What is McCoy Pottery?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

McCoy pottery is American pottery which was produced by the McCoy Pottery Company. The McCoy Pottery Company changed names and owners several times over the course of its existence, making it difficult to pin down examples of authentic McCoy pottery. This difficulty has been complicated by the fact that McCoy pottery is often unmarked, reflecting the fact that it was mass-produced for daily use, not with collectors in mind.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

The home of McCoy pottery is in Roseville, Ohio, a region which has long been a center of pottery production thanks to its natural clay deposits. In 1848, the earliest incarnation of McCoy pottery was being produced by the McCoy family, although many people date McCoy pottery to 1910, when the Nelson McCoy Sanitary Stoneware Company was founded. Well through the 1960s, McCoy pottery was being produced and widely sold. However, the company went through a series of sales and new owners and an accompanying decline in production until 1990, when production of McCoy pottery finally ceased.

Because McCoy pottery was produced for so many years, it is quite varied in composition. As a general rule, it is stoneware with simple glazes, characterized by fairly crude production methods. Real McCoy pottery tends to have very thick walls and bottoms, and it feels heavy for its size, with a slightly clunky feel. The glazes used are quite variable, as are the pottery designs. The company is probably most famous for its cookie jars, including a series of cookie jars with “mammy” caricatures, but it is also possible to find McCoy cups, plates, vases, and so forth.

This pottery company produced huge volumes of pottery in the United States, and it was one of the most widely distributed brands. For this reason, one would expect to find a lot of McCoy pottery on the market. However, this isn't necessarily the case. Many pieces have broken or vanished with time, as happens with household goods in daily use, and there are a number of imitations on the market.

People who want to collect McCoy pottery should familiarize themselves with the marks used by the company to identify its potteries. Many pottery collectors' guides have illustrations of the various marks used, along with examples of true McCoy pottery which include information about the dimensions of original pieces, along with the glazes used. For people who are not familiar with McCoy pottery, asking an experienced adviser to come along on buying trips is a very good idea, and buying pottery blind over the Internet or through catalogs should be done with care.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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