Reproduction 1858 Fruit Jars
by Bob Clay
Please note! The fruitjars.com site is temporarily down, so here is the text version of this article. Please keep checking back if you'd also like to see all the pictures collectors have posted concerning these repro jars. When the site comes back up, I will change the link from this text version back to the article with enlargeable pictures. Thanks!
As advanced collectors well know, there are many different reproductions of fruit jars floating around out there. Most of these are within the Mason's Patent Nov. 30th 1858 types, but there are others as well. These Mason types were originally reproduced in 1971 in Tennessee, and were called "the dream color" jars. They were very well done and unless you know what to look for, very difficult to spot. And they were made in two sizes, 1/2 gallons and midget pints. I will also mention several other repros being currently imported later in this article, but I'll start with the Tennessee "dream color" or "fantasy" jars.
Let's go over the 1/2 gallons first. They were made in a wide variety of colors; cobalt blue, dark amber, orange amber, black amethyst, milkglass, emerald green and dark olive green. ALL of these have a distinct round shoulder which is easy to spot. They were very well made, having ground lips and some are very highly whittled. They came in four basic types. There is the MASON'S PATENT NOV.30TH 1858 with nothing on the back and no base embossing. Then there is the MASON'S PATENT NOV. 30TH 1858 with the mold number 851 on the base. These are seldom seen. Then there is the MASON'S CFJCo PATENT NOV 30TH 1858 which also has no base embossing. Authentic CFJCo jars usually DO HAVE base embossing of a letter and two or three numbers. Last, and the most common of these "dream color jars" is the MASON'S PATENT NOV. 30TH 1858 with an unlettered Hero cross on the back of the jar. These have the base embossing of 1171. Usually, authentic Hero Fruit Jar Company jars of the 1858 type have base embossing of PAT NOV 26, 67. And there are NO KNOWN EXAMPLES of authentic quart or 1/2 gallon 1858s with the cross on the reverse side.
And, to make matters worse, these reproductions have recently been reproduced again in China! These are found with the rounded edge Maltese cross on the reverse and are usually seen in a yellow amber and weak cobalt blue. THESE HAVE NO BASE EMBOSSING! That's the easiest way to differentiate them from the older repros (with the cross on the back) which have 1171 on their base. This is what is commonly seen on ebay in recent months. These newer Chinese reproductions often have ill defined threads and a zinc cap will not snugly fit on some of them. There are also reproductions coming in from Taiwan or India that are several different colors that also have a lettered cross on the back and have been seen in midget pint, quart and half gallon. A regular zinc lid will not fit on these. The cross on these does not have rounded edges, but is made up of straight lines and the letters in the cross read H.F.J.CA. instead of H.F.J.Co. The older reproductions have a much more intense color and now being 30 years old and very well made, are often collected because they are so pretty. And there's nothing wrong with collecting these reproductions...they are an inexpensive way to add a lot of color to your collection at a reasonable price. The problems arise from people trying to pass them off to novice collectors as the real thing.
Now for the midgets. The 1971 repro midgets are very easy to distinguish from authentic jars. Although they are very well made, have ground lips and look extremely good, they ALL have THREE mould seams and the 1 in 1858 is embossed backwards. They too, were made in some very exotic colors; cobalt blue, black amethyst, emerald green, 2 shades of amber, milkglass and even carnival glass. Most (but not all) of these have the number 971 embossed on their base, often weakly. One of the amber ones also has the "S" reversed in Masons and these have NO number on their base. All are listed in the reproduction section of the Redbook of Fruit Jars #9 on page 399.
And like the 1/2 gallons, these midgets have been recently reproduced again, either in China or Taiwan. But these are also easy to distinguish from the authentic jars and also from the 1971 reproductions. These have the Maltese Cross on the back, but it is a sharp cornered variety, often found with the letters H.F.J. Ca. in the wings. They are also base embossed Nov. 2C C7 and have the mould number 46 also embossed on the base. But the dead givaway is that they have SMOOTH LIPS, not ground, indicating machine manufacture. (UNLESS an unscrupulous dealer has ground the lip down to make it appear authentic) These recent fakes have been seen in amber, Depression green, Depression pink, cobalt blue, cornflower or ice blue, teal, emerald green and apple green. These originally came with an aluminum lid, but often unscrupulous dealers will remove the lid because it makes them appear new. And they are seen in pints, quarts and 1/2 gallons.
