How to Date Old Ball Mason Jars
Ball mason jars are a type of home canning jar made by the Ball Corporation. The company started making mason jars back in 1880, and many people today still use these for canning, or collect the jars as a hobby. There are many ways to date old Ball mason jars, and one of the easiest is to look at the logo. Along with the logo, you can sometimes use the color, size, and other distinguishing marks to help date a mason jar.
Dating the Logo
Look for the early BBGMC logo.This is one of the earliest logos used by Ball, back when the company was known as the Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Company. Because the jars were made in Buffalo, New York, these are called Buffalo jars today.
- Buffalo jars are rare and old. If you have a mason jar with this logo, it was manufactured between 1885 and 1886.
See if your jar has block letters.Ball began using block letters for the logo on their jars in 1892, and continued using this type of logo until 1896. The major difference between the lettering on these jars and newer jars is the lettering on the older jars is simple printing rather than cursive or stylized lettering.
Check for the first Ball script logo.In 1895, Ball introduced their first logo that used cursive lettering. This is also when Ball began underlining their logo. Between 1895 and 1896, the Ball logo was relatively straight rather than angled toward the upper right side of the jar.
Look for the 3-L logo.The Ball logo has remained relatively standard since the first script logo was introduced, but there have been a number of small variations that can be used to date the jar. The 3-L logo, for instance, was only used between 1900 and 1910.
- This logo is called the 3-L logo because the decorative loop at the end of the logo looks like a third L in the Ball name.
Look for the dropped A.Between 1910 and 1923, the A in the word Ball had an ascender at the beginning that looked like it should connect with the B. Because the B and the A don’t connect, this called the dropped A.
- At this time, Ball also adopted the 2-L style logo, where the decorative loop on the end of the name was dropped.
Look for a Ball jar without an underscore.The cursive word “Ball” without the underscore was only produced between 1923 and 1933.
Check for the looped B.This moves into the 1933 to 1962 age range. There is an underscore, a “B” with a loop in the center and a very small “a.”
Look for the B connected to the underscore.Starting in the 1960s, the lower part of the “B” connected to the underline. This indicates a date range between 1960 and today.
Locating Other Identifying Marks
Look for Christmas lettering.Ball mason jars with Christmas lettering have a unique design that doesn’t use their original printed or their traditional cursive lettering. Instead, the lettering is calligraphy, and the jar reads “Masons Patent.”
- These Ball mason jars were manufactured in 1890.
Check for identifying words.Over the years, Ball has introduced a variety of different jars that can be identified with certain words that are printed on the jars. Some of these words were used for many years, but the style often changed every couple years.
- “Improved:” There were a few times when Ball produced jars with “Improved,” including in the 1890s, when the jars were printed with “Ball Improved 1858.” Later, the jars were produced with the wording “Ball Mason Improved” between 1900 and 1933.
- “Special:” Between 1910 and 1913, Ball mason jars were printed with the words “Ball Special Mason” in all block letters.
- “Perfect:” Between 1913 and 1922, the word “Perfect” was slightly offset, and is left indented from the word “Mason” below.
- “Sanitary:” This word was printed on Ball mason jars around 1913 and 1915 to indicate that they had the sanitary sure seal. The word “Sanitary” is in all capital letters, is italicized, and appears below the Ball logo.
- “Ideal”: These were made between 1915 and 1962.
- “Square:” Jars with the word “Square” were produced in 1925.
- “Eclipse:” These wide-mouthed jars were made between 1926 and 1952.
See if your jar is an off-size.There are a few oddly sized Ball mason jars that were produced at very specific times, so the size of the jar can be used to date its production.
- In the 1920s and early 1930s, Ball produced 40-ounce (1.2-L) jars that were used for coffee, and 42-ounce (1.24-L) jars that were popular with bootleggers.
- To measure the capacity of your jar, fill it with water and then measure the amount of water the jar holds.
Use the color to get an idea of the age.Ball created a number of colored mason jars over the years, and while the most common is blue, there were also jars produced in other colors as well, such as green and yellow.
- Blue glass Ball jars were produced in the late 1890s and early 1900s, but the company stopped producing these in 1937.
- There were also some brown amber jars produced in the 1950s, but most of the jars produced after the 1940s were made of clear glass.
