Ball Perfect Mason
The Ball Perfect Mason was a brand of glass fruit jar (canning jar) made by the Ball Bros. Glass Company. Ball Bros was based in Muncie, Indiana. (See “Ball Brothers Glass Company” page, for a brief summary of that glass company).
Glass jars with this embossed marking was almost certainly the most popular jar for home canning ever produced in the United States. Hundreds of millions (probably upwards of a billion or more!) were made, and these jars have been used by home canners throughout much of the 20th century.
(IMPORTANT NOTE: please see the paragraphs with info farther down on this page describing modern reproductions of this jar, including the “AMERICAN HERITAGE COLLECTION” introduced in 2013, and the new “Collectors Edition” BALL PERFECT MASON jars being sold as of 2019).
They are commonly seen for sale on the secondary market at antique malls, farm auctions, flea markets, yard sales, and on online auction sites.
The very first versions with this embossing are believed to date from approximately 1913, with production continuing to about 1960. Hundreds of slight variations in lettering font, glass color, base markings, etc., exist, and this particular type of jar presents a wide field of study for fruit jar collectors and glass historians. Typically, they were made in half pint, pint, quart, and half-gallon sizes.
Most of the earlier versions were round (cylindrical) in shape, and some of the later types are square (with rounded corners) in design. Some variants have vertical “ribs” or “grips” along the sides, added to assist in handling the jars while they are wet.
Ball Perfect Mason jars were made utilizing steel molds as part of “ABM” (“Automatic Bottle Machine”) i.e. automatic glass container-making machinery. Many different jar molds (thousands) were used over the many years’ time these jars were being produced.
Each mold was hand-cut (hand-engraved) with the lettering incised backward into the inside surface of the mold, which of course resulted in the embossing (raised lettering) which is seen on the surface of the jar. Very close inspection and comparison between different older jars (that may appear to be exactly the same) will show that it was very difficult, if not nearly impossible for all of the lettering (including the cursive “Ball” lettering and the “block style” lettering underneath) to be engraved absolutely identical from one mold to the next. Many slight variations are seen, with the exact lettering orientation just barely noticeably different from one example to another, such as the spacing, height, width, depth of cut, of individual letters. On some jars, the word “Ball” is underlined, on others, not. The underline may be very long, or heavily “looped”.
Most of the typical Ball Perfect Mason’s are marked with a mold number between 0 and 15 on the bottom. On some jar variants, (such as the first BALL embossing variant on these jars, “Logo 5” in chart shown below, used circa 1913-1923 on BPM jars), the number may be accompanied by a letter to the right, such as A or C.
As can be readily discovered, there were many different “sets” of molds used over a period of many years, with this same series of (up to) 16 numbers used over and over again to identify the molds being used on a particular machine.
Thus, if a random sampling of these jars are studied, (for instance, just looking at a selection of only those marked with a number “2” on the bottom) , it may be seen that the numbers typically appears slightly different, in fact “unique” in it’s exact formation, from one jar to the next. It may take a while before exact duplicates are found – that is, finding two jars that were made from one individual, specific mold.
This is one of the aspects of collecting these jars that can be fun and intriguing (or boring to some!) if you are “into” studying fine differences in these jars …. somewhat akin to the practice of collecting coins and comparing their minor “mold” or “die” variations.
Note: for a bit of information about the “off-size” BALL PERFECT MASON jars that are occasionally found, please check the COMMENTS section farther down on this page, and read the queries from Lee and Michelle, posted November / December of 2015. Thank you!
The great majority of these jars were made in bluish-aqua or “Ball Blue” colored glass (Ball Blue is the standard color of these jars, a somewhat “more blue” shade of aqua). Later versions (after circa 1936) were made in clear glass, and some (usually from the 1950s) in brown amber.
Other colors that are known, but not so easily found, include cornflower blue, straw yellow, olive green, olive amber, blackish olive, dark yellow amber, light green and medium green. Some of these colors might be known under other/different names depending on who is describing them! There are various shades and tints of these colors out there. If you have the opportunity, try attending an antique fruit jar and/or bottle show, where some of these unusually colored jars may show up.
