One of my more esoteric fascinations is with Toby mugs and jugs. These are mugs or pitchers or other vessels worked into the detailed likeness of a person, usually just the head if it’s a mug, but featuring the entire body (usually seated and holding a pitcher or drinking vessel of their own) if it’s a jug. The Wife doesn’t get the appeal, but I think they’re great. This falls in, of course, with my long-noted love of drinking vessels of all types, from mugs to glassware to ceramic flagons to waterskins to, well, you name it.

I first discovered the existence of Toby mugs in, of all places, a cookbook by Jeff Smith (aka, The Frugal Gourmet), which focused on cooking at Christmastime. There’s a photo in that book of a table laden with Christmas fruitcakes and puddings, with a couple of Toby mugs off to one side. Presumably this is because Toby mugs originate in Victorian England, and according to Smith, heavy puddings and cakes such as are served at Christmastime (in properly Dickensian dinners, I suppose) are English in genesis. He notes in the caption that “Toby mugs traditionally held sauces for the table at Christmas.” I have no idea if that’s accurate or not; I just loved the visual of these head-shaped mugs on the table.

Longtime readers may remember that I bought this handsome guy some years ago, at a local antique place that has since gone out of business.

Toby mug V: I've had this guy for several years, but for completeness's sake, here he is! #antiquing

I love that guy! He makes a good place to display my pocket watch, too!

Flash-forward to the other day, when I traveled with my sister to an antique place near Rochester, NY, and there I found (among other cool things) these four mugs! In one trip, I quintupled my collection!

Robin Hood (note that the mug handle is his bow):

Toby mug II: Robin Hood. Note his drinking horn and that his bow is the mug handle! #antiquing

Don Quixote:

Toby mug I: Don Quixote. My wife makes fun of them, but I love these things. #antiquing

Then two which were not identified, both of which were marked “as is” and both of which sold for five bucks together. I don’t know why; the only blemish I can find is a very small crack in the sad-looking fellow, and since I don’t plan to use these as drinking or serving vessels, the crack doesn’t do anything against the display qualities.

Tobh mug III: I don't know what he's supposed to be, but his handle is a key. Maybe some secretive cleric, protecting a secret? #antiquing

Toby mug IV: No idea who he is, either, but he was marked 'as is' and sold for two bucks. He has a tiny crack in his crown, but as I'm not using these for liquid distribution, I thought I'd give him a bookshelf to hang out on for two bucks. Something abou

Wow, that lower fellow is sad-looking indeed! I wonder what his story is. Anyway, it was fun to scratch that itch for a while. Will I get more? Maybe! But not for now.

(Wondering about this odd bit of drinking-vessel ephemera? Well, as further evidence that for any given thing there is a museum devoted to it somewhere, it turns out that there’s an American Toby Jug Museum in Chicago! This just blows my mind.)

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2 Responses to Mugging!

  1. Jason says:

    I remember seeing these things around when I was younger… seems like my grandmother might've had a few? Something… I always thought they were fun too! Haven't thought of them in years… congratulations on your haul!

  2. Josh says:

    I'm pretty sure the mug in the last picture is Chaucer, I've seen it in other places.

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