Dating Old Canning Jars

I have a lot of old, vintage canning jars. I love the history they carry as well as their charm and character.

Dating A Canning Jar

While it is okay to use them for storage or even as a refrigerator container, you should never process old jars in a canner. The old glass can’t take the temperature change and might shatter – which would be such a shame. Plus, the old fashioned sealing method is not reliable. But vintage jars are great on your pantry shelf to hold grain, etc.

So if you have some old jars, how do you know their true age?

If you have a Ball jar, you can date most of them just by looking at the logo. Every few years, the Ball Manufacturing Co changed the logo and if you compare yours to a reliable chart, you know how old it is. All you need is a chart like the one below.

I found this great chart on Pinterest, but unfortunately, it had lost it’s original link to the source. But Thanks to Sean at PunkDomestics.com for sending me the link here: Go to THIS website for a TON of information on old Ball canning jars. A must read!  Just compare your logo with the ones below and you have a general idea of the date. There are a few other logos not shown here, but these are the most common.

Dating Canning Jars chart

About the Author

Theresa Loe is the Co-Executive TV Producer and the On-Air Canning/Homesteading Expert for the national PBS gardening TV series, Growing A Greener World. She is a lifetime canner and a graduate of the Master Food Preserver Program. She studied both sustainable horticulture and professional culinary arts and she is a wrangler of chickens and two teenage children. (Not necessarily in that order.) Click here to download her FREE CANNING RESOURCE GUIDE of favorite must-have sources for preserving the harvest.

{ 23 comments… add one }

  • TeresaR June 11, 2012 at 7:03 am

    This is the one cool new thing I’m learning today! (I hope I learn a few more new things…regardless, this would be the best thing I learned today.)

    We never can in our old jars that we inherited from hubby’s dad, but now we can at least date them. Woohoo! Thanks!

    Reply edit
    • theresa June 11, 2012 at 7:07 am

      You are welcome Teresa. It was so fun to see how old some of mine were. I need to check my mom’s. She has some REALLY old ones for sure.

      Reply edit
      • TeresaR June 11, 2012 at 6:29 pm

        What were the ages of yours? I just checked 4 of ours, and three were in the 1922-1933 range, but one was in the 1910-1923 range. I love thinking about the women who did the canning with those jars. :)

        Reply edit
        • theresa June 12, 2012 at 4:41 am

          I have one in the 1910-1923 range too Teresa! Very exciting. It is an amazing thing to think of all the use those jars had and the things those women put up back in 1922. That was real organic food. They would probably not believe that to grow and preserve real food like that now requires special effort and attention. To them…it was just food!

          Reply edit
  • Sean June 12, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Hey Theresa — this has made the rounds a bit, but I think it’s important to note the source (http://home.earthlink.net/~raclay/DatingBalljars.HTML), where he expressly requests that people not just repost the image. I’m sure he’d appreciate a link back and props. Thanks!

    Reply edit
    • theresa June 12, 2012 at 11:55 am

      Sean – Thank you SO much. I tried to follow back the links on Pinterest so I could give credit, but it only went to other blogs who said they got it off Pinterest. I could not find the original source! I am amending my post now. Thanks again for the heads up!
      ~Theresa

      Reply edit
  • Wanda August 23, 2012 at 5:31 am

    I have a variety of canning jars and have LOTS of questions. Some are ATLAS jars. What can you tell me about them? If I were to put them (2 qt) in a garage sale, what could I fairly ask.

    I also have some 2qt Ball jars with circles on the bottom and a it y circle with an A off set .there is also another A and a 4 near the bottom edge.

    Is any of this important?

    Wanda

    Reply edit
  • Rick Kulpa January 19, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    I have a question about a mason jar that I have, from what I have seen about as to the year it might be from 1933 to 1960. It is larger then most I have seen, guess somewhere about 3 gal.

    I can send pictures. I would like to know much money it could be worth.

    My name is Rick, Kulparichard@gmail.com
    I live in AZ. Tucson

    Reply edit
    • theresa January 19, 2013 at 1:30 pm

      Hi Rick,

      I’m not an expert on the value of old canning jars. I am just a curious collector. I really don’t know how much your jar would be worth, but it sounds very unusual. Have you tried looking for a similar jar on ebay? Or maybe you could post your question on a canning/preserving forum?

      I wish I knew where to send you, but I don’t! My guess is that a jar of that size would be very rare.