A number of “error jars” are found among the Ball Perfect Mason’s, including examples found with the embossing missing a letter (or letters), or with a word misspelled, such as “PERFFCT”, “PEPRECT” or “PEREFCT”.
A listing of many of these error jars can be found in the “Red Book”, a price guide used by fruit jar collectors. In general, the Ball Perfect Mason variants are listed in the Red Book from #332 to #363-3, and several of the BPM error jars are found within this group, listed as jars #352 to #363. There are no doubt very minor variants/errors that are not currently listed in that guide.
Some jars have embossing that is unusually faint ( for instance, just one or two letters within a word) and this can sometimes be due to accumulated debris partially filling the engraving of the lettering on the mold itself at the time of making, or perhaps some other reason.
Other popular jars made by Ball include the Ball Mason, the Ball Ideal, the Ball Improved, the Ball Special, the Ball Sure Seal and others. (Please see my page on the “Mason’s Patent Nov 30TH 1858” fruit jars).
Number “13” Jars
Some Ball Perfect Mason jars are found with the number “13” on the bottom. As mentioned earlier in this article, most Ball-produced jars are typically found with a mold number ranged between 0 and 15, so naturally some percentage of them will carry the number “13”. Rumors have circulated for years (and have especially been promoted on auction sites and by flea market and antique mall dealers) that superstitious distillers of illegal whiskey (“moonshiners”) who often did use fruit jars to contain their product, were hesitant to use jars marked with a 13 on the bottom. According to the stories, they threw them away, or intentionally broke them, fearing their enterprise could otherwise be met with bad luck. Sometimes the story accuses ordinary housewives of having done the same thing if they were especially superstitious.
Personally, I think most of the stories are hogwash, although I wouldn’t doubt that it happened on a very occasional basis, and just often enough to provide impetus for an urban legend (rural legend?). Most myths and legends are based on a kernel of truth, and this may be no exception to the rule. (However, keep in mind that fruit jars cost money, and the average farmer or housewife, often continually stretched to the limit with their household budget, would have never destroyed a jar merely because of the number on the bottom). Most home canners would pay little or no attention to the markings in the first place.
Some dedicated and experienced antique jar collectors will state that they think the number 13 jars are just as common as jars as those with other numbers. I don’t think this is true. There is a definitely noticeable difference in the numbers of #13-marked jars compared to the other numbers — they are a little less common. I’ve noticed this through looking at the bases of many hundreds of typical Ball Perfect Mason jars while browsing at antique and collectible malls and flea markets. However, the mild scarcity, in my opinion is NOT REALLY STRONG ENOUGH to warrant the prices which are often asked for these jars on online auction sites. Of course, value is a very subjective thing and many collectors may not agree with my opinion on this subject.
It seems evident that many of these jars are now saved by non-collectors or casual glass collectors (and “culled” from large groups of common jars) merely because of the number on the base. This culling out of #13 jars from among the “general population” of jars (and stashing them away) can increase the perception of their scarcity.
They usually do sell on auction sites (if priced low enough) for several reasons- but typically because of the belief in the rumors, along with the general public’s fascination with the number 13 and it’s connection with the “dark side” of life, the theme of “being unlucky”, and the perceived connections with the supernatural, the occult, etc.
NOTE: The following logo chart is taken directly from Karen M. Vincent’s article on “How to date a Ball jar”. (A link to the entire article is posted farther down on this page). Most of the BALL PERFECT MASON jars seen will fall under LOGO 5, LOGO 6 or LOGO 7:
New “REPRODUCTION” Ball Perfect Mason Jars: the “AMERICAN HERITAGE COLLECTION”
NOTE: Just recently (beginning circa 2013) a new type of BALL PERFECT MASON jar has been issued, primarily sold through department/grocery stores such as Walmart, Target, Kroger, and others, and online venues such as Amazon. These commemorative jars are being produced in a lighter, brighter blue color— not quite the same shade as the original jars.
These jars as being sold in sets of 6, and come in pint size only (as of this writing). They are marked (on front) “BALL PERFECT MASON”, on rear “1913 1915 / 100 YEARS OF / AMERICAN / HERITAGE / MADE IN U.S.A.” . Also, there are volume/weight measurements embossed along the side of the jar, including cups, milliliters and ounces. They are being sold along with modern screw bands and lids. The glass is a bit thinner and lighter than the original Ball Perfect Mason types.
