When I started collecting years ago I almost never paid over 1.00 for most and there were tons of them out there (and still seldom pay over a couple bucks). The first and most important thing is to learn the history and variation of the jars and study books like "The Red Book" by Douglas Leybourne which lists thousands of variety's. The next thing is where you look for the older jars, I prefer yard sales, rummage sales and even the occasional estate sale. I used to look on ebay and other online sites and would occasionally find a good deal but most of what you find there now is way over priced for me anyway. The last thing is to decide on what trips your trigger in collecting, is it brand or color or style etc?
I now have over 800 different jars that I display ranging from the extremely rare to the fairly common and have to be very selective on what I add. BTW you are in an area that should have bunches of choices for jar picking! Again pick up a copy of "The Red Book" you wont be sorry and if you happen to come across the two book volumes of "The Fruit Jar Works" by Creswick (a pricy proposition) and can afford it you will be pleased with the wealth of knowledge. Good luck
Common canning jars, like the blue Ball jars or that sort of 20s-30s era jar, really shouldn't cost you more than $2 or so. There's a LOT of them out there. Same for The Perfect Seal or Crown jars, though those might only be found in Canada, I'm not sure. I don't know my jars that well.
Been looking in antique stores and see prices in the $11-$22 range. Finally found a clear 1933-1962 quart jar w/o lid for 25 cents at a thrift store. I suspect it from the later range of dates. At least it's a start...
Yeah antique stores will very often jack up the prices on common but aesthetically pleasing things, because they know that non-collectors will buy them to use as decor. You'd probably have better luck at antique shows, or by placing a wanted ad on Craigslist.
Yes, get a Redbook! the newest one is available - #12, and I think it will set you back about $45. However, it is well worth the cost. Those same antique stores that sell common jars for $20 also sell $100++ jars for the same $20. Years ago, we paid $32.50 for a Baltimore Glass Works jar with original Willoughby stopple at an antique mall in our region and were soon thereafter offered $800 for it. Paid $8 for a Mason's Patent jar with "Made for Wheeler & Bayless" embossed on the back which is the only Mason's Patent jar that's valued at over $1000 in aqua. I'm convinced there are still great finds out there to be had.