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!
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.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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:
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.
More by Mary
Posts by Doris Mosier
Long-time collector Doris Mosier has written several pieces that are parked on this site which you may find helpful.