The Right Time for an American Pottery Company:
According to Shawnee Pottery
by Bev and Jim Mangus, the company apparently began operations at just the right time. In 1937 Americans were "beginning to feel hostility towards Germany and Japan and their imports. 'Buy American' campaigns were conducted". Thus laid the foundation for Shawnee to produce pottery and dinnerware for the United States.
The company was located in Zanesville, Ohio and advertised the company could produce 100,000 ceramic items per day.
Companies such as Woolworth, McCrory, S. S. Kresge and Sears Roebuck and Company all became customers/outlets for Shawnee Pottery, helping the fledgling company become established. The various companies supplied the designs for their products and promised to purchase them.
Kitchen Items and Cookie Jars:
The first Smiley pig cookie jars were the cold painted jars, offered with either a blue or red scarf at the wholesale price of $12. per dozen. The Smiley salt and peppers were sold wholesale at the price of $3.60 per dozen. Meanwhile, the 1945 Sears Roebuck catalog offered sets of the Shawnee salt and peppers (watering can, farmer pigs and winking owl) at forty-seven cents each, along with teapots for $1.29 (horizontal ribbed base) and $1.59 (vertical ribbed base).
Other Products :
Shawnee Pottery Company offered a wide range of products for the kitchen, from baking dishes to whipping jars and everything you can think of in-between. They also produced a line of decorative art pottery, from aquarium ornaments to wall pockets.
There were many several different marks used on Shawnee cookie jars, including U.S.A. by itself; Patented/Smiley Co./Shawnee/U.S.A.; Patented Winnie/Shawnee/USA/61; Patented/Mugsey/USA; Patented/Winnie/USA/; USA/6; and Patented/Puss N Boots/USA.
The names Kenwood and Great Northern were also used on a few jars, The Complete Cookie Jar Book by Mike Schneider is a great resource for marks on the cookie jars.
Shawnee and Terrace Ceramics:
Terrace Ceramics bought the Shawnee molds when the company went out of business in 1961. Therefore, some jars might look like a Shawnee mold, but were made by and marked Terrace Ceramics. The quality and design of the jars are definitely different and will usually not be confused with the real thing.
New Shawnee Pottery:
In the mid 1990s another Shawnee Pottery Company surfaced for a few years selling cookie jars, which should not be confused with the vintage Shawnee company. This company has also been advertised as "The New Shawnee Pottery Company". They have sold and produced several different cookie jars, Although the markings on the bottom of the jars do not look like the older company, one jar shows both USA and Shawnee Impressed on the bottom, unfortunately this could confuse new collectors.
The New Shawnee Pottery Company has made several different designs and they are all very different from the original Shawnee jars.
Commemorative Jars from the Supnicks:
Starting in 1992 Mark and Ellen Supnick produced a line of Shawnee Commemorative jars. These jars are well marked on the bottom with Mark Supnick's Commemorative Edition, along with the year, name of jar, jar number, and signatures.
According to the Supnicks' there is no way these jars can be tampered with, thus should not be confused with the vintage Shawnee pieces.
The commemorative jars were made in limited editions and included the Extremely Lucky Elephant, Purr-fect Puss-n-Boots, several different Muggsy designs, and Sailor Boys, as well as a myriad of differently decorated Winnie and Smiley Jars.
Fakes and Look-a-Likes:
There are numerous fakes on the marketplace with the Smiley pig being the most popular target.
Beware of jars literally covered in crazing and of decals/flowers not seen before. Although Shawnee Pottery had many variations, after studing a good book or two, you'll be able to spot the fakes.
Several Shawnee jars have been copied and produced by larger companies. One reproduction is the Sailor or Jack Tar jar. Since it is well marked on the bottom as a Midwest jar, there should be no problem with its origin. The Block China/Jonal company also produced a series of retro classics that included a Puss 'n Boots jar.
The Sky's the Limit:
Although everything "Shawnee" is collectible, cookie jars are especially popular. The Smiley pig, Winnie pig, Muggsy dog, Puss n' Boots and Dutch Jack and Jill were some of the more popular jars produced by Shawnee Pottery. Smiley, in his many variations, is one of the most "wanted" jars of all for cookie jar collectors, not only Shawnee collectors. A collection doesn't seem complete without at least one or two Smileys.
Since gold-trimmed jars are always the most sought after, it's interesting to note that most gold trimmed jars were originally seconds or had blemishes. Gold and decals were applied to the jars to "hide" the blemish. These jars were later sold in specialty shops at a higher price, and of course now command a MUCH higher price.
Today, it appears the sky's the limit when it comes to the rarer gold trimmed, decorated jars. In 2002 a Smiley Pig sold for $6750. at the Kent Mickelson Auction House in Missouri.
Patent Illustrations for Shawnee Cookie Jars
Sources Include:Shawnee Pottery
by Bev and Jim Mangus
The Complete Cookie Jar Book
by Mike Schneider