Dear Helaine and Joe: I have this "Friar Tuck" cookie jar signed "Red Wing" on the bottom. I cannot seem to find out anything about the blue ones. Can you tell me if it is more valuable than the others?
—A.F.H., Grayville, Ill.Dear A.F.H.: Depending on the reference you check, the Red Wing Stoneware Co. was established in Red Wing, Minn., in either 1877 or 1878 and remained in business until 1967. The company initially produced utilitarian stoneware items such as crocks and jugs, and it was not until 1933 that it began producing commercial artware (e.g. decorative wares made using molds).
Dinnerware followed in 1935, and in 1936, the company changed its name to Red Wing Potteries Inc. In recent years, collectors have become very interested in the products of this company, and some of the early cobalt blue-decorated stoneware can command prices in the $1,500 to $10,000 range.
Particularly interesting to enthusiasts are the water coolers, the large beehive pitchers, the churns and the umbrella stands embellished with blue leaves and/or flowers. Current collectors are also acquiring the dinnerware, with such designs as "Bob White," "Town and Country," "Round-Up" and "Tampico" being among the most sought after.
It is thought by some that Red Wing started making cookie jars in the 1920s, but we feel that most examples did not really go into production until after the end of World War II. The company is probably most famous for its "King of Tarts" jar, which now sells for about $800 in white, $1,000 in pink and black and $1,200 in the multicolored version.
The company also made cookie jars in the form of a bunch of grapes, a pineapple, a Dutch girl, a chef (called "Pierre") and a carousel, among others. Often these cookie jars were not marked with the Red Wing logo, but collectors have no trouble identifying them from their very distinctive shapes.
The particular cookie jar belonging to A.F.H. is known as either "Monk" or "Friar Tuck" and has a banner at the bottom of the robe that reads "Thou Shalt Not Steal" — meaning the cookies, not the jar. Normally, these pieces came in cream, yellow or green, with the cream examples being worth between $200 and $225, the yellow ones just a bit less, and the green ones between $300 and $350.
We searched two reference books and 10 years' worth of sales records and could not find a single mention of a blue Red Wing "Friar Tuck" cookie jar. This suggests that this is either a reproduction — and we found that both the "King of Tarts" and "Pierre the Chef" jars have been reproduced — or a rare Red Wing experiment.
Unfortunately, there is no way to tell which it is without an in-person inspection. But if it is the real thing, it is very rare and probably worth $1,000 or more at retail.
Helaine Fendelman is feature editor at Country Living magazine, and Joe Rosson writes about antiques at The Knoxville News Sentinel in Tennessee. Questions can by mailed to them at P.O. Box 12208, Knoxville, TN 37912-0208.