Toby Jugs are sought-after estate sale collectibles, for the value they bring to homes and the high prices they fetch at auction. These quirky figurines feature happy, seated men, each with a mug of his favorite beverage. Jovial-looking Toby Jugs have been a part of English culture for generations. Although the jugs’ notable appearance gradually evolved, they retain their lively spirit and are still popular with collectors to this day.
In this blog, you’ll get an overview of Toby Jugs’ intriguing history and learn what’s involved in their production process. You’ll also obtain useful Toby Jugs identification tips along with Toby Jug value and price guide information.
Finally, you’ll discover brick-and-mortar and online venues where you might find these colorful Character Jugs.
What Is a Toby Jug?
A Toby Jug is a figural ceramic jug. Each jug is molded in the shape of a notable character. Historically, Toby Jugs feature a hearty man holding a mug in one hand and sporting a tricorn hat. His hat doubles as a pouring spout. Each character is outfitted in typical period fashions.
Toby Jugs first made their appearance in 18th-century England. Specifically, the Staffordshire area was a hub of pottery activity. Acclaimed potters, such as Ralph Wood I and II, were known for their quality Toby Jug creations.
Speculation continues about the origin of the Toby Jug name. One potential source is Sir Toby Belch, a memorable character from Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” Or, perhaps the name sprang from a popular song of the era, “Brown Jug.” Brown Jug’s tune features a character named ‘Toby Fillpot (or Philpot)’.
Toby Jugs vs Toby Mugs vs Character Jugs
Three similar types of figural jugs are called “Toby Jugs.” However, each jug has a distinctive shape and/or function.
- Toby Jugs: A Toby Jug is a figural jug that depicts a character’s entire body. Original Toby Jugs showed a seated man, sporting a tricorn hat, puffing on a pipe, and holding a mug of ale. Toby Jugs also must have a spout, designating that it’s used to pour a liquid.
- Toby Mugs: A Toby Mug is a Toby Jug that doesn’t have a spout. Without a spout, it’s used for drinking, so it’s a mug.
- Character Jug: A Character Jug is a jug that only displays a character’s bust (head, face, and sometimes shoulders).
Royal Doulton Toby Jugs
Royal Doulton is a leading name in Toby Jug collectibles. Toby Jugs have been around since the 18th century, but it wasn’t until Royal Doulton started producing them that they became a household name.
Royal Doulton had modest beginnings in early 19th-century England. In 1815, newly apprenticed John Doulton started Doulton Pottery. 5 years later, John Watts joined the business. From there, the two began producing Toby Jugs and practical salt-glazed stoneware.
Doulton & Watts gradually expanded the company’s Toby Jug offerings, adding a robust lineup of subjects. The Large Character King Henry VIII Toby Jug was among the most well-received offerings. During the 1860s, Doulton began making Toby Jugs from popular stoneware.
Royal Doulton Revamps its Toby Jug Collectibles
During the 1920s, Royal Doulton drastically revised its popular Toby Jugs.
First, artist Harry Simeon livened up the subjects with color. Charles Noke, a leading Doulton artist/modeler, was so inspired by the colorized Toby Jugs that he decided to completely revamp the figurines’ designs.
This is also the time that Character Jugs were introduced. Each new jug would feature the subject’s head and shoulders instead of a head-to-toe depiction.
Noke also wanted to bring English cultural characters to life in hopes of appealing to upcoming generations.
New Jugs Were Introduced in 1930s
In 1934, after almost ten years of development, Noke launched the first Royal Doulton Character Jug. Whiskey-themed John Barleycorn was his first subject, and the Character Jug was wildly popular.
Highly encouraged, Charles Noke added Old Charley and Sairey Gamp (the latter produced by Beswick Ware, later purchased by Royal Doulton). Dick Turpin, Parson Brown, and The Night Watchman (designed by Max Henk) rounded out the collection.
During the mid-1930s, Royal Doulton also released the John Peel Character Jug. This Harry Fenton-designed piece was the first jug that depicted a real person. Character Mugs were also very popular during this period. During the late 1930s, favorite characters appeared in spinoff products such as musical jugs, tobacco jars, and tea pots.
