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Griswold no. 10 Small Logo Cast Iron Skillet w Grooved Handle – Original or Machined Handle?

Griswold no. 10 Small Logo Cast Iron Skillet w Grooved Handle – Original or Machined Handle?

Prior Sightings of a Griswold Grooved Handle no. 10

Jerome “Jerry” Cooper sent a photograph of a pan from his cast iron collection to David Smith in 2001. Mr. Smith is well-known and respected in the cast iron collecting community. He co-authored two reference books about vintage and antique cast iron. 1 From 1992 to 2003 he also wrote and sent out a bi-monthly cast iron collecting newsletter to subscribers called “Kettles ‘n Cookware.”

The photograph that Jerry Cooper sent to David Smith was of a Griswold small logo number 10 cast iron skillet with a grooved handle. This particular pan is a unicorn in the cast iron collecting world. There are no definitive reports of which I am aware that an authentic one has been located.

Some years back, Larry O’Neil, a long-time cast iron collector and long-serving member of the Griswold & Cast Iron Cookware Association’s (GCICA) reproduction committee, had the opportunity to examine a purported grooved handle number 10 Griswold cast iron skillet. It turned out to be an altered pan.  By some method of machining, someone had created a groove in the handle.

David Smith published the photograph of Jerry Cooper’s pan in the May/June 2001 edition of Kettles ‘n Cookware. He said that the photo was “proof positive that this piece does exist.” 2

November 18 2018 eBay sale and Facebook Comments

Fast-forward 17 years. A Griswold small logo cast iron skillet with a grooved handle popped up on eBay. It had the same markings as the one published in Kettles ‘n Cookware. The seller did not recognize the rarity of an authentic Griswold small logo grooved handle no. 10 cast iron skillet. He had started the auction at .99 with no reserve.

I read Facebook chatter in several different cast iron groups about the listing. I looked at the auction. I was excited to see that a grooved handle no. 10 had been found. I wanted to write the story of this pan.

Facebook comments suggested that the handle of the pan might have been machined; i.e. it may not be a “true” grooved handle no. 10 Griswold small logo pan. I imagine that all in the cast iron collecting community were hoping it was an authentic grooved handle number 10, but questions about authenticity were raised.

The auction ended on November 12, 2018 with a winning bid of $2,716.66.

Jerry Cooper and his Collection

I reached out to the seller, Jerome “Shane” Cooper. It turns out that Shane is the son of Jerry Cooper – the man who had sent the photo to David Smith. The pan auctioned off on November 12, 2018 was the same pan that had been pictured in Kettles ‘n Cookware in 2001!

Shane told me about his dad. Jerry Cooper lived and worked overseas on military bases for more than 30 years as a teacher/guidance counselor for DoDDS (Department of Defense Dependents Schools). He and Shane’s mother Anna raised their two sons in Germany on Sembach Air Base.

In the mid-1990s, Jerry retired and moved back to the United States, settling in Blanchard, Idaho.

Jerry expanded his collection of vintage and antique cast iron when he retired. He traveled around the Pacific Northwest looking for old iron. Jerry  made trips to flea markets and antique stores. He was proud of his collection and enjoyed the hobby, but his collection was not one of high-priced pieces. The family was one of modest means. Jerry told Shane that he would and could not spend the family’s money on his hobby.

Jerry Cooper in his kitchen.

 

Shane in Jerry’s kitchen.

Jerry sold his house in Idaho and relocated to Fort Collins, Colorado in 2005. Over the next three years, Shane built two houses on land purchased by Shane and his wife Rachel Herrera and her family. One house was for him and his wife and newborn son Ben. The other was for Jerry.  Jerry was a part of Shane’s family’s daily life at “Ohana,” their 65-acre Rocky Mountain homestead.

Jerry suffered a massive stroke in May 2016 at age 79. He passed away just two months later.

The Cooper family placed a very high value on education. When Shane graduated from the University of West Florida in Pensacola, Florida, he did so without the student loan debt that cripples so many young people. The Cooper family had set aside what extra money they had into college funds for their two sons.

Shane inherited his father’s cast iron collection. He places the same value on education as did his father. Thus, he decided to sell off what pieces the family did not use for cooking to help fund Ben’s college education, as his father did for him.

Jerry, Ben, and Shane Cooper. 2015. Ben is now 9 years old.