      ~Theresa

      Reply edit
  • Jamie Priest January 20, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    Hello:
    I have a box of old jars. I have looked at your description of how Ball was written and I have one that is 1910-1923 and two are 1923-1933. Explain to me about the blue color vs clear and also the ones with wire closures vs screw tops.
    I also find these very interesting knowing that someone did can vegetables/fruit/meat in these and their family survived cold winter months off the food.
    Thanks,
    Jamie

    Reply edit
    • theresa January 20, 2013 at 4:08 pm

      Hi Jamie,

      I know what you mean! It is pretty amazing to hold that kind of history in your hands.

      I’m sorry but I don’t know anything more about the colors or the closures. I’m not an expert. I just like to collect them for fun. Maybe you could google about the colors? I’m sure someone out there knows!

      Good luck.
      t

      Reply edit
  • Ted Shideler January 22, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    The natural color of glass, when blown, was aqua (due to the iron content in the silica used). Ball gradually refined this to a deeper shade of blue, called “Ball Blue” by collectors, which was phased out in the late 1930′s, other than some limited-edition sets produced in the 70′s and beyond. Clear jars from pre-WWI were made by using a compound to clarify them that, when exposed to years of sunlight, turned the glass an amethyst color. After the supply was disrupted in WWI, glassmakers used a different compound which tended to turn the glass a straw or honey color after prolonged exposure to sunlight. Glass manufacturers today have ways around this to achieve zero coloration.

    Wire bail jars started going into production in the 1880s, and the tech was predominantly used with beer and liquor bottles. They were known as “lightning” jars because they were extremely easy to open- fast.

    Reply edit
  • Jamie Priest January 22, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    Great information. I have some canning jars with the wire closure. What would this time be if you know? Also, what is a good reference to what these jars are actually worth. The Red book? Did not know wheather to pay the $40.00 to purchase it or not.
    Thanks again!!
    Jamie

    Reply edit
    • theresa January 22, 2013 at 7:14 pm

      Hi Jamie -

      I am no expert. I just came across the info in this post and shared it because I have a few old jars myself. According to the comment above yours, the wire bale jars went into production in 1880′s but I have absolutely no idea when they stopped making those.

      Good luck!
      T

      Reply edit
  • Ted Shideler January 26, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    Wire-bail styled-jars (made by Ball at least) stopped being made for canning use around 1962. Several limited-edition special runs have been made, starting with the bicentennial in 1976. The most recent run was made in the early 90′s, but made by one of several independent glass conpanies for Ball Corporation, as over the years they had eliminated the capacity to manufacture blue-tinted glass. These can be differentiated easily, as the words “not for home canning” will be embossed somewhere in the glass.

    The patent date often found on many jars doesn’t refer to the age of the jar at all, it just refers to when the style of closure (zinc cap/wire bail, etc) was developed and registered.

    It’s sort of weird that a 22 year old who has never canned knows this, but I work at the company which was spun-off when Ball exited the home-canning market (who now makes amd markets the jars), Jarden Home Brands. I have a pretty cool collection of vintage jars too- from 1892-1930′s, mostly. Hope this info is mostly informative!

    Also, the Red Book is a good source but you might be better off looking at eBay Buy-it-now or auction prices. This is what we mostly do in the office as we don’t keep track of jar value officially.

    Reply edit
  • Kristen February 25, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    I’m looking for a gift for a friend. Possibly a book about the history and worths of canning jars. Does anyone have a book they would recommend? Thanks for your help!

    Reply edit
  • Jeff April 5, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    I have some half gallon and a few 1 gallon vintage canning jars. They are all clear and they all have zinc lids and 1 wire. Some of the half gallon jars have a texture in the glass at the top and around the lower couple of inches. I want to sell them, but have not seen any like them on ebay or any other site. Does anyone have any info. Thanks, Jeff

    Reply edit
  • Sonja May 7, 2013 at 1:10 am

    Hi, I have an old Ball Jar, and was wondering if it’s worth. I can send you a pic, just reply with your email, and I’ll send a shot.
    Thanks

    Reply edit
    • theresa May 7, 2013 at 5:23 am

      Hi Sonja,

      I;m sorry, but I would have no idea what it is worth. Like you, I just like old jars. I am not an expert. I just wrote this post because I came across the info on how to tell how old they are. Maybe you can check on ebay.

      Reply edit
  • Sandra Sheppard June 5, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    I have about twenty of my Great-grandmother, and my grandmothers Mason jars, so far, as I have checked; they are in the 1910-1923 years. I have always loved these jars. I thought the color was so pretty. I inherited my grandmothers jars; I purchased my great-grandmothers, jars from a family member. I am so thankful that I have the pleasure of owing them. Just think; Ball Mason Jars used by mother, and daughter; to me that is a treasure in itself.

    Reply edit

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