Jug and Mug Production Stops
World War II led to a Character Jug production slowdown, although production resumed following the war’s conclusion. In 2011, Royal Doulton stopped producing its iconic Character Jugs and Character Mugs for good.
The Royal Doulton Toby Jugs, Royal Doulton Toby Mugs, and Royal Doulton Character Jugs continue to be popular with lots of different collectors. Because the jugs feature a wide variety of subjects and craftsmanship techniques, they appeal to different swaths of the collectors’ market.
Character Jugs Production and Handle Evolution
During one of Royal Doulton’s most productive periods, the company produced Character Jugs of different sizes and themes. All pieces followed the same production process, although handle designs evolved over the years.
Character Jug Sizes
Royal Doulton Character Jugs came in a variety of sizes. The most popular Character Jug sizes include the Mini Jug, the Small Jug, and the Large Jug.
The Mini Character Jug is 2 ¼ x 2 ½ inches tall. The Arry (D6249) is a popular mini jug. The Small Character Jug measures 3 ¼ to 4 inches tall. A popular small jug is The Falconer (D6540). The Large Character Jug measures 5 ¼ to 7 inches tall. The Falstaff (D6287) is a notable large Character Jug.
Character Jug Production Process
The Royal Doulton Character Jugs underwent a multi-step production process.
First, a skilled artisan created a model of the piece for reference. Next, a worker packed the mold with clay (usually earthenware or stoneware), and then fired the piece in a kiln.
After the firing was complete, a talented artist hand painted the piece. Finally, the Character Jug received a glaze to preserve its colors and enhance durability.
Handle Design Progression
Royal Doulton Character Jug handles experienced quite an evolution. The early Character Jugs mostly featured plain-looking handles. During the 1950s, handles began to display more creativity, a direct result of Max Henk’s involvement in handle production.
Over the years, the Character Jug handles began to reveal more about each character’s personality. For example, the Long John Silver Jug sports a parrot handle. The Alice in Wonderland Duchess Jug shows off a flamingo handle, and the Mikado Jug features a finely sculpted white fan handle.
Sometimes, a Character Jug’s handle design changed without affecting the piece’s overall appearance. For example, the Tower of London’s Beefeater Guard Jug came onto the market in 1947. Initially, the jug’s handle displayed the “GR” initials (standing for George Rex). But when Elizabeth II ascended the throne in 1953, the Beefeater Guard’s handle initials changed to “ER,” for Elizabeth Regina. A gold-handled version was also issued, and it carries a higher value.
How to Identify Toby Jug Collectibles
Identifying Royal Doulton Toby Jugs, Toby Mugs, and Character Jugs is a relatively simple task. Standard Royal Doulton markings provide useful details, and each piece’s characteristics also provide valuable clues.
Royal Doulton Marks
All Royal Doulton identifying marks are found on the jug’s underside. Marks include the company’s well-known lion and crown trademark. Royal Doulton also molds the Character Jug’s name into each jug’s exterior surface.
Handle Design Variations
A Character Jug’s handle design variations can help you to determine the piece’s production era. For example, the John Barleycorn Character Jug originally featured a plain handle that blended into the jug’s top end. Later versions display a handle affixed to the jug’s exterior.
Limited-Edition Handle Designs
A limited-edition handle design can help to date a Royal Doulton piece. For example, Doulton Collectors Club Founding Members had the chance to obtain a John Doulton Jug with the handle’s clock showing eight o’clock. Newer members’ jugs showed the handle clock at the two o’clock position.
Free Expert Advice
Antiques industry professionals may be willing to provide a free, informal appraisal of your Toby Jug, Mug, or Character Jug. In fact, the “Antiques Roadshow” series is built on this exact premise.
Local antique appraisers, along with online auction houses such as Christie’s and Bonhams, may provide similar unofficial appraisals. Of course, obtaining a thorough in-person evaluation of your piece(s) will always provide the best result.
Toby Jug Price Guides
Maybe you’re interested in determining your Toby Jugs’ values. Whether for insurance purposes, or to pinpoint a good selling price, a Toby Jugs Price Guide is a much-appreciated tool.
Descriptions, photographs, and pricing details are essential components of a well-executed Character Jugs Price Guide. The price guide should also be published within the last year, and it should include valuation opinions from multiple contributors. Each price valuation should be accompanied by a list of the factors that help to determine the Toby Jug’s value.