Inspect the jar for mistakes.There have been a number of mason jars produced over the years that have spelling errors and other mistakes printed on the jars, and these can be compared with reference materials to date the jars. If you find a jar with an error, find a copy of the Redbook (a price guide for fruit jar collectors) to determine the age and price of the jar based on the error.
- One of the most common error jars is a Ball jar with a misspelling of the word “Perfect,” and common variations include “perffct,” “peprect,” and “perefct.”
Check for upside-down writing.Ball jars that have an upside-down logo are actually upside-down jars that were designed to function as coffee dispensers. These were manufactured between 1900 and 1910.
Knowing What Marks and Labels to Disregard
Ignore the 1858 patent year.Ball mason jars were produced for many years with the year 1858 printed on them, but this is no indication of the age of jar itself. Rather, 1858 is the year that John Mason was granted a patent for his mason jar design, and the Ball company used this patent year on many jars.
Ignore the 1908 patent date.This was another patent date that was printed on many mason jars, and that has no bearing on the year of production. In fact, Ball used this patent date on their jars well into the 1930s, so this year cannot be used to accurately date a Ball jar.
Ignore the mold number on the jar.Many Ball mason jars have a number printed on the bottom of the jar, but this is a mold number that does not indicate the year of production. Rather, the mold number tells you where the jar was positioned on the glass-making machine that was used to produce it.
- Mold numbers are generally a number between zero and 15, and they’ll sometimes have a letter included as well.
QuestionI have a Mason Jar with the word Perfect mispelled as Perfeot. Is this a fake or reproduction?JARSLWCommunity AnswerThis is not a reproduction. You will find some jars with errors like that on them.Thanks!
QuestionWhat do the numbers on the bottom of the ball jar mean?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThe number is the number of the mold used to make the jar.Thanks!
QuestionI have an old mason jar that reads "Boyd's". How can I tell its worth?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt may be worth something, but that will be determined by the size, color, age, and top. Check eBay for jars with descriptions or pictures that match yours and see what they've sold for in the past by searching "Completed Listings".Thanks!
QuestionWhat do vertical ridges on a jar mean?JARSLWCommunity AnswerThose gripper ridges were first applied to jars in 1932 by Brockway, then Ball. They help you grip the jar.Thanks!
QuestionI have a half gallon aqua mason jar with Mason's N Patent Nov 30th 1858 on it. Is this a rare jar?Community AnswerI'm afraid your jar is not rare. There are many of them for sale online, and are not hard to find.Thanks!
QuestionI have an old ball canning jar that says "Sanitary Sure Seal" on the front below the word Ball. How old is it?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIf the jar is blue, then it's like from the early 1900s. More specifically, the jar is probably from between 1905 and 1915. The price of the jar will depend on the size and the condition. Most of them being sold online seem to be priced in the neighborhood of .Thanks!
QuestionAre square jars older than round ones?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerMost of the square jars were made starting in the 1940's. More modern made jars are a rounded square shape.Thanks!
QuestionDoes 13 on bottom of a blue mason jar mean anything?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerSome people collect these because they believe they are scarce. It is a myth that they were destroyed by superstitious moonshiners or housewives. This story was started by retailers trying to inflate the prices.Thanks!
QuestionI have a 60 oz jar with bubbled glass and a lower ring on top forming an E loop. How do I date this?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThis jar was likely blown between 1915 and 1985. The seams along the side top to bottom suggest after 1915. The rippled effect was caused by molten glass blown into an iron or steel mold that was not properly pre-heated. The glass solidified too quickly.Thanks!
QuestionI have a jar that is just marked "O N" with the number 11 on the bottom. Any idea?Linda.WhiteCommunity AnswerThis is likely some kind of modern product jar and is not a canning jar. More information is needed to make that determination.Thanks!
Where do you fill the jar up to determine how many ounces it holds?
How do I find the date of an old mason jar?
What could have been in a jar that looks like a wine bottle and has a ball on the bottom of the jar?
I found 4 mason jars (ball & kerr) today that are shaped differently than most. Typically the bottom of the mason jars will curve inward at the bottom. The 4 jars I found today go straight down at the bottom. Is this a sign of their age?
I found a jar with vertical grips on 3 sides, circles on the bottom, and "Ball" on top in the middle with "mason" under that. How old is it?
Sources and Citations
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Video: How to Date Old Ball Mason Jars
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