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Learn About Your Vintage Cast Iron Cookware

Learn About Your Vintage Cast Iron Cookware

Here are references, guides, and more to help you learn more about your vintage and antique cast iron cookware. If you do a little research, you will find a wealth of information!

Given my limited resources and time constraints, I do not provide personal identification services or valuations for your personal cast iron piece(s). I receive a huge volume of email, and I simply cannot devote my time to responding to each request; I am sorry.

There are two Facebook groups that you might join to learn more about your cast iron. If you are looking for the maker of your iron, you can check out the Cast Iron Cookware Identification page. Another great page for general cast iron resources is the Griswold and Cast Iron Cookware Association Facebook page. GCICA is one of the two main cast iron collector’s groups in the US – it is well worth the membership fee to join.

Value

The “value” of a piece is entirely subjective. Just because you see an identical or similar piece to yours offered for sale on a site for a particular price, do not assume that the listed selling price is what your piece is worth.

There are very many factors that go into the valuation of a vintage piece – condition, cleanliness, scarcity, the seller, the precise markings on the piece, and so on. Beware of folks “guessing” at condition or rarity.

You need to personally see and handle a piece to make an educated estimate of the value. And then, of course, there is “full retail” value and “wholesale” value, and every price in between.

Many people are very interested in vintage cast iron cookware and want to learn more about of what it is worth, but be aware that if you ask the value of a piece from 10 people, you’ll likely get 10 different opinions.

One way to check to see what the current “value” of a piece is to look at sold listings on eBay. Just be sure that the piece you are looking at is in the same condition as yours, with the same precise markings. Searching sold eBay listings will help you to see what the current selling price is of pieces similar to yours.

Reference Books

(if you click on the link and purchase the book I’ll receive a tiny amount of compensation…gotta fund this blog somehow!)

If you are interested in collecting or researching Griswold or Wagner vintage cast iron cookware, The Book of Griswold & Wagner,  by Smith & Wafford, should be your first purchase.

This book is commonly referred to in the cast iron community as the “Blue Book.” It is rich with photographs. The primary emphasis is on Griswold pieces.

The two main sections of the book focus on Griswold and Wagner cast iron pieces. There are also short sections (with photos) about Favorite, Wapak, and Sidney Hollow Ware.

The book also contains a “price list” for the various pieces in excellent condition. Beware of using that price as a value for your pieces. Not only is the book dated, but it also does not reflect current selling prices.

The advent of eBay and the internet has made pieces more readily available than before. The interest of the buying public also rises and falls.

I do find the prices in the Blue book helpful to determine scarcity of a particular piece, however.

Your second purchase, if interested primarily in Griswold and Wagner, should be The Book of Wagner & Griswold, by Smith & Wafford. This book is commonly referred to in the cast iron community as the “Red Book.”

Again, this edition is rich with photographs. The primary emphasis is on Wagner-made iron. There are two sections about Wagner and Griswold cast iron pieces, and smaller sections on vintage Martin, Lodge, Vollrath and Excelsior/G.F. Filley.

The Red book duplicates only about 5% of the Blue Book. It is well worth the price.

Like the Blue book, the Red book also contains a “price list” for the various pieces in excellent condition. Again, beware of using that price as a value for your pieces.

Griswold Muffin Pans, by Jon Haussler. Again, rich with photographs. Helps to identify gem and muffin pans made by Griswold, and provides a numerical value to the scarcity of the piece.

Many of the Griswold gem and muffin pans were made in different variations; this book will help you to identify the particular variation and its scarcity.

It can be fun to try to collect every version of a particular muffin or gem pan; this book shows photos of the different versions and how to identify them. The book also contains a “price list” for the various pieces in excellent condition. Again, however, beware of using that price as a value for your pieces. Not only is the book dated, but it does not reflect current selling values.

If you are primarily interested in very old American-made cast iron cookware (1645 – 1900) – there is a reference book that contains many photographs and information about these antique pieces. Early American Cast Iron Hollow Ware 1645 – 1900: Pots, Kettles, Tea Kettles and Skillets, by John Tyler (2014).

When you run across a piece and have no idea what it is, this book can be of great assistance. 300 Years of Kitchen Collectibles, by Linda Franklin.

Collector’s Clubs

If you are interested in learning more about vintage and antique cast iron cookware, you should consider joining one or both of the two vintage and antique cast iron collector’s clubs. Both clubs have a small annual fee. A wealth of information can be obtained via the club’s long-time collectors, annual conventions, chapter meets, quarterly newsletters, and websites/forums.

GCICA

The Griswold & Cast Iron Cookware Association is the longest-running of the two groups. I am an active dues-paying member. As of this writing, the group has 473 members – many who are decades-long collectors.

GCICA has a website with a forum with much information about vintage cast iron collecting, as well as an active Facebook group. They hold annual conventions as well as regional meetings. The conventions are a great way to meet others with the same interest in iron. You can also pick up some great pieces, and learn from long-time collectors.

