The Value Of Fruit Jars

fruit jars
Preserving food has been a problem since the days of the cave men. Salting, smoking, pickling all work, but your food tastes like salt, smoke or pickles.

Glass jars were the perfect solution, but the problem remained: How do you get a good seal between the jar and the lid? There have been hundreds of solutions since the mid-1800s, and some could be worth $100. A certain Van Vilet jar is so scarce that it might put $1,000 in your pocket.

Find out about other collectibles described by The Saturday Early Show's Tony Hyman in the Collectibles Archive or visit Tony Hyman's Web site.

If you think you have a collectible worth a lot of cash, send an email to with "What's It Worth?" in the subject line. Or write to "What's It Worth?" The Saturday Early Show, 514 West 57th St., 6th floor, New York, N.Y. 10019.

Canning first became safe, cheap and easier (it’s never been easy) with the introduction of the Lightning bail jar which clamped the lid to the jar with a rubber ring between them. These were very popular, and there are lots of these jars around. They all look very similar, but there are big differences in value. In this case, color is king, which can make the difference between a jar being worth $40 and being worth $400.

Be careful buying jars unless you know what you’re doing. The Lightning fruit jar has been widely reproduced, and they’re hard to tell apart. The glass is the key. Modern glass feels and looks "smoother" whereas the original jar has many more bubbles and imperfections in the glass.

Size is also important in determining the value of fruit jars. A common zinc screw top Ball jar is worth a buck in a pint size, but the same jar in half pint size is worth a 120 times as much!

The lesson in all this? If you’ve got a jar that’s out of the ordinary in size, color or the way the lid closes, it could put money in your pocket to get expert advice.

Information and props provided by fruit jar collector Mike Sollars. Your questions about jars probably will be answered on his Web site at If you still have questions about fruit jars or canning jars, you may write to Sollars at

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