stairway to heaven

To find out more about cookie jars:

Collectors Fred and Joyce Roerig
have compiled three books,
each with different photographs of
jars and suggested prices.
All are published by Collector Books.
Collectors Encyclopedia of Cookie Jars,
Book I, updated 1997; $24.95
Collectors Encyclopedia of Cookie Jars,
Book II, updated 1999; $24.95
Collectors Encyclopedia of Cookie Jars,
Book III, 1998; $24.95
The Complete Cookie jar Book
By Mike Schneider; Schiffer Publishing ; 1991; $59.95

Karen & Lori

Tucked away at the top of the stairs
above a Wisconsin shop is a museum
displaying hundreds of delightful cookie
jars.  The jars inhabit Cookie Jar Heaven,
A true Paradise for collectors.

Here’s one Santa that wont be satisfied with only a couple of cookies on a plate. This ceramic fella is a yard tall and makes his home not at the north pole but in Cookie Jar Heaven, a museum in Delavan, Wisconsin, Devoted entirely to Cookie Jars

“Our Santa would hold about two years worth of cookies”, says Lori Wuttke, co-owner and operator of the museum, with her mother Karen Wuttke. Although this Santa look alike could store all your holiday baking in his hollow belly, he wasn’t created to hold cookies. He’s a floor model made by the McCoy Pottery Co. in Roseville, Ohio, one of the best known cookie jar manufacturers .

The mammoth Santa is one of only 40 known to exist and one of the museum’s nearly 600 jars, many of which are as rare as, or more rare than, it is.

There are two Metlox Jars: Donald Duck, a very limited-edition jar made especially for Walt Disney and his top executives, one of eight or so in circulation, and a turkey, one of three known to exist. “We organized the collection by manufacturers,” Karen said. “We provide information about each manufacturer-where it was located and what years cookie jars were produced.” In the Fitz & Floyd section, the Wuttkes display Santa in an airplane, Santa on a motorcycle, and a Southwest Santa. Another prized jar is the RRP Snowman.

These jars celebrate a
sweet season of baking.
When Karen conceived the idea for the museum several years ago, she wanted to do more than just show off cookie jars. She also wanted to educate cookie jar fans. Karen had been collecting cookie jars for 25 years and was frustrated when she and her husband went antiquing and could not find jars they’d seen photographed in collector’s price guides. At Cookie Jar Heaven, visitors can see real jars instead of looking at photographs. The museum is located upstairs of remember when, Karen and Lori’s collectable and cookie jar shop that stocks about 1,500 new jars. “People used to think our store was a museum and would ask for tours” Lori says.  Passionate about cookie jars barley begins to describe Karen and Lori’s near obsession with their hobby turned business. Karen has about 650 jars in her personal collection at home; Lori has about 300. “I have shelves built above all the windows and doorways in my home,” Lori say’s. The jars are everywhere, even in her bathroom. Once a year she takes them down for dusting.

In Karen’s home some of the jars rotate off the shelves for holidays. When her grandchildren come by at Christmastime they always look in her kitchen to see which holiday jars (filled with cookies of course) are on the counter.

The buffalo jar was made in the
three piece mold shown.  According
to Karen, the more detailed the
shape, the more pieces are
necessary to mold it.

The Wuttkes are not alone in their love of cookie jars. Lori says that a recent issue of Antiques and Collectables Shopper lists cookie jars as the second most popular collectable item , after Hull pottery and ahead of Beanie Babies. And there are jars to suit everyone’s tastes. Lori prefers the newer jars of licensed figures such as batman, Superman, the Pillsbury Doughboy, and Lucy (of I Love Lucy fame) that she grew up with. Karen leans toward older jars, with her favorites being those produced in the 1940s by the Shawnee Pottery Co. in Zanesville, Ohio.

Their museum includes samples of both their collecting styles. In addition to antique jars’ the Wuttkes have included reproductions, knowing that many collectors are unable to afford some of the jars on display. For example, their most valuable jar is the Hillbilly frog worth $6,000. Next to it is a $300 reproduction. There also are Sierra Vista’s Davy Crockett and Hull’s Red Riding Hood and their cheaper counterparts.

Also on display in the museum are examples of the cookie jar reproduction process, from start to finish. “We show a cookie jar in the bisque state, which is greenware that’s been glazed and fired in the kiln,” Karen explains. There’s another jar from the same mold that’s been painted and glazed, and finally the finished product, resulting from a second firing. “we also include a screw-up” she says to show how fragile jars-in-the-making are and how easily they can be damaged in the kiln.

Eventually, Karen hopes to display jars barrowed from private collections for four-to-six month stints to make rarer cookie jars available for museum visitors to see.
Cookie jars were first made in the 1930s,and there’s plenty to learn about them once you get hooked on this uniquely American collectable Mother and daughter agree: ask lots of questions and acquire reference books.

For folks who might be interested in collecting or giving cookie jars but are overwhelmed by the possibilities, Karen and Lori offer more specific suggestions. Select jars that reflect your occupations, hobbies, or interests , say the Wuttkes. You can find jars of firemen, police officers, anglers, or hunters, or jars with advertising logos such as Coca-Cola or Pepsi, “I’ve got a customer in Idaho who only wants bear cookie jars: another guy collects only hippo,” Karen says. Lori had a customer who bought a Elvis jar for her children’s caregiver, a devout fan of Mr. Love Me Tender.

“Look around for what suits your fancy,” advises Karen. When she picked up the hillbilly frog, her husband could not imagine why she wanted such an ugly thing. “But it does grow on you” she says. Now there is no way her husband would consider selling the frog.

Here are the steps
in making
a cookie jar;
A molded jar in
bisque stage,
back right, a jar with
colored glazes applied,
back left,
and a jar after the
second firing.
This Fitz & Floyd Santa
rides a motorcycle on
his holeday rounds.

“You have to like what your buying” Karen says. “Don’t think of buying as an investment. You’re going to be looking at your jars every day.” Lori suggests starting with newer jars. For example one of the four designs the Wuttkes exclusively sell in there shop is the 1977 Chuck E. Cheese cookie jars that depicts the character associated with the pizza parlors for kids. “There are only 1,977 of the jars,” Karen says, “the same number as the year the restaurant chain was founded.”

That jar sells for $110, but you can get a Coca-Cola bear for $35, Lori says, or invest $250 in a 20-inch-high Star Wars cookie jar. “ That jar will never hold cookies” Lori says. “It really is a work of art”.

To see for yourself just how special cookie jars are, climb the stairway in the back of the Wuttkes shop: the stairway to Cookie Jar Heaven.

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