$25 annually for single membership; $30 for family. $11 for students. Join here.

WAGS

Wagner & Griswold Society – WAGS is a “community of cast iron and aluminum cookware collectors.” I am a dues-paying member. Like GCICA, WAGS also has an annual convention.

There is a wealth of information on the WAGS forum about vintage and antique iron on the Wags forum; some available to the public and much more that is available only to dues-paying members.

In particular, there are sections available only to members that contains very valuable information about the various foundries, including literature, research, and photographs. The forum alone is worth the cost of membership.

One forum section available to the public is entitled “How much is my item worth.” There are also articles available to the public which have been written by members on cast iron cleaning and seasoning methods.

A $5 “initiation” fee for the first year of membership is added to the regular dues of $25 for an individual and $35 for a household of two. Join here. 

Active Web Forums

The Cast Iron Collector, “information for the vintage cookware enthusiast” is a free website with a ton of information on it to help people identify, restore, and use their vintage cookware.

The site has a very active forum. There are many and photos of pieces by various manufacturers to help you to identify unmarked iron.

Reddit also has a sub-forum on cast iron which you can check out.

Facebook

There are an abundance of Facebook groups devoted to vintage cast iron cookware.

In addition to the GCICA Facebook Page, Wagner & Griswold Facebook Page, and my Vintage Cast Iron LLC Facebook page, many other Facebook sites are devoted to vintage cast iron. I am a member of some; a quick Facebook search will turn up a dizzying array. It seems that just about every day a person starts up another Facebook page about cast iron.

Cast Iron Cookware Identification (if you post photos here of your iron, helpful collectors will help you to identify the manufacturer and era).

Griswold, Lodge, and Wagner Cast Iron

Martin Stove, Favorite, and CHF Collector’s Forum

Lodge Cast Iron Lovers

Lodge Commemorative and Advertising

Vintage Cast Iron Cookware Catalogues and Literature

Images

Often, you will see photos on the web of a particular cast iron piece on a forum or Facebook or reddit, and people will chime in to help identify it. This is one way for you to learn more about your piece.

There are collectors out there who have very significant knowledge about vintage cast iron, and they frequently “specialize” or collect in a certain area or a certain manufacturer. I have found people on Facebook and the forums to be very generous with their assistance.

Be sure that the person who is chiming in knows the answer, however, as opposed to making guesses. Just because someone tosses out an answer on a forum does not mean that the answer is correct.

Google

I can assure you that if you take a few moments to type your query into google, you will get a plethora of results. Do some research!

You can use a “Google images search” to look for the markings on your piece (i.e. pattern numbers, manufacturer’s name, other letters or numbers). By using this method, you may find all the information you need about your pan just in a few clicks! I often use a google images search when I need assistance with identification; it is a good starting point.

Mary’s Blog Posts on this Site

Do a search on this site to find blog posts that may help you in your quest. You can also look at the categories list, or tags, to find posts that are relevant to you.

A small selection of blog posts on this site includes:

Where to start when valuing a cast iron collection

History of King Stove & Range, Martin Stove & Range

History of Lodge Mfg. Co. and the Blacklock Foundry

Pricing for authentic Griswold Pups

How to tell an authentic from a reproduction Griswold Pup

Top prices realized at auction

More top prices realized at auction

Good buys at auction

History of the Sidney Hollow Ware Company and Philip Smith

History of the Wapak Hollow Ware Company

The Odorless Skillet

Cast Iron Glue Pots

Handy Tips for the Cast Iron Auction

Mary’s Blog Posts prior to 2017

I founded a vintage cast iron eCommerce business some years back, which I sold effective January 1, 2017. When I ran the business, I wrote many blog posts about vintage and antique cast iron. Some may be helpful to you as you begin your cast iron journey.

Click on any of the titles to be brought to the post.

Identifying unmarked cast iron

Adventures in vintage cast iron cleaning

The weight of vintage vs. modern cast iron cookware

Non-stick properties of properly cleaned and seasoned cast iron cookware

Pattern numbers and letters on vintage cast iron skillets

The hows and whys of the smooth cooking surface of old cast iron skillets

Cleaning and seasoning a vintage cast iron waffle iron

Hairline cracks in vintage cast iron skillets

Do not clean your cast iron pans by placing them in a fire

Does the pan “sit flat?”

Cleaning and Seasoning

Cleaning start to finish

Just say “no” to cleaning with fire! 

Routine cleaning of my vintage cast iron pans

The seven deadly vintage cast iron sins

The great soap debate

More by Mary

Top 10 considerations when buying a vintage cast iron pan (eBay guide)

The lure of the vintage cast iron auction and 10 handy-dandy tips! 

Posts by Doris Mosier

Long-time collector Doris Mosier has written several pieces that are parked on this site which you may find helpful.

Cleaning Iron – Quick Fixes

Logos and Terms Frequently Used

Griswold Cake Recipes

Smart Buying

Litters of Pups

History of Griswold


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