Toby Jugs & Face Mugs
This quarter’s East Coast journey took me to Cromwell, Connecticut to an interesting little country barn auction house, while visiting my good friends Duane and Sherrie Greubel. This trip takes me back to the early 2000’s, and Duane and Sherrie always were kind to put me up in their home while I was in their area on a bit of art, antique, and collectible business.
While in Cromwell attending this barn auction, I recall being interested in some old folk art toys and was also drawn to some interesting looking pottery jugs with faces sculpted on them. These were known as face jugs, or ugly jugs because the faces could be pretty bizarre. These particular items were also a little larger in size from that of a tall mug.
To my surprise, while looking these face jugs over, out came the auctioneer’s helper with two trays of Face Mugs, and some Toby Mugs. The Toby Mugs were a little different than the Face Mugs in that they were more of a full image of the character and not just the face. The Toby Jugs or mugs were also called Fillpots Some experts say this name came from a famous 18th-century drinking character who was identified as Toby Fillpot, and another piece of information points to another well known English drinker and character Sir Toby Belch, from Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night.
No matter what the actual original character, the interesting works that were inspired by these original pieces are quite unique, collectible, and still taking shape today. These mugs or jugs usually depict the head and shoulders only or the face only, but many feature the full image like you see in one of the images accompanying this article.
The term I heard at this auction in Connecticut was probably most accurate, calling them character jugs or mugs. The mugs and jugs I was about to bid on and win were made by Staffordshire in England. Staffordshire Potteries were the largest manufacturers of mugs in the world, producing 750,000 per week, including commissioned designs for promotional and corporate purposes. Please keep in mind these mass quantities were not face mugs but rather dinner wares within the year 1985.
In 1986, Staffordshire was bought by Coloroll Group. My visit to Connecticut and this barn sale lead to a collection of six face mugs and about seven Toby Jugs or Mugs, of which the Toby Mugs were military figures, some well-known generals and also common figures, which were from the 1940’s and 1950’s.
The face mugs were a little older, maybe early 1900’s to the 1920’s. The beautiful thing is that I paid 20 to 30 dollars each for the Toby Mugs and about 40 dollars each for the Face Mugs and ended up selling the Toby Jugs for $75 to $85 each and the Face Mugs for $95 to $100 each, more than doubling my money all the way around.
Today there are artists such as Parson’s Art School in New York City graduate, Stephen Colley, who with his wife Amy Colley (also a Parson’s graduate), runs art programs for the Dietrich Theater in Tunkhannock, PA. Stephen creates these interesting Face Mugs today, with quite unique-looking faces on the mugs. These are a little smaller than the Toby Mugs, but no less creative and colorful.
If you would like to commission Stephen Colley to create a character face mug based loosely on a photo you provide, please contact me at Kitson Arts Alliance by emailing your photo to email@example.com. I will contact you to discuss details.
Thank you for reading. I welcome your questions and comments. Until next quarter, I wish you many interesting finds and happy art, antique, and collectible hunting!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Patrick K. Robinson is a life-long collector (since the ripe old age of nine), antiques specialist, and kid-at-heart entrepreneur who is passionate about hearing YOUR stories about the items YOU collect, the cherished antique YOU’VE acquired, the family heirloom YOU’D like to know more about. Co-founder & Creative Director of the Kitson Arts Alliance and owner of Robinson Group International (offering great collectibles online at HotGavel.com) and Tunkhannock’s Kitson Gallery at Pen Corners, Patrick invites kids of all ages (7 to 77 and beyond) to share your story by contacting him at firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting his Facebook page, Kitson Gallery.