(NOTE: in 2014, medium green glass quart size jars were issued, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the “PERFECTION” jars (introduced in 1914)…….the word “PERFECTION” is embossed underneath the cursive BALL. A third color (purple) was issued in 2015 for the 100th anniversary of their “Ball IMPROVED” jars (1915), and is embossed “IMPROVED” underneath the name “BALL”. The purple jars are made in pint and quart sizes).
These jars are being sold for actual canning use, but also for “rustic” or “retro” decorative appeal; are being used as containers for liquid soap dispensers (some ebay or etsy sellers are selling them with special lids for this use); for use in candle making, and for similar Americana “primitive” and crafts projects. Not to mention their appeal as a collector’s item which is virtually guaranteed because of the great popularity of the older jars .
The “1913 1915” embossing (given above) readily identifies these as new production. As time goes on, however, their provenance might be somewhat less obvious to beginning fruit jar collectors.
According to the Ardagh Group website, they are made by that glass manufacturing company for distributor Jarden Home Brands.
NOTE: NEW “BALL PERFECT MASON” JARS BEING MADE IN 2019
(This paragraph added April 12, 2019).
New “Collectors’ Edition” BALL PERFECT MASON jars (with the cursive font style used in the 1910-1923 period) have appeared in grocery stores and department stores recently. They are sold through Hearthmark (Jarden’s Home Brands). As of the time of this writing, I have examined some PINT size jars, but I don’t know if they are (or will be) producing quart and/or half-gallon sizes. They are being sold in packs of four. There are a few differences between the new ones and the old originals which can be easily seen. (They are the same, typical “Ball Blue” color seen in most of the originals.) There is a small “circled R” underneath the “BALL” logo on the front of the new jars. The reverse side of the new jar bears the embossed phrase “MADE IN U S A”, and below that, along the “heel” of the jar, is a series of raised dots. The base carries a mold number along with the glass manufacturer’s mark used by Ardagh Group, the maker of the jars. This mark may be faint, and resembles a horseshoe or odd letter “U”. (See this mark illustrated in the “U” listings of he alphabetical bottle mark listings on this site). There is knurling (a series of raised dots) along the contact surface/perimeter of the base. The new pint jars appear to be very slightly lighter in weight than the older ones, but this may not hold true on all jars, since there was some variability in the older jars. Out of curiosity, I weighed a new jar and old one, and the new jar weighed 10.375 ounces, the old jar weighing 10.75 ounces.
NOTE: Ardagh Group – North America is currently (2015) the owner of most of the former Ball Bros Glass Company plants . (Ball Bros>>>> Saint-Gobain Containers>>>>> Verallia>>>>> and now Ardagh Group. )
The Ardagh plant at Winchester, Indiana (where many of the new “Ball” brand jars are being made) is a former Anchor Glass Container Corporation facility that was acquired by Ardagh.
For a detailed, comprehensive article with tons of background info on the Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Company, written by author/researcher Bill Lockhart (with input from several other collectors/researchers), check out his article ~ (This article also includes an expanded chart of BALL logo variations and estimated date ranges used over the years, as compiled by jar researcher Vivian “Granny” Kath). Click here: Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Company
For a very good informative webpage about antique fruit jars, and commonly asked questions, including some info on the Ball Perfect Mason, check out Ball jar collector/expert Bob Clay’s page here: Common Misconceptions about Fruit Jars, by Bob Clay .
Bob Clay’s article with a timeline on “How to Date Ball Fruit Jars” appears here near the bottom of this page:
General discussion forum for Ball fruit jar collectors:
For more information on Ball glass jars, check out Bruce Wayne Shank’s site here: Ball Jars Collectors’ Website.
Karen M. Vincent’s article on dating Ball jars:
For information on values, you might check out the Redbookjars.com site, where the “Red Book” fruit jar price guide for collectors is available for purchase.
Please click here to go to my alphabetical mark listings, starting with “page one”: Glass Bottle Marks .
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