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How to Tell if Your Toby Jug is Valuable

Hannah Widdop

Toby jugs are charming and characterful ceramic pitchers that have captured the hearts of collectors for centuries. Still proving incredibly popular to this day – especially the more rare and limited edition jugs – here at Potteries Auctions we regularly see toby character jugs pass through our salerooms to much interest from buyers.

If you’ve ever wondered “is my toby jug valuable?”, then you’re in the right place. Let’s explore some of the key factors that can help determine the worth of your toby jug and discover its potential value if you’re looking to sell your toby jug at auction.

What is a toby jug?

A Toby Jug, also known as a character jug, is a type of collectible ceramic pitcher featuring the likeness of a person, often inspired by fictional characters, iconic celebrities, historical figures and even animals. A staple of the British antique world, these unique vessels originated in the early 18th-century England and have since become highly sought-after by collectors worldwide. Although we don’t know the original maker of the toby jug, its creation is usually attributed to John Astbury or Thomas Wheildon.

Royal Doulton is arguably the most well-known manufacturer of toby jugs, having started to mass produce them in the early 1900s. Production increased in the 1930s following the success of Charles Nokes’ very popular Kingsware series. The market for character jugs is still huge in the present day, with collectors predominantly in the UK still competing for rare examples.

Why is it called a toby jug?

It’s not actually known where the term “Toby Jug” officially comes from. One popular theory is that it originated from the character Henry Elwes, AKA Toby Fillpot, from an 18th-century English drinking song, titled “The Brown Jug”. Fillpot (or Philpot) was a Yorkshireman whose notorious heavy drinking and theatrical antics embodied the cheerful spirit of social drinking during that time.

The Toby Jug, with its distinctive form featuring a seated figure holding a jug of ale or wearing a tricorn hat with a jug-shaped body, emerged as a ceramic representation of this popular character. Over time, these pitchers became known as “Toby Jugs” due to their association with the culture of communal drinking and merriment.

Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries the popularity of toby jugs grew and grew, and to this day it is still a cherished collectible pottery item that’s appreciated for its whimsical charm.

What’s the difference between a toby jug and a character jug?

Although nowadays the terms “toby jug” and “character jug” can be seen being used a bit more loosely and interchangeably, there is a difference between the two. A Toby Jug is a jug or pitcher of a full-length figure, while a character jug is usually more reminiscent of a bust, comprising of a just a face or a head and shoulders.

How do I know if my toby jug is worth anything?

There’s a few different factors that can influence the value of a toby character jug:

  • Condition – The condition of your Toby Jug is important in determining its value. Items with minimal wear and no cracks, chips or repairs are generally more valuable.Check for the presence of any original paint or glaze, as alterations or restorations can impact the jug’s authenticity and value.
  • Subject matter – The character depicted on the jug can influence its value. Historical figures, celebrities or popular cultural references can make a Toby Jug more desirable to collectors, especially with overseas collectors who seem to appreciate the novelty of a jug with a recognisable face from UK culture, such as a member of the Royal Family.
  • Size and design – Unusual or larger-sized Toby Jugs may be more valuable due to their rarity. Additionally, intricate designs and unique colourways or features can contribute to a jug’s appeal.
  • Manufacturer – Early toby jugs crafted by well-known Staffordshire Potteries manufacturers such as Ralph Wood, Whieldon, Walton, Hollins and Astbury, to name a few, tend to be more highly sought-after due to their rarity, craftsmanship and attention to detail. Royal Doulton is another renowned manufacturer of toby jugs, however just because your jug bears a Royal Doulton mark does not automatically make it valuable. The mass production of Royal Doulton toby jugs over the years means that they are more freely accessible, so – unless you’re incredibly lucky – the ones you find in the charity shops or at the carboot are not likely to be worth that much. But there are, of course, exceptions to this rule, with early and rare examples of Royal Doulton pieces, especially limited edition and prototype character jugs, fetching large amounts at auction.
  • Age and rarity – Age and rarity play a significant role – and are perhaps the most important factors – in determining the value of a toby jug. As a general rule, the older a Toby Jug is, the more valuable it may be. Early 18th and 19th-century examples are particularly coveted, and prototypes, limited production runs, discontinued models or models with a unique posing are rarer qualities that increase a jug’s desirability. When it comes to Royal Doulton character jugs, the large prototypes in particular do incredibly well in our saleroom, often selling for £1000s! Check out our blog “Why are Royal Doulton Prototypes So Valuable?” for some further reading on why large Royal Doulton prototype jugs are so popular.

Here are just a few examples of the toby jugs and character jugs that have fetched a pretty penny under the hammer with Potteries Auctions in recent years:

A large Clarice Cliff Newport toby jug

This Clarice Cliff Newport Large Toby Jug sold for £130 at our December 2023 20th-century pottery, collectables and jewellery auction.

A large Royal Doulton character jug of Neil Armstrong

Lot 453 was a large rare Royal Doulton prototype character jug titled ‘Neil Armstrong: The Astronaut’ that sold for a spectacular £3,900 at our two-day auction back in March 2021.

A pair of larger Royal Doulton toby jugs - one of Cliff Cornel and one of The Huntsman

This set of two larger Royal Doulton Toby jugs of Cliff Cornel & The Huntsman found a hammer price of £110 at our October 2023 auction.

A large Ashtead Potters Limited Edition Johnnie Walker Toby Jug

Lot 599 back at our September 2023 auction was a large limited edition Ashtead Potters Johnnie Walker Toby Jug that sold for an impressive £320.

A large Royal Doulton character jug of Marilyn Monroe

This wonderful large Royal Doulton prototype character jug of Marilyn Monroe found a new home with a happy collector for an amazing £3,100 back in March 2022.

A large Royal Doulton prototype jug of Winston Churchill

From the same auction, this large Royal Doulton prototype character jug of Winston Churchill sold for a whopping £3,400.

A Wilkinson's toby jug of King George V

This Wilkinson’s Toby Jug of King George V fetched a hammer price of £140 back in the summer at our three-day July 2023 auction.

A Kevin Francis toby jug of Worf from Star Trek

Lot 431 from our May 2023 auction was this Kevin Francis Figural Toby Jug of Worf from Star Trek, selling for a brilliant £120.

Two Kevin Francis toby jugs - one of Margaret Thatcher and one of Queen Elizabeth II

This lot of two limited edition Kevin Francis toby jugs of Margaret Thatcher & Queen Elizabeth II sold for £130 at our September 2022 auction.

Selling your toby jug at auction

If you have a toby jug for auction, get in touch and we can help you with a valuation. Free valuation days are held every Tuesday at our Silverdale saleroom, where our friendly team of experts can value your character jug and any other items to help you consign them to auction. To book an appointment, use our online booking form here.

If you can’t come in and see us in person but would like to submit items for auction or valuation, send us an email to with details and a photograph (eg make, model, model number, measurements, condition) and one of our experts will provide information and auction estimates. Alternatively, give us a call on 01782 638100 to arrange an appointment. We can even value your items via WhatsApp – simply send some clear pictures of your items via the app to 07864 667940.