McCoy pottery hasn't always been as collectible as it is today. In fact, for most of the company's history -- which officially began in 1899 and ended in 1990 -- its vases were sold to florists for pennies, its casseroles and bowls stocked on dime-store shelves. But in the late 1980s, soon after the company was sold, interest in the fanciful ceramics (and hence their prices) began to rise -- a trend that can be attributed to the late artist Andy Warhol. His collection of outlandish McCoy cookie jars, included in his estate auction, elevated the status of McCoy pottery to art.
Although the Warhol auction did bring McCoy to the attention of the national art market, many tag-sale and flea-market enthusiasts had long been dedicated collectors. In the early 1970s, Chiquita Prestwood found herself at flea markets picking up similar pots and planters, all with the same name emblazoned on the bottom -- McCoy. After collecting several different types of pieces, her husband, Dewey, suggested that she narrow her focus. Today, Chiquita has nearly four hundred McCoy cookie jars, including a bright "smiley face," a Nabisco circus wagon, and a soccer ball that's worth $2,500. The cookie jars were produced in a range of whimsical themes, such as potbellied stoves, pineapples, and kittens in a basket. Look for McCoy pieces at flea markets, tag sales, and Internet auctions. But be careful you don't mistake a reproduction for an original -- many McCoy cookie jars were unmarked, so refer to collectors' books for more information.