Shane Cooper and the November 2018 eBay auction

Shane began listing pieces from his father’s cast iron collection on eBay.

Shane is an experienced Internet seller. His full-time business “Secret Compass” sells limited-edition collectibles online.  Shane started the company in 2003 in a bedroom in his home. The business has grown and prospered. It now represents 60-70 manufacturers from the limited edition collectibles world. Shane ships to more than 100 countries worldwide.

Shane knows that not every online buyer is ethical.  He has experienced numerous occasions where buyers claimed damage after breaking things themselves, buyers switching damaged merchandise with merchandise that had been shipped to them, and buyers demanding a refund but returning something other than what had been sold to them.  Because of these experiences, Shane was offering pieces from his father’s collection as “final sale” on eBay – no returns accepted.

Shane decided to let the eBay market set the value of his father’s cast iron collection. He did not realize the potential value of his father’s number 10 small logo Griswold pan with a grooved handle. He started the 5-day auction at .99 with no reserve.

The sale of the pan did not go through because concerns were raised about the authenticity of the skillet. Because of Shane’s previous negative experiences with the shipping of high-value items, and given the madness of the bids and questions surrounding what appeared to be an extremely rare piece of vintage cast iron, Shane was not willing to accept a return under any circumstances.  The transaction was canceled.

Determining the Authenticity of the Pan

I talked to Shane after the auction ended. He was aware of the debate on Facebook over the authenticity of the pan.  

Shane wanted to get the question about authenticity settled before moving forward.  If the pan could be authenticated, Shane would present that authentication when he re-listed the pan on eBay. If the pan was not authentic – i.e. it turned out to have a machined handle – he would re-list it as such on eBay.

Shane reached out to many people trying to find out how the question of authenticity could be settled. Shane felt that some of the comments on Facebook – which were shared with him by a person unknown to me via screenshots – impugned both his integrity and the integrity of his deceased father.

I told Shane about the two national cast iron collecting clubs – the Griswold and Cast Iron Cookware Association (GCICA) and the Wagner and Griswold Society (WAGS).3 I suggested that having the two groups examine the skillet in person might be one way to go about getting the question of authenticity settled. In my view, having the skillet at the annual conventions of both groups where it could be examined by the membership would probably be the most likely way to obtain a consensus as to authenticity.

Shane preferred to get the matter resolved sooner. I agreed to reach out to both groups.

On November 14, 2018 I sent a group email to Chuck Rogers – President of WAGS, Scott McCarter – President of GCICA, Sonny McCarter – chair of the GCICA reproductions committee, Shane, and Larry O’Neil. Larry has been a long-serving member of the GCICA reproductions committee, and I know that he is very experienced at determining authenticity of Griswold pieces.

 “I know you are all aware of the eBay listing for the grooved handle no. 10 small logo skillet that ended the other day. I had reached out to the seller, and it turns out that the sale has fallen through. He is aware that the pan may be the unicorn that people have been searching for forever; he also knows that there has been discussion on Facebook about its authenticity. I have also told him it probably has to be seen in person to make any kind of educated opinion about authenticity.

Jerry Shane Cooper (he goes by “Shane”) is the son of the original owner of the pan. Shane is liquidating his father Jerry’s estate. He is trying to raise money for his son’s college fund, and when he relists the pan on eBay (I talked to him about a Simmons auction or going to a convention auction, but he prefers the worldwide audience of eBay) he would like to be able to say that the pan has been examined and is authentic.
 
I told Shane about the two national collector’s groups – Griswold and Cast Iron Cookware Association and Wagner and Griswold Association  and explained that both groups have reproduction committees. I suggested to Shane that this is the route I would probably take if I was trying to get as rock-solid of an authenticity “stamp of approval” as possible on a piece for which authenticity is questioned, since both groups have such very experienced and knowledgeable collectors.
 
Shane, Sonny McCarter is the chair of the GCICA reproduction committee, and Larry is a long-serving member of the GCICA reproduction committee. Chuck is the president of WAGS – the chair of their reproduction committee (Larry Foxx) does not have the internet. I am sure that Chuck will take the steps necessary to get the information to the WAGS reproduction committee as well.
 
Shane’s father Jerry is the same person who wrote in to Dave Smith for the May/June 2001 Kettles n’ Cookware newsletter about the pan. The pan in Shane’s possession is the same pan – it is on the back page of that edition.
 