Completed Online Auction Listings
Online auction sites are a great place to find real-world valuations for Toby Jugs. By browsing completed online auction listings, you can see an item’s exact selling price. eBay and Live Auctioneers are two well-known online auction platforms.
To access eBay “Sold” listings, start on the site’s home page. Click on the “Advanced” text on the right-hand side of the blue search bar. Once you’re on the destination page, type your search request. Click on the “Sold Listings” box, and tap the blue search bar to see the search results.
To access the Live Auctioneers “Sold” listings, open a free member account. When you do that, you’ll receive access to a vast searchable database of completed auctions.
Factors That Affect Toby Jug Values
Multiple factors play a part in determining each Toby Jug’s value. The first is popularity. Some Toby Jug characters are simply more popular than others. Popularity will often command higher prices.
The jug’s overall condition also influences its price. An excellent-condition Toby Jug typically brings a higher price than the same model with splotchy colors and chips or cracks. Collectors will pay thousands of dollars for a highly desired, well-preserved piece. When possible, evaluate your Toby Jug under a UV light.
When you do that, you’ll see damage and repair work that may not be visible to the naked eye.
Limited-Edition and Prototype Pieces
Let’s say that a specific Toby Jug only had a small production run, or it was marketed as a limited-edition piece. This jug will likely have a higher price than a jug with thousands of copies.
For example, the schoolboy-themed Toby Gillette Character Jug is extremely rare, as Royal Doulton only produced three copies of this high-visibility piece.
Two jugs were sold at Sotheby’s, with each one bringing $20,175. The third Toby Gillette jug is on display in the Royal Doulton Museum.
Prototype Character Jugs are also highly sought-after commodities. A prototype jug is also known as a “design trial” jug. It’s a Character Jug that was designed and produced on a small scale. These jugs were used to determine if the design would be produced at full-scale. Prototypes are among the highest-valued of all Royal Doulton Toby Jugs.
Over the years, design changes created color variations. Specific color details can help you determine your Toby Jug’s production era as well as its value.
Read through the following to get an idea of how color can affect a Toby Jug’s value.
Clown Jugs Hair Color Evolution
During the 1930s, Royal Doulton first produced Clown Character Jugs that sported red hair. As World War II restricted materials’ availability, the clown’s hair became brown. From 1951 to 1955, the clown displayed white hair. Today, a red- or brown-haired Clown Jug has two to three times the value of the white-haired Clown Jug.
Interestingly, a black-haired Clown Jug has the highest value. This jug was commissioned by a family with a black-haired clown ancestor. Several years ago, this jug sold at auction for $16,140.
Old King Cole Crown
When the Old King Cole Character Jug was introduced in 1938-1939, he displayed a yellow crown. Later, Old King Cole’s crown color changed to reddish-brown. The original version is considerably more valuable than the versions with a reddish-brown crown.
The Mad Hatter Hat Color
The Mad Hatter Character Jug is a part of the Alice in Wonderland collection.
The original Hatter sported a black hat, but a red-hatted version appeared on the market fairly recently and sold for more than $8,070. Apparently, during the 1960’s a Royal Doulton factory painter changed the hat color. This rogue red-hatted version was only produced for a short time before being discontinued.
In 1939, Royal Doulton introduced Character Jugs that featured musical movement. These relatively uncommon pieces are more valuable than non-musical Character Jugs. The Royal Doulton Old King Cole Character Jug, slightly less than six inches tall with a Thorens movement, is a fine example of this genre.
Suddenly Discontinued Models
If a Toby Jug, Toby Mug, or Character Jug was unexpectedly discontinued, the remaining pieces typically have a high value. The Clark Gable Character Jug is a good example. In 1984, Royal Doulton produced 2,000 Clark Gable Character Jugs to sell in the United States.
However, Gable’s estate didn’t approve the jug, so Doulton stopped production of new pieces, recalled all sold pieces, and demolished all unsold pieces. Today, there are approximately 100 remaining Clark Gable Jugs in existence. Each one is valued at approximately $3,363, considerably more than other celebrities’ jugs of that era.
