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Collecting Antique & Vintage Cast Iron Pans

If your list of New Year’s resolutions involves eating better, or if you’re a collector of vintage cookbooks, you might want to start collecting antique and vintage cast iron pans or skillets. While this area of collecting began getting warmer a few years ago, it’s becoming downright hot right now. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still get a deal — you just have to know what you’re looking for! (And, if you aren’t into cooking with old cast iron pans, knowing what you’ve got sitting in your cupboards might mean trading heavy pans for some hefty cash in our Marketplace!)

antique and vintage cast iron pans skillets

Our collection of cast iron pans began by taking advantage of bargain prices at local farm auctions. After using one antique cast iron pan, we fell in love with the ease of cooking and the simple flavor of real foods again. Since cast iron pans are created from a single piece of metal, they provide an even distribution of heat which is great for any kind of cooking. Cast iron retains heat better and longer than other types of cookware and it even adds a bit of extra iron to your diet. Properly cared for (which isn’t as hard as some people make it sound), cast iron pans can — and have — served for centuries. All of that adds up to great value. And who doesn’t love collectibles they can use without worrying about ruining the value of? Since discovering antique cast iron pans last year, our collection has grown rapidly.

In terms of condition, the best antique and vintage cast iron pieces are easy to spot: If it’s in good enough shape to use, it’s in good enough condition to collect. That means you want to avoid anything cracked, warped, or pitted — especially on the bottom. However, other “damages” such as “dirty and greasy” pans, those which have rusted, or even those which have been painted can be stripped, re-seasoned, and restored to perfect working order rather easily.

Of course, not all cast iron pans were created equal.

For one thing, age matters. For most collectors and cooks, the best cast iron cookware was made before the 1950s, with 1957 the real cut-off for real collectible cast iron cookware. (By this time, both aluminum and stainless steel begin to replace cast iron, which greatly affected production quality.) CastIronCollector.com has a great guide for identifying the age of cast iron cookware from the trademarks and logos found on the pans themselves. Identification is easy, as most antique and vintage cast iron cookware bears the maker’s mark and factory location as well as the pan size or catalog number on the bottom.

wagner ware sidney

And that brings us to the heavy-hitters, or big names, in cast iron cookware collecting.

Griswold, of Erie, PA, and Wagner, of Sydney, OH, are the two most sought-after names in antique cast iron pans. But nearly any cast iron pans made in the U.S.A. (between the 1800s and 1957) are collectible and worthy of buying. Other company names in collectible cast iron cookware include Sidney Hollow Ware Company (also of Sidney, OH), Wapak Hollow Ware (of Wapakoneta, OH), Favorite Stove & Range Co. of Piqua, OH (also marked and sold under “FPW” for Favorite Piqua Ware and “Puritan” for Sears Roebuck), and Lodge Manufacturing Company (South Pittsburg, TN), which is the only US company still producing cast iron cookware. (Lodge reports record sales for the past five years — proof of the popularity of cast iron!)

As with all popular antiques and collectibles, fakes and reproductions exist. One tell-tale clue of recasting is the same “shrink” which exists with pottery; while these pans are slightly smaller than the originals they were made from, they are also heavier.

For those of you who like collecting by the numbers (which is easy with old cast iron skillets), remember this:

Pans number 0 and 1 really are number one — they are rare four-inch toy pans.

Pan numbers 2, 11, 13 and 20 (and their lids) are challenges to find.

Pan numbers 3, 6 and 8 are quite common, since they were part of every “newlywed” starter set. That makes them an ideal starting place for new collectors and cooks.


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Cherrie I'm trying to identify a date and maker for a cast iron pot I have that I believe dates to the mid 1800's. On the reverse it has raised (probably applied?) marks 8 E A Any ideas? I'm looking for date, maker, value on this family heirloom. January 24th, 2013 at 6:10 PM

Cary Cherrie, the best way to get help identify cast iron is to post some pictures. The is a Cast Iron Cooking page on Facebook with lots of people that can help you identify yours. November 22nd, 2013 at 11:42 AM

msmith

msmith I'm trying to identify maker and mufacture date of the following cast iron skillet. The markings as as follows: 8 (on top of handle) 10 1/2 INCH SKILLET P (on bottom os skillet) December 28th, 2013 at 1:03 PM

Mat Gibson I have been trying to find out some information about a couple skillets that I have. This site is very informative, so I thought if I were to contact you I might be able to get a few answers... I have two favorite piqua ware skillets. The first is a no. 1 with a heat ring and it has a 1 on the bottom (I've found that not all of this type has the 1 on the bottom). Not sure if that effects the value. I have a book that this skillet is in but the book was published in 1998. The second skillet is a favorite piqua ware no. 2 that is silver. I would like to know a few details about both of these items to include: how rare they are, around the year they were made, and what's ur estimated value!? Also I would like to ask if you might be interested in these items? Thanks for taking the time to help me out! I can send pictures if that would help or if your interested in these items. Thanks again! Mat Gibson July 16th, 2014 at 10:05 PM

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