September brings fresh fall produce to the grocery stores and farmers markets as gardens are such a magical place at the end of the season. You'll find pickles, tomatoes, beans, corn and so much more.

Plenty of folks also are looking for canning jars to preserve those delicious garden goodies. Not everyone freezes their harvest. I have found that even apples are put in old-fashioned canning jars, bringing such a cheer sitting side-by-side on someone’s pantry shelves.

A couple of good guides to follow if you're collecting fruit jars is by Bill Schroeder titled, “1000 Fruit Jars.” Another book, “Fruit Jars: A Collectors' Manual” by Jullian Harrison Toulouse has a bit of history on these jars and more. You might also check out a website:

Reading through these books and checking out the website, we do find that there are so many various types of canning jars available, something that was borne out as I visited several nearby shops. Some jars have a glass lid, a rubber ring, zinc tops and metal clamps to hold the lid in place, while others have a lid in two parts, a flat metal disc and a screw lid — those are on the new jars today.

The most common jars found today are the clear glass or aqua-blue, valued no more than $1 to $6 each. But some collectors will pay big dollars for some rare jars. Schroeder writes, “Most old jars date to the 20th century, not to 1858, which is simply the patent date, and if they are not made of an uncommon color they are worth very little. Green and amber can sell at a high dollar amount. Cobalt, milk glass or black are very unusual. As any collectible item, the value is based on condition, age, rarity, color and special features. Some collectors also look for the different clamp-type glass closures and the embossing style on the jars.”

Finding jars

Ann Collins, at Churn Dash Antiques, Rochester, said, “We have blue colored and clear jars with zinc or glass lids. About $4 to $10 in price depending on size. We also have enamel canners.”

Chris Rand Kujath, at Old River Valley Antique Mall, Stewartville, said, “We do have many canning jars. They range from $1 to $150 in a variety of sizes, brand names and colors. We do sell some for canning, but also for decorating with marbles, dice, buttons, & game pieces. I personally like to collect them, especially the colored ones!”

Sarah Kieffer, of Sarah's Uniques & Jim's “Man”tiques, St. Charles, said, “The zinc lids are always in high demand. I have several Ball and Kerr jars in the shop, along with some unusual ones and some from Canada. Being an Amish community, the Amish women do come in to buy these jars. I sell them for $5 to $10, with some of the collectible ones as much as $25 or more. I have found decorators want the old jars rather then the new ones, and a lot of people like the blue jars. I do have clear, some green and I even had a very pale pink."

Joan Thilges, at New Generations of Harmony, said, “We are lucky to have a number of vendors who offer a wide variety of vintage and antique jars for sale. We easily have over a hundred, ranging from a rare half-pint Ball Blue jar listed at $95 to a number of half-gallon (jars) priced around $20. One vendor offers a wrought iron display rack including a half-gallon, 42-ounce, quart, and pint Ball Perfect Mason jars for just $55. You'll also find Atlas, Swazee, Iowa, and other brands of jars.”

Neil Hunt, of A-Z Collectibles, Winona: “I would not say I have all shapes and sizes, but mostly 1-quart. A few other brands, a few 2-quart and one lonely half pint. Price, depending on brand and size and with or without lids all are less than $10. I do have a LOT of the rubber rings if anyone needs any. I have several boxes of one dozen per box at $4 per dozen.”

Angie Pehler, of Angies Vintage Rust, Treasures Under Sugar Loaf, Winona: “I have a great collection of Ball canning jars. The 'triple L' style from 1900-1910 is the design I really like, as they are unique. The story I've heard about the rare #13 is since it's an unlucky number, people would smash that jar instead of using them for canning. Which makes the #13 more rare and worth more. The jars I have range from $3 to $20.”

New jars

Cheri Peterson, of Pieces of the Past, Winona, said, “We do have jars here for lotions and soaps. We have custom tops that screw onto the jars for toothpaste, and toothbrush holders as well. We also have mini jars arriving that are salt and pepper.”

Sandy Erdman is a Winona-based freelance writer concentrating on vintage, antique and collectible items. Send comments and story suggestions to Sandy at

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