About McCoy Fakes and Look-Alikes
By Dewayne Imsand
The US Patent and Trademark Office lists three individuals or companies that have applied for a trademark using the name “McCoy” for use on pottery. Designer Accents, Inc., the final owner of the Nelson McCoy Pottery Company (NMPC), filed the first of these applications on June 7, 1989. A little over a year later, in the fall of 1990, the pottery closed. It wasn’t until December 20, 1997, however, that the application was canceled.
On August 31, 1992, about 4 ½ years before the Designer Accents application was canceled, Roger Jensen from Rockwood, Tennessee, also applied for use of the name “McCoy” as a trademark on pottery he made. The application stated that the first use of the proposed trademark (obviously by him) was in January 1991. Jensen produced many of the pieces that are objectionable to most collectors of old, authentic McCoy pottery. It is not known how long he produced “McCoy” pottery, or how much or all of the styles he produced during the years, but his application was canceled on May 25, 1999.
Similar to what happened earlier, a year before the Jensen application was canceled, Designer Accents, Inc. reapplied. This was on August 19, 1998. Then on October 28, 1999, Rosella Martin of Century, Florida made application to use the name “McCoy” on numerous types of pottery she produced. For some unknown reason, the Designer Accents application was abandoned on July 31, 2000, and following that, on May 24, 2001, the Martin application was also abandoned.
According to my review of the records of the US Patent and Trademark Office there is no active trademark application requesting permission to use the name “McCoy” on pottery at the existing time. This does not necessarily mean, however, that there is no pottery currently being produced with a “McCoy” mark. Nor does it mean that someone isn’t working on a brand new piece that they hope will be mistaken for a desirable old piece of McCoy.
Fakes and Look-Alikes
Pottery that was not legitimately produced by the NMPC, but at first glance may appear to be is classified into two types. The first type is a “fake”, and the second is called a “look-alike”. The word “reproduction” which is sometimes used, is not preferred since it does not necessarily identify the piece as non-authentic. Companies, including the NMPC, have reproduced pieces that they originally produced, sometimes years earlier. So, in order to be more specific the terms “fake” and “look-alike” are use herein.
A fake is a pottery piece that is marked, as being a “McCoy” but the piece was never actually made by the NMPC at all. For example, there are a few well-known cookie jar fakes, such as Little Red Riding Hood and the more recent Snow White. However, there are also quite a few more cookie jars on the market that are relatively new and may not be so well known. Among these cookie jars that are marked “McCoy” are; Daisy Cow, Cinderella, Mugsie, Goldilux, Goldilocks, Whistler, Mac II, Donald Duck Turnabout, Cobalt Rooster, Wilber Pig, Rocking Horse, White Bear, Jadite Rooster, Clown, Elephant with Ice Cream, and Elsie Cow.
None of these cookie jars, named by the maker or seller, were ever produced by the NMPC. There is a seller located in Pace, Florida, that is selling many types of so-called, new McCoy cookie jars. I am sure that additional designs are being made in the region every day with the old, recognizable McCoy name on the bottom. Finally, there is one other type of fake that should be mentioned and that is a pottery piece that is not marked “McCoy,” but the seller simply claims that it is. One example recently noted for sale on the Internet is a Puss N Boots cookie jar.
A look-alike, the other deceptive type of pottery, is any pottery piece that simply looks like a known, authentic piece of NMPC pottery, but in actuality it is not. There have been many McCoy look-alikes made over the years. For example, it is known that four different people in Pennsylvania alone are actively selling pottery that some would may assume is old, authentic McCoy. It seems reasonable that a pottery or potteries located there produced these pieces.
The Fioriware pottery in Zanesville has copied some McCoy pieces. They have produced some mixing bowls, the seven-inch grape pitcher, and even the Floraline wicker basket. Some of the pieces they produce retain the original McCoy mark, although it may be faint. Undoubtedly there are more manufacturers located in other states that also produce various McCoy types. In addition to individual manufacturers that produce look-alikes, it has been noticed that several companies that supply molds for the craft trade have produced some unglazed pieces that are advertised as “McCoy”. These companies used authentic McCoy pieces to manufacture these molds.
A company located in Delaware is importing pottery from China that is reminiscent of pieces made by the NMPC. These imported pieces were made by a different means than the way most look-alikes are made, which will be discussed below, and are larger than their authentic counterpart. Since the imports are unmarked, some people may mistake them for the older pieces they attempt to mimic. The pieces that are known to date are; the Frog with Leaf planter, the Frog on a Log planter, and the Frog with Lotus planter. Originals of these pieces are shown in McCoy Pottery Collector’s Reference & Value Guide, Volume I, by Hanson, Nissen Hanson on page 235 and 237. Currently the imports are being sold in discount chain stores, but it probably will not be long before they will be offered in Antique and Collectible shops and on the Internet.
As in the case of fakes, it appears that the number of look-alikes will increase as time goes on. This will be especially true as more and more authentic McCoy pieces increase in value, thus making the production of look-alikes more highly profitably for unscrupulous individuals. While fake McCoy pieces pose a threat to collectors or other individuals that have only a passing knowledge of what was actually produced by the NMPC, look-alikes pose a greater danger. This is because there are so many look-alikes, and many closely resemble an authentic piece. All too frequently these look-alikes are hard to visually identify if an original is not available for a direct comparison.
Avoiding the Bait
The only way to avoid these fakes and look-alikes is to acquire knowledge. As far as fakes are concerned, if a piece that is offered for sale is not found in any of the various McCoy reference books, and/or very knowledgeable collectors are not aware of it, the piece should be considered highly suspect. A great reference for authentic cookie jars is the McCoy Pottery Collector’s Reference & Value Guide, Volume II, by Hanson, Nissen, Hanson.
Avoiding look-alikes, however, requires more technical information. Usually there are many differences, sometimes slight, between a look-alike and the original it attempts to represent. There can be differences in the color of the clay used, the thickness of the lay layer, the overall weight, the glaze type and color, the existence and/or the extent of bottom glaze, the shade and quality of any cold paint, and the overall size. A good discussion of most of these characteristics is found in an article written by Craig Nissen that appeared in the January 2001 issue of the McCoy Lover’s NMXpress.
While all of the characteristics that are used to distinguish a look-alike from an authentic piece of McCoy are important to consider, the size of the piece is generally the quickest and surest way to have a firm indication that a look-alike is not authentic. This is because typically, the look-alike is produced from a mold made by using an original McCoy piece as the pattern, and since clay shrinks in the mold when it dries, and shrinks further as it is fired in the kiln, the resulting look-alike is smaller. These look-alikes are smaller in every dimension, in height, in width, and from front to back. However, for comparison and identification purposes, it is not necessary to measure each dimension. The goal of measuring would be to determine the percent of difference, along the dimension measured, between the look-alike and the original. Since finding the percentage change is involved it would be better and easier to measure the longest dimension, which is usually the height in vases and length in planters. As a rule of thumb, if the height or length of a suspect piece measures six percent, or more, smaller than the original, it is most probably a look-alike. A note of caution is needed here. There can be some slight measurement differences between individual pieces of all styles of authentic McCoy pieces. So, if the measurements made of a suspect piece are close to that of the original, other telltale characteristics should be investigated.