Dear Helaine and Joe: Would you have any idea of the value or the maker of this old Granny cookie jar? Thank you. L.G., Corpus Christi, Texas
Dear L.G.: The renowned artist Andy Warhol was a collector. He scoured flea markets and other venues buying items that interested him, and over the years, he acquired a collection of 175 cookie jars. He loved finding bargains and did not like to pay big bucks for the items he purchased.
After his death, his cookie-jar collection was sold at action in 1987 and brought an amazing $250,000! The prices paid sent seismic shocks through the collecting world, and suddenly cookie jars were the hottest collectibles going.
People could be seen scurrying frantically through flea markets and other antiques and collectibles markets buying cookie jars and prices just went up and up and up. At the jars' peak, enthusiasts suddenly realized they were being foolish and that the jars they were paying such high dollars to own were not worth it.
Shortly thereafter, prices plummeted from the penthouse to the basement, and it has taken them years to recover.
The cookie jar owned by L.G. is called "Grandma" and it was made by the Treasure Craft Co. of Compton, Calif. Treasure Craft was founded in 1945 in Alfred A. Levin's garage. Although it may seem strange, it is said that many Los Angeles-area residents had kilns in their garages at this time because ceramic wares were not available from either Japan or Germany and there was money to be made filling the demand for ceramic items.
Initially, Treasure Craft made inexpensive gifts such as wall pockets in the form of fruit with green leaves, and "Lucky California Sprites," which were elflike creatures sometimes placed in conjunction with vases and planters. In the mid- to late 1950s, the firm moved from Levin's garage to a factory in Compton where it began to make TV lamps and figures of gazelles, toreadors and horses.
Treasure Craft also made a lot of souvenir wares, especially for Hawaii and Disneyland. It made cookie jars in the '60s, but the real production of this type of item came in the '70s and '80s. At this late date, many of these have the firm's mark under the lid, and others were marked with a removable oval foil label.
In 1988, the firm was purchased by Pfaltzgraff. Production was shifted to Mexico and China, and items can be found marked "Hecho in Mexico" ("Made in Mexico") or "Made in China." Although production from the 1990s can be widely found on eBay, collectors are far less interested in these Mexican- and Chinese-made items than they are in the earlier California production.This particular cookie jar is probably from the '70s or '80s and it came in three styles. In one, Granny is wearing a yellow dress; in another, Granny is wearing a blue dress; and in the third, Granny is black. Of the three, the blue dress is the least expensive, at $60 to $80. It is followed by the yellow-dress examples such as the one belonging to L.G., which has an insurance-replacement value of $125 to $175. The black model is thought to be a one-of-a-kind and is valued above $1,000.
Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson are the authors of the "Price It Yourself" (HarperResource, $19.95). Contact them at Treasures in Your Attic, P.O. Box 27540, Knoxville, TN, 37927. E-mail them at [email protected].