Could you please help Shane with how authenticity can be determined on his father’s pretty pan?
 
Thank you. I have copied Shane on this email so that you can all confab with Shane about a process.”

Report of Greg Stahl

Chuck replied to my email and said that he had contacted Greg Stahl – a charter member of WAGS – and Greg was willing to look into authenticating the skillet. I sent another email to the same group – adding Greg – explaining that my interest in the pan was academic (wanting to view, photograph, and write about the skillet), and proposing a meetup in Colorado where people from both groups could examine the skillet and hopefully come to a consensus. My suggestion did not come to fruition.

Greg Stahl prepared a report about the authenticity of the pan based upon information and research he had collected. The full text of Greg’s report and findings are on the WAGS forum, here. Greg’s report concluded:

“Based on all the data that I have collected with the help of others, I find this skillet to be 100% real, and likely the only one known to date, a real #10 Griswold grooved handle skillet and first shown to the collecting world in 2001!”

My involvement with the pan

I wanted to see, photograph, and write about this unicorn skillet and its story. Shane agreed to allow me to visit him and the pan in Fort Collins, Colorado.

I don’t claim to be an expert in determining authenticity of Griswold pieces, but I’m not exactly a tadpole. I’ve handled thousands of Griswold pieces and have seen many reproductions. Larry O’Neil is my first stop when I personally have a question about authenticity of a Griswold piece.

I talked to Larry before going out to Fort Collins to visit Shane and the pan. Larry discussed with me certain things about the handle of the pan that he felt would help determine its authenticity.

I flew to Denver on November 27 and met with Shane and the pan on November 28 at Shane’s shop/warehouse in Fort Collins. Shane was most gracious and helped as I took many photographs and measurements. I knew what Larry O’Neil wanted to see about the pan. I FaceTimed with Larry and tried to get him the information he sought. Ultimately, I could not get the precise information conveyed to Larry over FaceTime.

Shane Cooper holding his dad’s no. 10 Griswold small logo cast iron skillet with grooved handle. November 28, 2018.

Farold Hoover’s Findings

Farold Hoover – a cast iron collector by hobby and machinist by trade – talked to me before my trip about the possibility of him being able to determine whether the handle of the pan had been machined. When Farold saw the photos I had uploaded, he reached out to me again.

Farold said that based upon the photos posted, he thought the pan had not been machined. He felt he would be able to authenticate the pan – i.e. say that the handle had not been machined – if he viewed more photographs. I provided Farold with my original high-resolution photographs for his examination.

Farold has 33 years of experience in tool design and engineering. He owns his own small tooling shop. You can see his website here. Upon review of the original photographs, Farold concluded:

“In my opinion, this number 10 Griswold small logo skillet with grooved handle was cast as it is now seen. It is an authentic Griswold piece. I render this opinion to a degree of 99.9%. Put another way, to a reasonable degree of mechanical certainty, this pan is authentic.”

The full text of Farold’s report can be found here.

Jason Walker’s Opinion

Cast iron enthusiast and researcher Jason Walker posted an opposing view on Facebook on December 23. He posted photos of grooved handle pans from his collection and drew comparisons to the eBay photos of the pan. Jason concluded:

“[B]ased on what I have to by at this moment I do not believe it’s a genuine groove handle but rather a modified late handle Griswold 10.”

You can read the full text of Jason’s findings and conclusions here. 

What I noticed about the pan

I uploaded two photos to both the WAGS and GCICA Facebook groups.  when I returned home on November 29. They showed the underside of the handle of a known Griswold no. 8 grooved handle small logo skillet alongside the underside of Shane’s number 10 handle. I had seen (and shown Shane) a small cluster of scratches on the underside of the handle of the number 10. The scratches were not visible to the naked eye; it took a jeweler’s loupe to see them. 4 The texture of the groove in the handle was also different – smoother – than I expected to see. The scratches caused me some pause. I have no expertise in machining; I just knew there was a small cluster of scratches.

I had expected to be certain as to the pan’s authenticity or lack thereof once I saw it; I was not. Shane was aware of my uncertainty. I chose to keep quiet. I hoped and thought the pan was likely authentic, but I was not certain and did not want to speak publicly without being sure. I wanted to hear from Larry O’Neil. 