Subject’s Dissatisfaction with Image
Surprisingly, one Royal Doulton Character Jug (actually a two-handled Loving Cup) was withdrawn from production because its subject wasn’t happy with the finished product. In 1940, Royal Doulton artist Charles Noke designed the cream-colored Winston Churchill piece, which was produced during the Battle of Britain.
About 18 months later, Royal Doulton pulled the piece off the market because of Churchill’s dissatisfaction with it. Today, this piece is valued at over $8,073. Royal Doulton also produced two colored versions of the Churchill Character Jug. Several years ago, one sold at Sothebys for $22,202.
8 Most-Valuable Toby Jugs
The following are the Toby Jugs, Toby Mugs, and Character Jugs with the highest estimated prices. However, remember that the condition of a Toby Jug significantly affects its price. *An excellent-condition jug generally commands a higher price than the same model with chips, cracks, or color irregularities.
Name and Description
|1. Toby Gillette Character Jug
Royal Doulton only produced three of these jugs, and one resides in the Royal Doulton Museum. No one knows the location of the remaining two jugs.
|2. Sir Francis Drake Mug (No Hat)
England’s Sir Francis Drake was the first man to travel across the globe. The mug’s original hatless version, produced from 1940-1941, is the most valuable.
|Up to $5,500
|3. Clown Character Jug (Red Hair)
The original 1937 red-haired clown is the most valuable Clown Character Jug. Later models featured clowns with differently colored hair.
|Up to $4,500
|4. Clark Gable Character Jug
In 1984, Royal Doulton produced this 2000-jug run for the United States market. However, Gable’s estate declined to approve the jugs, and Royal Doulton was forced to end production and destroy the unsold jugs. Approximately 100 Clark Gable jugs are estimated to be in existence.
|$4,000 to $5,000 (Stanley J version)
|5. Old King Cole Jug (Yellow Crown)
In 1938, Royal Doulton introduced the jolly-looking Old King Cole Character Jug with a yellow crown. This version is much more valuable than jugs with other crown colors.
|$2,500 to $4,000
|6. Standing Man Somber (Mini)
Royal Doulton made this compact white-and-tan hand-painted jug in 1925. It’s one of the earliest Toby Jug pieces, and it now commands a high value.
|$1,500 or more
|7. Admiral Lord Nelson Loving Cup
In 1935, Royal Doulton made 600 of the Admiral Nelson Loving Cups to celebrate the famous mariner’s victory. This mug is often brought out for weddings and other special events.
|$800 to $900
|8. Cliff Cornell Toby Jug (Light Brown Suit)
Royal Doulton made Cliff Cornell Jugs in multiple sizes and color schemes. The light brown-suited Cliff Cornell Toby Jug is the rarest, with only 250 made in 1956.
Where to Find Toby Jugs
Royal Doulton Toby Jugs could pop up in numerous places. First, you might discover a Toby Jug (or two) at a professionally coordinated estate sale. Estate liquidators frequently host these multi-day sale events. Estate sales often feature antique and vintage collectibles. Whether you’re a serious collector or simply like to discover new treasures, enjoy the thrill of the hunt at a nearby estate sale this weekend.
You may also find Toby Jugs at antique marketplaces, especially larger shops or those with multiple dealers. Upscale thrift stores also offer good prospects, as the stores often receive donated collectibles from elderly homeowners or estate liquidators.
General-merchandise auctions often contain lots, or groups, of collectibles that are placed up for bids. If possible, view auction items online before attending the event. Online auctions are also popular venues, and frequently display listings from international sellers. eBay and Live Auctioneers are two well-known online auction websites.
Online antiques marketplaces also feature a virtual smorgasbord of items from antiques shops and private sellers. Well-known online marketplaces include Etsy and Ruby Lane, but there are other, smaller businesses and specialty retailers.
Exploring Toby Jugs for Yourself
Maybe you’re intrigued by lively Toby Jugs or Mugs, or you’re captivated by the many available Character Jugs. Either way, you’ll find plenty of vintage collectibles at estate sales, local stores, and online.
After you’ve found the perfect Toby Jug for your collection, the next step is finding a place to display your special collectible. Once you’ve done that, you can join the ranks of enthusiastic collectors who appreciate these quirky symbols of bygone English culture.