It's almost April Fool's Day and the challenge is to drink from this Delftware puzzle jug without spilling. Since the neck is pierced, it appears to be impossible.

Delftware puzzle jug

A puzzle jug looks like a normal jug, but was made with piercings in the neck and multiple spouts to make it seem impossible to use. They were popular in homes and taverns during the 18th and 19th centuries for fun and wagers and taverns found it to their advantage to have one or more different types for their guests.

This 7 1/4-inch puzzle jug was made in England, probably Liverpool, and sold for $1,200 at a Cowan's auction in Cincinnati. Delft is a tin-glazed pottery that has been made since the 17th century in Holland, and was also made in England in the 18th century. It's soft and easily chipped. This jug's cylindrical neck has pierced flowers with heart-shaped petals and three short nozzle-like spouts. It's inscribed with the following drinking verse and the date, 1752:

"Here Gentlemen come try your skill

I'll hold a Wager if you will

That you don't Drink this Liquer all

Without you spill or lett some fall"

So - how to solve the puzzle? The jug's handle and rim were made hollow, like straws.  The handle opens to the inside of the jug near the bottom, goes up the side a little, bows out, and then connects to the opening inside the rim. To successfully drink without spilling, the drinker has to suck from the correct spout. Some puzzle jugs had additional holes which had to be covered with a finger before the ale could be drawn, or hidden holes to make drinking even more challenging.

Find more Delft and Liverpool prices in the FREE online price guide at and in Kovels on Antiques and Collectibles Price Guide 2012, available online and in your local bookstore.

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