If you do a little research, you will find a wealth of information about your vintage and antique cast iron cookware.
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.
As to value, that is entirely subjective. Just because you see an identical or similar piece offered for sale on a site, do not assume that the selling price is what your piece is worth. There are very many factors that go into valuation of a vintage piece – condition, cleanliness, scarcity, the seller, and so on. Also beware of folks “guessing” at condition or rarity. Often, you really need to 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.
(if you click on the link and purchase the book I’ll receive a tiny amount of compensation…gotta fund this blog somehow!)
The Book of Griswold & Wagner, by Smith & Wafford. This book is commonly referred to in the cast iron community as the “Blue Book.” Rich with photographs. Primary emphasis on Griswold. Two primary sections about Griswold and Wagner cast iron pieces, and smaller sections on Favorite, Wapak, and Sidney Hollow Ware. If you’re primarily interested in Griswold, this book should be your first purchase. 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 does not reflect current selling values.
The Book of Wagner & Griswold, by Smith & Wafford. This book is commonly referred to in the cast iron community as the “Red Book.” Rich with photographs. Primary emphasis on Wagner. Two primary sections about Wagner and Griswold cast iron pieces, and smaller sections on vintage Martin, Lodge, Vollrath and Excelsior/G.F. Filley. Has about 5% duplication from the Blue Book, but otherwise is new and different material. 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 does not reflect current selling values.
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. 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.
It may be worthwhile for you to consider joining one of the two (or both) vintage and antique cast iron collector’s club if you are going to dive into the cast iron world. Both clubs have a small annual fee, but 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. $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. There is a wealth of information about vintage and antique iron on the Wags forum; some available to the public and other that is available only to dues-paying members. There is a forum with sections available for viewing by visitors. 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. $5 “initiation” fee for first year, plus $25 for individual and $35 for household of two. Join here.
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. Has a very active forum, and photos of pieces by various manufacturers to help you to identify unmarked iron.
Reddit has a sub-forum on cast iron, which you can check out.
There is an abundance of groups devoted to vintage cast iron cookware. In addition to the GCICA Facebook Page, the Wagner & Griswold Facebook Page, and my Griswold Cookware Facebook Page, if you are in learning about a particular manufacturer, you might try searching under that name; I bet you will find a Facebook page devoted to the topic. Here are a few Facebook sites about vintage cast iron that are very active and educational. A quick search will turn up many more.
So many publications have written about vintage and antique cast iron that it is impossible to list them. 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!
If you do a google “image” search for the markings on your piece (i.e. pattern numbers, name, other letters or numbers), you may find all the information you need about your pan just in a few clicks!
My Blog Posts
While running my previous business, I wrote a number of blog posts about vintage and antique cast iron; some may be helpful to you. Click on any of the titles to be brought to the post.
More by Mary
Post by Doris Mosier