What is a good price for a Griswold cast iron ashtray?
Black Iron Round 00 Quality Ware Ashtray with Matchbook Holder, pattern no. 560.
We’re talking about a black iron Griswold round ashtray 00 pattern no. 560 with matchbook holder. This specific criteria is important. We are not discussing:
- an enameled ashtray (higher value if the enamel is intact),
- ashtray with a 0 and not a 00 marking (much higher value),
- aluminum ashtray (lower value),
- plated ashtray (lower value unless the plating is immaculate),
- square ashtray (slightly higher value),
- round ashtray with markings on interior of skillet as opposed to on bottom only (higher value), or
- round ashtray without matchbook holder (lower value).
Do you see why it’s so hard to tell people what the value of their iron might be? The precise markings are important. Any small variation can affect the price.
We are talking about an ashtray with markings exactly like the markings shown in the photo below.
Not an ashtray with these markings.
The value of any vintage or antique cast iron piece is based on:
- Condition, condition, condition
- Precise markings and the clarity of the markings
- Scarcity or commonality of the piece
- Immediate past selling prices, if known
- How badly you want the piece.
The ashtray discussed here has a matchbook holder at the top (shown in the very top of the photo – it’s a small rectangular holder across from the handle). Matchbooks aren’t prevalent these days, but the Griswold ashtrays that have a matchbook holder are typically valued slightly higher than those without.
Of course, folks don’t smoke cigarettes nearly as often as they did back in the 30s – 50s, and that likely has had an impact on the value of the ashtray. Cleaned ones may be used as a spoon rest on the stove, or as a small candy or coin dish. Be creative in thinking of ways to display the piece!
The Blue book 1 represents that the piece was manufactured in 1936 and sets the value at $20 – $30. Of course, the Blue book was written many years ago before eBay hit the scene (original edition 1995), and the prices set forth therein are useful only as a general guide.
Selling Prices on eCommerce Sites
Prices have risen and fallen since the Blue book was published. A more realistic barometer of selling price, in my opinion, is current and recent selling prices on eBay. Not what a piece is listed for on eBay, but what a piece actually sold for.
You can look back to see what similar pieces have sold for in the past 90 days on eBay. I show you exactly how to do that in my youtube video, here.
An eBay search today (12/9/18) of “Griswold Quality Ware” brings up 7 results. Four are black iron ashtrays with matchbook holders. All four of those are offered as “Buy It Now.” The BIN prices range from $29.99 + free shipping to $65 + free shipping. Small wonder that they haven’t sold.
One of the unfortunate things about selling cast iron over the web is the high price of shipping. Having sold many of these little pieces in the past, however, I can assure you that they can be safely packed and shipped in a small flat rate USPS box. That cost is presently $7.20 for a USPS account holder. I presume most regular eBay sellers are USPS account holders.
On Etsy, one seller pops up selling these ashtrays using the query “Griswold quality ware.” That seller is offering the pieces at $24 each plus shipping. When I typed in my MN zip code, shipping popped up at $8.15. That makes my total cost as a buyer $32.15. That seller has cleaned the ashtray and seasoned it, however, which adds some value. Is it worth $32.15? Not to me, but maybe to you. A search on Ruby Lane reveals one offered at $60, plus shipping. It hasn’t sold.
A query of sold listings on eBay over the past 90 days for “Griswold quality ware” shows 13 listings have sold with those words in the title. Of those 13, one listing was for a total of three round black iron Griswold matchbooks – two without matchbook holders and one with. That listing went for $15.15 + $10.15 shipping (total $25.30). That buyer got a nice price for those three pieces, in my view.
Excluding the set above, 7 of the 13 vintage Griswold cast iron ashtrays sold meeting the criteria with which we are concerned (Griswold, round, black iron, with matchbook holder), the ashtrays sold as follows:
- $6.50 + $5.99 shipping (total $12.49)
- $9.50 + $7.34 shipping (total $16.84)
- $11.50 + $7.20 shipping (total $18.70)
- $14.99 + $7.45 shipping (total $22.44)
- $15.50 + $9.46 shipping (total $24.96)
- Best offer accepted (had started at $16.00) + $9.85 shipping (total less than $25.85, but precise amount not disclosed).
Also, if you are buying a piece to resell, remember to factor in your expenses in sourcing the piece: time, mileage, wear on your vehicle; cost to set up at a flea market or to list/sell on eBay or Craigslist, postage, trip to post office, time taken to clean, etc. “Value” for a re-seller goes down pretty quickly on these lower-value pieces, doesn’t it?
So…what would you pay for the vintage cast iron ashtray shown in my photo? And what would you pay if you were looking to resell? Food for thought.
What would I pay?
This is my opinion. Yours might differ, as might your aunt’s, friend’s, brother’s, mother’s, or cousin’s. In fact, if you ask 100 people the value of any given vintage cast iron piece including people who have bought and sold many pieces of vintage cast iron cookware, you might get 100 different estimates.
I wouldn’t pay more than $15-$20 for one like the ones in the photos above, unless there was something remarkable about it.
If the piece wasn’t already cleaned, I wouldn’t buy it at all. I have no interest in cleaning someone’s old tobacco residue off of a piece.
Griswold ashtrays are fairly easy to find; if you don’t find a clean one, another will come along. As collector John Clough says, “if you are meant to have it, it will come.”
- Smith & Wafford, The Book of Griswold and Wagner, p. 185 (5th ed. 2011)