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    

Gorgeous Vintage Mccoy Art Pottery Quilted Turquoise Jardiniere & Pedestal N/rRare Vintage Nelson Mccoy Art Pottery 1940s White Mule Handled PitcherVintage Nelson Mccoy Stretch Goat Matte Vase,planter,no Chips,scratches Or DingsVintage 1940s Nelson Mccoy Pottery Yellow Backwards Bird PlanterMccoy Grapes & Basketweave Jardiniere & Pedestal White Mccoy Jardiniere PedestalLot Of (7) Mccoy Planters Brush Mccoy Pottery Turtle2 Large Mccoy Vintage Off White Flower Vases Swan Floral Leaves Old School Cool Vintage Mccoy Flying Ducks Planter 1950sMccoy Green Brown Jardiniere & Pedestal Robinson Ransbottom Jardiniere No CracksVintage Bamboo Mccoy Pottery Vase Mid Century Green Vase 12 1/2"Vintage English Setter Dog Planter Black & White # M5567 Vintage Blue 1940's Mccoy Castlegate VaseVintage Mccoy Planter~jardiniere~flower Pot~vase~leaves/floral~green&brown MatteVintage 1940's Mccoy Art Pottery 8" Green Tulip VaseVery Rare 1905 Mccoy Pansy VaseVtg 1950s Double Quail Planter Mccoy Excellent Mid Century Brown GreenVintage Mccoy Turquoise Leaves And Dots Planter W/attached SaucerVintage Mccoy Dark Green Horizontal Bands/rings Planter W/attached SaucerMedium Pink Mccoy Basket-weave Pot With Attached SaucerVintage 1950's Mccoy Pottery Straight Top Teepee Cookie Jar 11" 137Vtg Mccoy Art Pottery Teal Green Swirl Planter Flower Pot & Under Plate UnusedMccoy Vintage White Tulip Vase Mccoy Pottery 1950's Wall PocketVintage Mccoy White Art Pottery Squirrel On Cornucopia Planter Excellent Cond. Htf Vintage Mccoy Pottery Cabbage Large Covered Cookie Jar ~ Super FindVintage Mccoy Planter, Double Pot With Bird Design, Good Cond.Vintage 13" Mccoy Pottery White Matte Bird Of Paradise PlanterVtg Mccoy American Art Pottery Coin Change Navy Sailor Seamen's Bank For SavingsVintage 1972 Mccoy Happy Face Smiley Face Cookie Jar Have A Happy Day 11 1/2"Large Mccoy Sunflower Design Pitcher With Wash Basin Bowl, Nice!1950's Mccoy Pottery Capri Line Blue & White Planter Vase Bowl -mccoy Pottery !!Mccoy Quilted Rose Flower Pot Planter Vintage BiegeVintage Pottery Weeping Gold Flower Pot Planter 22k Hand Decorated Mccoy Arrowhead VaseVintage Mccoy Pottery 7.75" Pinecone Pattern Planter - Vintage Light Blue Ceramic Duck Planter Shawnee / MccoyVintage Mccoy Wild Rose Yellow Vase Planter, 1952Vintage Mccoy Usa Pottery Pair Of Wall Pockets Planters Pear Fruit Marked JVintage 1949 Mccoy Double Flower Potter Ceramic Planter With Swallow BirdMccoy Pottery Mccoy Zanesville Bank Signed By Nelson And Billie Mccoy Limited EdVintage Mccoy White Floraline Planter Flower Pot Vintage Weeping Bright Gold 3-tier Serving Tray 22k Gold Cupcake Dessert DisplayMccoy Pottery Vase, Dish, PlanterVintage Mccoy Dog Playing With Turtle Planter Hard To FindMc Coy Hull Planters Cornucopia Pair And Planter LotVintage Mccoy Gold Trimmed Big Red Irish Setter Planter Rare Near Mint! Nice!Vintage Mccoy Woodsy Tan Owl Cookie Jar-made In Usa, #204, Excellent ConditionVintage Rare Mccoy 2 Handled Urn Vase In Aqua Blue From 1940's 8 1/4 InchesMccoy Yellow Smiley Face Have A Happy Day Cookie Jar - 1970's 70s Vintage RetroVintage Mccoy Yellow Planter With Embossed Design-usaMccoy Pottery, Brocade Vase, Black With AquaMccoy Art Pottery Vintage Yellow Duck With Egg Planter / Vase Vintage Mccoy Floraline Pottery Matte Green Lot - Oasis Vase & Pedestal VaseVintage Candy/mint/soap Dish, Yellow Bird On Green FlowerMccoy Log With Chains Planter Chartreuse Light Green Ceramic VintageMccoy Planter W/attached Saucer-yellow Hobnail & IvyVintage Mccoy Art Pottery Yellow Duck Planter Vase Green Reed #651 LeavesVintage Mccoy Blossomtime 8" Tall Yellow Vase Antique Mccoy Double Handle Vase

Recent News: McCoy Art Pottery

Source: Google News

Social Encore: Going Greek
Honolulu Pulse, August 27th

great company is an ideal vacation for me. But who says we can't experience authentic Greek culture here in Hawaii? This weekend at McCoy Pavilion, the 34th annual Greek Festival will immerse you in traditional Greek food and fare. ... If you want...Read more

Scientist behind the return of “The X-Files” to television
Washington Times, August 23rd

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) - It was long past 2 one recent Wednesday morning when Anne Simon finally arrived back at her hotel room in central Vancouver. She had just clocked 15 hours on her feet. Most people in this situation would sleep in. But Simon set ...Read more

University of Maryland biologist is scientist behind the return of "The X ...
Daily Journal, August 23rd

COLLEGE PARK, Maryland — It was long past 2 one recent Wednesday morning when Anne Simon finally arrived back at her hotel room in central Vancouver. She had just clocked 15 hours on her feet. Most people in this situation would sleep in. But Simon ...Read more

Look what they brought back from Russia
Detroit Free Press, August 20th

I, on the other hand, really enjoy my $4 Michigan-pride Alaska souvenir. — Emily Panchenko, 35, Dearborn. GK: Resale stores are a great place to look for souvenirs! One of my best souvenirs ever — a piece of McCoy pottery — came from a thrift store...Read more

Yesterday into Today: Olompali: A 60s Commune
Livermore Independent, August 20th

The commune was founded by Donald McCoy, a California native in his mid-30s and a wealthy Marin real estate developer who developed the first modern houseboat marina at the Sausalito Heliport at Richardson Bay. After separating from his wife, McCoy ...Read more

Texas Collection displays ceramics donation from Harding Black
Waco Tribune-Herald, August 14th

“(Baylor's collection) is one of the biggest collections of Harding Black material,” Garland said, noting that it landed at Baylor thanks to Baylor ceramics professor Paul McCoy. Black, who died in 2004, was known for his detailed, inventive work with...Read more

Texas Collection displays ceramics donation from Hardin Black
Waco Tribune-Herald, August 12th

“The Texas Collection is one of the biggest collections of Harding Black material,” Garland said, noting that it landed at Baylor thanks to Baylor ceramics professor Paul McCoy and Texas Collection director John Wilson. Black, who died in 2004, was...Read more

Meet the scientist behind the return of 'The X-Files' to television
Washington Post, August 9th

Carter, who had spent years working at a surfing magazine and making pottery, said he had no choice. “My formal science education ended somewhere around college education, and I hadn't been such a great student,” Carter wrote in the foreword to ...Read more