Larry O’Neil’s Opinion

As I mentioned, Larry O’Neil is my first stop when I personally have a question about the authenticity of a Griswold piece. Larry had told me over Facetime on November 28 that he needed to see the pan in person to make a determination about authenticity.

Shane made arrangements with the O’Neils and flew out to Washington state and traveled to Larry’s house in Tacoma to show him the pan on March 6, 2019. It so happened that Linda and I were also in Tacoma, visiting Larry and Marg and their collections.5

Larry had pulled out a number of grooved handle and small logo late handle pieces in preparation for the meeting. He had also made some molds and drawings of the handles. I posted a gallery of photos from March 6 at the bottom of this post. 

Larry posted his findings about the pan on both the WAGS and GCICA Facebook pages. He said:

Hi All.

Shane Cooper brought the number 10 Griswold skillet to me on March 7, 2019, to get my opinion as to its authenticity. I had the chance to personally examine and measure it, as well as to make comparisons between it and my other Griswold small logo grooved late handle skillets.

There has been a lot of controversy about the Griswold number 10 grooved handle skillet, and whether Griswold ever made one. Many years back I saw a number 10 small logo skillet that had had the handle machined to create a groove, but it was obvious.

The one that Shane Cooper brought to me in Tacoma is very good. It is very different in appearance from the one I saw years back.

Here are my conclusions, though you must make up your own mind. This is only my opinion.

[1] The skillet is not a recast. Everything measures out perfectly with other Griswold small logo number 10 skillets.

[2] The top edge of the groove in the handle (where you see my finger in the first photo below) is too sharp. A close comparison to our other Griswold grooved handle skillets shows a definite difference.

[3] The groove in the handle is not as deep as all the rest of our grooved handle skillets; maybe 1/16″ higher.

[4] Most importantly, on all of our grooved skillets you can see the sand mold marks in the grooves. As with the rest of the skillet, the groove was not ground. The groove in the skillet I examined on March 7 is smooth. Upon very close examination, I can see grind marks.

Telling Shane that I believed that the handle had been machined to form the groove was one of the hardest things I have had to do. I know we all wanted the skillet to be authentic and as cast by Griswold; then we would know that more Griswold number 10 grooved handle skillets may be found.

As I said, however, THIS IS ONLY MY OPINION. YOU MUST MAKE YOUR OWN CONCLUSION.
Larry O’Neil”

What’s Next for the Pan? 

Shane told us that he intends to relist the pan at the end of March 2019. Once I know it is up and running online, I will update the post with the auction listing and results. 

Photos of the Pan

Below is a gallery of some of the photographs of the pan that I took on November 28. Because I know that the cast iron collecting community is very interested in examining this pan up close, I chose to refrain from watermarking many of the shots, including macro shots. These photos are not the original resolution; I did reduce the size somewhat. If you need to review the original resolution photographs for whatever reason, please contact me. If you wish to share or copy the photos, please ask me before you do so.

I am happy to share my photos of this exciting find with the cast iron collecting community, but especially given the time and money I have invested into this little project, I do want to retain the rights and have proper credit if the photos are used. I have marked the metadata of the photos with my copyright. Thank you for your courtesy.

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Gallery of photos from Larry O’Neil’s examination on March 6, 2019.

  1.  Smith and Wafford, The book of Griswold and Wagner(5thed. 2011); Smith and Wafford, The Book of Wagner and Griswold(2001).
  2. D. Smith, Kettles ‘n Cookware newsletter, May/June 2001 (p. 34). All editions of Mr. Smith’s Kettles n’ Cookware newsletter are available to dues-paying Wagner and Griswold Society (WAGS) members on the forum of the WAGS website. The newsletters are a great resource for the collector.
  3. I am a dues-paying member of both WAGS and GCICA. Membership reaps great benefit for folks interested in collecting cast iron. It allows access to all areas of the forums of both groups, which contain mountains of research. It also puts you into contact with other people who are interested in vintage and antique cast iron cookware. Attending annual conventions is a great way to learn from and with others who have the same interest.
  4. The area where the cluster is located is circled in red on the last photo in the gallery below.
  5. Linda and I had made prior arrangements to come out to visit Larry and Marg. Shane reached out to Larry and Marg to set up a time to come and see them; we were lucky that the stars aligned and we were able to be there when Shane came out from Colorado.

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