A while back, I went on a road trip with my friend Jim. We stopped here and there throughout the South looking for antique cast iron cookware; Griswold being my maker of choice. At an antique store in Kentucky, I found two painted Griswold “ERIE” skillets – one was a number 11, which is particularly hard to find.
I snapped them up. Lesson learned: if a pan has been painted, check doubly to make sure it doesn’t have a crack. I’ve learned over the years that if someone has coated a valuable pan with paint, there’s probably a reason. Reason for my number 11? It has a hairline crack near the handle which goes almost half way down the side of the pan.
I didn’t learn of the crack until I had stripped the paint. I had planned to sell the pan (this was in my selling days), but knew that the crack would drastically reduce the selling value. Collectors do not want pans with cracks, and it is also not the first choice of cooks.
The pan is an antique ERIE cast iron pan no. 11 with heat ring, third series, pattern number 718 B. It was manufactured by the Griswold Manufacturing Company between 1892 – 1905. It is a thing of beauty. Smooth black satin cooking surface. It sits flat as a pancake upon my stove. The value to me of this pan is much higher than whatever price I would get for it if it was sold. I cleaned and seasoned it and put it to use in my kitchen. It’s now one of my favorite pans (truth be told, all of my vintage cast iron pans are my favorite pans).
The hairline crack has not impacted the functionality of the pan whatsoever. It holds liquid and is a great cooker. It’s also gorgeous. Some folks speculate that use of the pan – with the additional build up of seasoning – will seal the crack. I don’t know if that’s the case or not, but I know my pan cooks just as well as my pans without hairline cracks.
I suppose some day the crack may widen or the handle may break off; the iron surely is weaker in the area of the crack. Unless and until the day that happens, however, this pan will live in my kitchen; I will use and enjoy this old piece of American history.