoy Turquoise Green Swan Flower VaseMccoy Hobnail And Leaves Flower Pot /planter W/saucer ~ Gloss White Vintage Mccoy Hyacinth Vase Pink & Green !!!!!!!!Vintage Mccoy Swan Vase Green Pottery 1940'sVintage Mccoy Pottery Planter Green & WhiteVintage 12" Large Art Deco Pottery Mccoy White Gloss Double Strap Handle Vase Vintage Duck With Egg Planter Mccoy Pottery U.s.a. 1940s Cute! Look!Mccoy Rustic Line Small Planter ~~bright Yellow 4"Vintage Mid-century Modern Orange With Yellow Striped Mccoy Planter Vase Vintage Unmarked Mccoy Nesting/mixing Bowl. Very Nice Cond. 9 In.Vintage Mccoy El Rancho Bar-b-q Coffee Server Pot Barbecue,wagon Wheel,broncoVintage Davy Crockett Cookie Jar Mccoy SweetRare 1945 Mccoy Brown Bear With A Vest & Red Tie ****must See****Cream Colored Vintage Medium Pitcher And Wash Basin Pottery Mccoy Sad Clown Cookie Jar.Vintage Mccoy? Tiny Green Flower Pot With SaucerMccoy Black & White Poodle PlanterVintage Mccoy Pottery Usa Green Weave Flower Pot 6 In TallVintage Mccoy Planter. Very Nice No Chips Or Cracks!!Vintage Brush Mccoy Planter & Olive Green With Bubble Design * No. 6955 7Vintage Nelson Mccoy Miniature Vase Pitcher With Embossed FlowersLarge Mccoy Flower Pot Jardiniere Green Great Condition - No Reserve!Nelson Mccoy Pottery Matte Salmon Butterfly Cylinder Vase ~ Nm Usa ~ 6 1/8" TallPair Of Vintage Mccoy Basket Weave Flower Pots- Pottery Planters- Yellow & WhiteMccoy Eggshell White Art Deco Calla Lily Style Handled Vase 1930's-40'sRare Vintage Mccoy Pottery Black Glaze Swan Vase BlackNelson Mccoy White Hobnail Vase 6 1/2" Pottery VaseVintage 1971 Mccoy Pottery #0386 Smiley Happy Face Yellow Planter Flower PotNice Antique Mccoy Primitive Green Stoneware Batter Or Milk Pitcher 1920'sU.s.a Mccoy Elephant Planter Blue Metallic Gold Very Detailed Trunk Up Lots MoreMccoy VaseLovely Vintage Mccoy Pottery Grape Pattern Ewer Pitcher Vase 641 UsaMccoy El Rancho Vintage Chuck Wagon With StandMccoy Pottery Duck With Egg Planter - A Tough Find !Mccoy Heart Shaped Planter Vase With Raised Roses Vintage 1940'sVtg Tulip Fan Shaped Vase - Usa #732

Recent News: McCoy Art Pottery

Source: Google News

IPTV profiles area woman's grassfed mini-ranch
Pilot Tribune, April 20th

The place is bustling; when Beth isn't raising animals, she is pursuing her work as a popular artists specializing in pottery. The Rocking M is now a small modern day Hereford and Angus crossbred beef ... Last year, about this time, an Iowa Public...Read more

Archaeologist hopes to find new evidence of St. Augustine's first Spanish ...
St. Augustine Record, April 19th

At the bottom were several distinctive glazed pottery pieces that were only made between 1490 and 1580, as well as 16th century Spanish uniform buttons. Most importantly, Deagan and her team of archaeologists discovered an olive jar with a neck shape ...Read more

MauiTime's Maui Calendar of Events | April 16th-22nd, 2015
MauiTime Weekly, April 16th

McCoy Studio Theater. Maui Arts & Cultural Center. (One Cameron Way, Kahului); 808-242-7469; THE ALOHA BLUEGRASS BAND- Sat, Apr 18. Jam out on the North Shore this weekend with the Aloha Bluegrass Band and Brown Chicken Brown Cow. Always...Read more

A killing in Pocahontas
Arkansas Times, April 15th

Lining the walls inside were Castleman's collections of arrowheads and Native American pottery, which he'd been assembling for decades. In the living room hung the Samurai ... "The real McCoy," he called it proudly. In the house, the police found...Read more

What's Going On
Daily Local News, April 13th

On display in the John Cadwalader House will be McCoy pottery including some used to contain potted plants. The Lionville National Historic District encompasses areas along both North and South Village Avenues. A new self-guided tour of the area has ...Read more

100-plus vendors will line Sylva's streets for Greening Up
The Sylva Herald, April 7th

will sign books; Friends of Panthertown information booth; Friends of the Jackson County Public Library, books; Gail Patrick/Paradise Home Improvements; Goodwill Industries, framed art and greeting cards and a corn hole game; and Green Thumb...Read more

Life & Style: Set a pretty table
Nantucket Island Inquirer, April 6th

I have some yellow McCoy vases leftover from the shop as well and mix these with other pottery I collect and display on a shelf. That pretty much does it for the yellow touches. But here in Key West I helped a friend redecorate with just a few tweaks...Read more

Designer Profile: 'Visual Jill' McCoy
SFGate, March 31st

I also led the creative team in charge of visual merchandising and store signage at Pottery Barn. This experience with big brands and companies gave me a great background in how to get things done efficiently, and how to get the most out of creative...Read more