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    

Mccoy Rocking Horse Cookie Jar 1940'sFrom Estate Very Clean Vintage Mccoy Purple Hyacinth Flower VaseVintage Mccoy Pottery Figural Polka Dot Bubble Fan & Bow Planter Vase FlowerpotMccoy Vase 9" Vintage Pale Green Wonderful ConditionMccoy Pottery Plaque 48/50 Autographed By Nelson And Billie. (rare To Find) Vintage Nelson Mccoy Pottery Aqua Parakeet Birds Bookend As Is $.99 Start PriceVintage Nelson Mccoy Dragonfly Planter With SaucerVintage Mccoy Pottery Mammy Aunt Jemima Cookie Jar Excellent 1940's Mccoy Pottery Matte Creamy White Sm Jardiniere Flower Pot 1930"sVintage Mccoy Yellow Ware Pottery Square Bottom 3 Pc Nested Mixing Bowl Set NrEarly Nelson Mccoy Vase Matte Blue Mint No ReserveVintage 1930's Mccoy Aqua Colored Art Deco Water Lily Pitcher Creamer 4.5" 124Vtg Mccoy Elsie The Cow & Elmer Creamer & Sugar BowlVintage Cookie Jar Mccoy Primitive Milk Jug American Made Farmhouse RusticVery Large, Vintage Usa Aqua Vase! Art Deco Style! Pretty!Mccoy Pear Trimmed In Gold Wall PocketVintage Mccoy Brown Cat On Coal Bucket Cookie Jar Stamped Usa 218 Mccoy NearmintVintage Mccoy Jardiniere Diamond Quilted GreenSuper Vintage 12 1/2" Brush Mccoy Pottery Cow With Cat Handle Cookie Jar Super!!Vintage Mccoy Pottery Double Tulip Yellow Fancy Flower Form Vase 1948Little Red Riding Hood Cookie Jar Marked Mccoy Antique Vintage Mccoy Garden Art Pottery White Vase Berries Leaves Think SpringMccoy Cobalt Vase Mccoy Flower PotMccoy Pottery Flower Pots WhiteVintage Mccoy Seaman's Bank For Savings Sailor With Duffle Coin DepositVintage Pottery 1950's Frog Wall Pockets Green And Mauve, Marked Mccoy On BackVintage Original Large Mccoy Off-white Vase. 9" Tall, Very Light Cream Color.Vintage 1953 Mccoy Black Americana Aunt Jemima Mammy Scoop PlanterVintage 1942 Mccoy Sailboat Vase, Nelson Mccoy Nm Yellow Aqua Deco Mccoy Usa Planter - Turquoise - With Saucer AttachedMccoy Pottery ? Cat Planter Stretch Hunched Cat Very Nice CollectorMccoy White Matte Swan Vase- Vintage 1940 Set Of 2Mccoy Pottery Leaves And Berries Jardiniere Planter Pot Matte Dark Blue GlazeMccoy Triple Lily VaseVintage Mccoy Window Planter Acorn Pattern Very Good ConditionVtg Have A Happy Day Bright Yellow Smiley Face Mccoy Cookie Jar 235 W/ BoxMccoy Blue Planter Vase Red Bird Bowl Dish Vintage Mccoy Usa Pottery Planter Diamond & Blue Dot Pattern Atomic Shabby Vintage Mccoy Pottery Butterfly Jardiniere VaseVintage Mccoy Grandfather Clock Cookie Jar 1962 - 1964 No Chips Or CracksVery Old Mccoy Vase Dark Olive Green Original Condition4" Mccoy Pink Basketweave 1950"s Flower Pot With Saucer Mccoy Pottery Planter Made In The Usa Pink Baby Booties Vg Condition Mccoy Early Stoneware Pottery Matt White Leaf And Berry VaseMccoy? Pottery Scottie Dog Planter Scotty Terrier White SweetMccoy Pottery Teapot Creamer And Sugar Pincone PatternMccoy Pottery 1950's Green Double Flower Planter With Bird Free Shipping In Usa Genuine Mccoy Turtle PlanterMccoy Blue Bird Wall Pocket Mccoy Harmony Line Vase, Mid Century Modern, Striated Brown/green On CremeVintage Mccoy Green Shell Planter 1955 Not Marked Green Frog Planter Not MarkedMccoy Pottery Floraline Matte Green Square Vase Planter 446Vintage Shawnee Pottery Peach Hand Vase Beaded Cuff Usa 40's 7" Victorian StyleFrog On Lilly Pad/lotus Flower-unmarked Mccoy Planter/vase-green+yellow-vintageMccoy Art Pottery Flower Pot 6" High; Greens And Aqua; No Defects; # 377Pottery BirdVintage Mccoy Pottery Sugar Bowl Daisy 1940's White Matte FinishMccoy Pottery ? Cat Planter Stretch Hunched Cat Very Nice CollectorMccoy Pottery Turtle Planter

Recent News: McCoy Art Pottery

Source: Google News

Sharing plants binds gardening cultures
Jackson Clarion Ledger, April 22nd

of our great-grandmother's dusty, old glazed flower pots from behind the old garden shed which, when washed off back home, turned out to be collectable pre-Depression mission-style pots from the American arts and crafts era, made by the McCoy...Read more

Five on Three: Cherry's Antiquities
Star Local Media, April 22nd

We have 1,800 square feet well stocked with a large selection of vintage art pottery (Roseville, Hull & McCoy), antique carnival glass and antique furniture. Lots of kitchen items including Pyrex and Corning Ware. Vintage jewelry as well as newer...Read more

Fairfield Ledger, April 9th

9AM. Open house Friday, April 18th, 3-7PM. Antique Auction at our auction center: High-Dollar Auction Center, 21584 Highway 92, east edge of Sigourney, IA. McCoy Pottery, Fiesta, pink depression, crock bowls & jugs, Firestone 3 speed bike, trunks, ...Read more

Category: Auction Calendar
Fairfield Ledger, April 9th

9AM. Open house Friday, April 18th, 3-7PM. Antique Auction at our auction center: High-Dollar Auction Center, 21584 Highway 92, east edge of Sigourney, IA. McCoy Pottery, Fiesta, pink depression, crock bowls & jugs, Firestone 3 speed bike, trunks, ...Read more

Gathering Moss
New York Times, April 2nd

Put another way, though she grew up the daughter of a dentist and made a career in college media production, today she sounds more like Kathleen Turner playing the matriarch of the McCoy clan. It takes time to soliloquize in such a glorious fashion...Read more

Tater Hills orchard blossoms
Leecountycourier, March 27th

They include pictures, furniture, artwork pottery items from her college days and other memorabilia. While Maloney calls it a ... McCoy said she is particularly impressed with Maloney's penchant for coming up with new recipes for her produce. Most...Read more