Your guide to collecting Toby jugs

Toby jugs depict historical, fictional or popular characters wearing period attire and tri-corn hats.


The introduction of Toby jugs can be attributed to Ralph Wood I and II of Burslem, Enoch Wood, Thomas Hollins and William Pratt who worked in various parts of England.

The origin of ‘Toby jug’ is uncertain but some say it’s named after an 18th Century Yorkshire drinker called Henry Elwes whose nickname was Toby Fillpot, while others think it’s Shakespeare’s character Sir Toby Belch.


Heads are modelled much larger than the bodies and facial features exaggerated, much like caricatures. Popular since the 1760s they are collectable today including this Yorkshire pearlware jug of ‘Ordinary’ type, valued at £250-£300.

They often portray ale drinkers in sitting positions, but from the 19th Century onwards, many variations were produced including standing figures holding, pipes, sporting squires, sailors, female characters and military personalities.

In 2012, jug enthusiasts shelled out thousands for a rare collection of Toby jugs depicting a range of dictators, politicians and military leaders. Former US President John F Kennedy alone fetched £21,000 at auction.