There are also reproductions coming in from India that are sometimes seen on ebay with small lights in them. One is a quart embossed MASON'S CFJC (no O) PATENT NOV 30TH 1858. The CFJ logo does not look like an authentic logo. There is also a regular size pint embossed MASON'S (cross) PATENT NOV 30TH 1858, but the cross is not like any authentic Hero jars and they do not have the correct base embossing. And I have also seen a half gallon like these, a MASON'S PATENT NOV 30TH 1858. (no logo) A regular size zinc cap will not fit on these repros, it is just a shade too small. And the threads on these jars are not very well defined. They came with their own cap. These caps are either black or gray and DO NOT have inside porcelain liners. And there are also reproductions known embossed MASON'S CFJC (no O) BUTTER JAR. These repros look very good, and would fool most collectors. Be very wary of these if you're not positive of their authenticity.
Just very recently (11/03) another batch of reproductions have been imported from China. They're getting better at making these hard to spot. This batch consists of pints and quarts embossed: MASON'S PATENT NOV 30TH 1858 (note no period after NOV) and 1/2 gallons embossed: MASON'S (Hero Cross) PATENT NOV. 30TH 1858. The pints all have the number 44 embossed on their base and the quarts have a weakly embossed number 7. The half gallons even have the correct Hero base embossing of PAT NOV 26, 67 on them, but the letter spacing is very crude. And the mould number for these 1/2 gallons is 469. These repros have been reported in six colors; cobalt blue, dark amethyst, olive green, emerald green, amber and red. The lips on these jars seem to be machine ground and VERY smooth, not like a true ground lipped jar. I'm positive these will be appearing in large numbers soon, so be very wary of any jar that meets the above criteria, no matter what a seller may say about them. I'm sure there will be good pics of these posted here so check back often.
I am certainly NOT stating that all dealers who sell any of these reproductions are trying to deceive. One can't know everything in the antique business. Most dealers that list reproductions as "old" or authentic immediately change their listing when they have been informed otherwise. These are the honest sellers. But some sellers will NOT amend their auction, no matter how many people tell them. There are several dealers on ebay that openly state when these are reproductions, but there are also others that DO NOT, even when they KNOW what the jar is. So what should the beginning collector do?
First, arm yourself with a good book on fruit jars. The Redbook of Fruit Jars by Douglas Leybourne has a good reference section in the back concerning known reproductions. (there are a lot more out there than mentioned here!) And the most recent version of this book (#9) can be purchased on the HOME page of this site. Second, if you see a nice colored fruit jar on ebay with very few bids, it is likely a reproduction. The advanced collectors always know what the good stuff is and bid accordingly. Third, if you're not sure, ASK QUESTIONS! There are a number of reputable jar dealers that will answer your questions, including myself. And there are many good pics of these repros seen here with this article, posted by collectors. Learn what they look like and you can avoid being taken by sellers that don't care if they rip you off.
There is nothing sadder to me than to see a new collector get burned by one of these reproductions which turns them away from the hobby. Fruit jar collecting is a real joy, full of history and wonderful surprises! The folks that collect jars are among the greatest and friendliest you'll meet. I personally have collected jars for over 28 years now and have made good friends and acquaintances all over the globe, simply because of a glob of melted sand and soda ash. These friends are among my most cherished, because we share a common bond...the love of old fruit jars!
Thanks for taking the time to read this, bookmark this page and email your friends and have them read it as well. Print it out and save it for future reference. Browse around here on this site, there are several good articles here. If this saves just one novice collector from getting burned by a reproduction, it will have been well worth the time I put into it!