Lightning-Type Reproduction Fruit JarsBy Bob Clay
Lightning-Type Reproduction Fruit Jars
There are several reproduction Trademark Lightning fruit jars available today that are often sold as authentic. Right now, the reproductions are only known in two sizes, 1/2 pints and quarts.
First, about the 1/2 pints. According to the Redbook of Fruit Jars (and several expert 1/2 pint collectors I have consulted) these were reproduced in Taiwan c1985-1989. They are known in aqua, sky blue, lime green, and amber. They are known in several styles of embossing, which I'll get into later.
They are easy to spot if you know what you're looking for. These repros have a lid that is a little flatter and very slightly larger than an authentic lid. And there are NO dates embossed on the lids. The neck tie wire on repros will only have ONE twist in it, whereas the authentic half pints will have a wire twisted tightly 4 or 5 times. This is a dead giveaway to the repros. And I've even seen these with very pitted and rusty bails; that too, is easy to fake. And the glass itself has often been described as having an "oily or slick" feel and look to it.
Authentic 1/2 pint Lightnings MAY or MAY NOT have a ground lip. There are both types known. The repros all have smooth lips, unless someone has ground it to make it appear old. So the lip of the jar is NOT a good indication here. But all authentic Lightnings will have base embossing AND a mold number. The repro 1/2 pints DO NOT have a mold number with the exception of the ones base embossed PUTNAM 227.
Now for the known embossing styles of these reproduction 1/2 pints: (UNMARKED means no embossing on the side of the jar or heel area)
1/2 Pint: UNMARKED
Color: Aqua, sky blue and amber
Base Embossing: LIGHTNING PUTNAM
(NO mold number on the base, base embossing usually light)
1/2 Pint: UNMARKED
Base Embossing: NONE AT ALL
1/2 Pint: LIGHTNING (on heel)
Base Embossing: PUTNAM 227
1/2 Pint: REGISTERED U.S. PATENT OFFICE (on heel)
Color: Lime Green
Base Embossing: TRADEMARK LIGHTNING
(no mold number)
That pretty much covers the repro 1/2 pints. Now on to the quarts. The quart amber TRADE MARK LIGHTNING jars were made in 1986 in Taiwan and look pretty good at first glance. In fact, TOO good. They usually aren't whittled and don't have many of the imperfections the older Lightning jars usually have. These quarts are embossed on the base: PUTNAM 227. And here's where it gets a bit tricky; there are authentic amber quart TRADE MARK LIGHTNING jars base embossed PUTNAM 227 as well. How do you tell them apart? The repros have smooth lips, authentic ones ground lips. But sometimes, unscrupulous dealers will grind the lip since this is the most obvious way of telling them apart. And these have been reproduced again, but there are a couple differences to look for. The lid on these has a real high knob in the center, unlike any Lightning jar. And the neck wire is looped where the bail wire fits into it, as opposed to a metal collar with a hole punched in it for the bail wire on the older repros and the authentic Lightnings.
But the base embossing is a very good indicator. I've included a pic of a known repro 227 base (Fig. 3). All the repros' bases LOOK EXACTLY LIKE THIS ONE. There is a difference in the styles of the 2's on an authentic one, and other slight differences as well. This 227 has been described: "too crisp, too square and too small". The base of the jar itself is somewhat flatter on a repro than an original Lightning. And the side mold seams run into the base about an inch on authentic jars. The lid is also a good indicator. The repro lids will have a very rough appearance and feel, almost like an orange peel and no embossing. There have been quart TRADE MARK LIGHTNING jars seen on Ebay that take a ZINC CAP. There were no authentic Lightning jars ever made that had screw type threads for a cap. Obviously, these are easy to spot. I have seen them in pink, emerald green and cobalt blue. These have smooth lips and are also base embossed 227.
It is important to note that there's nothing wrong with collecting these, or ANY reproduction fruit jar. They are often an inexpensive way to add color at sometimes a fraction of the price an original would sell for. The problem is when one buys a repro thinking it to be, or represented as, authentic. It is also important to note here that most of the reproductions seen on Ebay not listed as such are NOT from known jar dealers. Reputable jar dealers that sell reproductions list them as such so as not to deceive or fool collectors. Their own reputation would be at stake. Often times repro jars appear listed as authentic or old from antique dealers and consignors that often do not know what they are selling. You can't blame them, one can't know all aspects of antiques. Even the Antiques Roadshow has specialists in their fields. Collectors usually email sellers when they list one wrong. So be sure to check for an addition at the bottom of an auction if you're not sure.
And once again, if in doubt, ASK QUESTIONS! The seller may not know if it is a repro or not, and some won't disclose this even when they DO know. So it is always best to ask a reputable dealer or collector to check it out for you if you have any doubts about a jar. Most will be happy to help you; we were all novices at this at one time. And arm yourself with a good book on jars. The Redbook of Fruit Jars #9 by Doug Leybourne has a section in the back concerning known reproductions. I've always said, "buy the books before the jars". Email me, I can name several excellent books available, and steer you away from a few others that are trash. Learn all you can about jars, that is the very best way to avoid being taken by the multitude of reproductions on the market today.
About the author: Bob Clay worked for Ball glass for 20 years. He has collected fruit jars for over 30 years and written extensively on the subject. Links to many of Bob's other articles can be found on his eBay About ME page: http://members.ebay.com/aboutme/bobclay/.