Are Mason Jars and Ball Jars the Same?

Canning jars were an important part of the last century, but they’re certainly making a comeback. The Mason jar became a popular method of preserving food, years after it was invented by John Landis Mason. Ball jars have been the most popular Mason jars for decades, and they’re used for everything from storing pickles to sharing positivity.

Ball jars and Mason jars are often interchangeable and seen as the same. All Ball jars are Mason jars, but not all Mason jars were produced by Ball Corporation. Earlier in history, other companies and factories made Mason jars, but Ball Corporation became the largest company to do so. While the company does not make these jars any longer, its subsidiaries still make them under the Ball brand.

Ball Corporation started making Mason jars in 1884, and by the turn of the 20th century, they were producing 60 million such jars each year. The long history behind the Ball jars has made some older versions a worthy part of any antique collection, so let’s find out more about them.

2 Vintage Blue Ball Perfect Mason Glass Jars w/ Zinc Lids Quart & Pint
2 Vintage Blue Ball Perfect Mason Glass Jars w/ Zinc Lids Quart & Pint Sold for $14.95 from 54canthisbeit on Ebay

Are Ball and Mason the same company?

No, they’re not. Mason was never a company, but was in fact, the name of the inventor of the Mason jar. John Landis Mason notably found a way to improve the storing of food in the mid-1800s, and over the years, the jar type became attributed to him.

Vintage Aqua Blue 1/2 Gallon Ball Perfect Mason # 7 With Zinc Lid
Vintage Aqua Blue 1/2 Gallon Ball Perfect Mason # 7 With Zinc Lid Sold for $10 from gust_3216 on Ebay

The Mason brand eventually became a generic trademark, as glass companies continued to manufacture and improve on the inventor’s jars. The Ball brand, however, is owned by the Ball Corporation, which bought up other glass-jar producing companies and became the leading producer of Mason jars.

Ball is still a company today, but they’re now focused on the aerospace industry, among other things. The glass canning section of their business was handed to a subsidiary in the 1990s, which merged to become Newell Brands today. Newell Brands still produces glass jars under the Ball name.

Are Mason and Ball lids interchangeable?

Frankly, it depends. The vast majority of Mason jars are made by Newell Brands, which has a license to brand its jars with several names including Ball, Kerr, Bernardin, and Golden Harvest.

If you have a Kerr glass jar, you’ll be able to cover it with a Ball lid. People have often found that they can interchange lids between the brands under Newell. However, there are still a few brands outside the popular options, and only on rare occasions are these not interchangeable. More often than not, the small-mouth jars fit small-mouth lids, and it’s the same for wide-mouth jars.

Vintage Lot of 84 Zinc Porcelain Lined Ball Canning Mason Jar Lids
Vintage Lot of 84 Zinc Porcelain Lined Ball Canning Mason Jar Lids Sold for $125 from redladyjan on Ebay

If you come across the lids that don’t seem interchangeable, here are a few steps you can take to help the lid seal better:

  • Take the lid off the jar.
  • Wipe the jar’s rim or edge properly with a dry paper towel.
  • Put the lid back on the jar and see if it closes better.

You may find that some antique Mason jars do not have interchangeable lids with newer jars, and that’s because of age. Older jars, especially from the pre-1920 era, used different lid styles, which will be rather difficult to find today.

What are Ball jars and Mason jars worth?

Getting a Mason jar today doesn’t cost a lot of money. It’s possible to get a dozen 16-ounce Ball jars for around $27 on Amazon today. However, if you have canned jars left behind by your grandmother, or jars that have been in the family home for decades, they could be worth a whole lot more.

It is possible to see collectible Mason jars with the Ball insignia on eBay for anything from $50 to more than $300 per jar. Country Living has shared information about some of the most valuable jars in history, with one costing as much as $1000.

Vintage Ball Mason's Patent Nov 30th 1858 Fruit Jar Amber
Vintage Ball Mason’s Patent Nov 30th 1858 Fruit Jar Amber Sold for $149.99 from collect_epic on Ebay

To know how valuable your Ball jars are, you can look for the manufacturer’s name, as well as the patent year, on the jar. How the name is stylized is dependent on what year the Ball jar was made, but you will need a dating chart to help. If your Mason jar has the company’s old logo, while it was still called Ball Brothers, your Ball jar was likely manufactured before 1886.

More unusual jar colors have also been known to increase the value of the Mason jar. Most jars come in clear glass, as well as aqua blue, but there are rarer colors including:

Another determinant of value is the size of the Mason jar. The biggest size you’ll commonly find is a quart-sized jar. It’s rarer to find bigger jars, but a few may have survived the decades. The larger the jar, the more valuable it can be.

Rare VTG 4 Gallon BALL Ideal Jar w/ Eagle has Lid, Seal & Wire Bail 19 3/4" Tall
Rare VTG 4 Gallon BALL Ideal Jar w/ Eagle has Lid, Seal & Wire Bail 19 3/4″ Tall – Sold for $125 from tachilibean on Ebay

The condition of the Mason jar is also a key indicator of value. If there are kinks in the glass, the value, irrespective of age, will diminish. A jar that is in great condition with its original lid intact will have minimal reductions in value.

Generally, these factors come together to determine the price of a Mason jar or Ball jar. So, if you have a uniquely colored jar that’s larger than usual, looks good as new, and was manufactured before World War II, it might be worth a notable amount.

How can you get your Mason jars valued?

If you think you have a valuable jar, the best way to find the value is to have it appraised by a professional. There are many ways to get your Ball jar appraised, but here are a few stress-free methods.

Visit a local auction house

Auction houses are notable for their professional appraisal of valuable items. So, if there’s an auction house near you, you can visit and get some information about your jar from a specialist. They’ll also be able to offer you a calculated guess about how much it could be sold for at an auction.

Go to an antique show

There are usually annual antique shows that take place in large cities. Some of these shows hire a professional appraiser to evaluate items that guests bring, and you can get more information about your Mason jar here.

Visit an antique shop

Many antique shops will offer you free appraisals, but in most cases, it’s because they might want to purchase that item from you. To get a better estimate of the value, it is best to visit several antique shops before making a decision.

In conclusion

Mason jars and Ball jars are more or less the same thing. While there are still a few other small companies that make Mason jars, Ball jars are, by far, the biggest brand on the market. Ball jars have interchangeable lids with many other Mason jars, and the brand name has had a lasting reputation for over a century. So, while Ball jars are Mason jars, not all Mason jars are Ball jars.

These jars have had a lengthy history, spanning over a hundred years. This has given rise to growing collections of Mason jars, some of which are unique and appeal to an antique crowd.

You might have a Mason jar or Ball jar with significant value, especially if it’s in great condition, as well as old. To find out more about your jar’s value, you’ll need to get it appraised by a professional.

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