Here’s What You Need to Know About Vintage Cast Iron
The oldest vintage cast iron has been handed down from generation to generation. Here's everything you need to know about this classic cookware.
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Everyone knows cast iron only gets better with age. So it makes sense that vintage cast iron is some of the most sought-after cookware. Heirloom pieces are generally thinner, lighter, and smoother than today’s products like this one; that makes them easier to handle and season. Cast from high-grade virgin ore, and poured and finished by hand, vintage cast iron had some amazing craftsmanship. Here’s exactly how to season a cast-iron skillet.
If you want to bring your favorite skillet cobbler or creamy mac and cheese to the next level, try making them in a vintage cast-iron skillet. Here’s everything you need to know to get your hands on one.
What is considered vintage cast iron?
Just because you find cast iron in your grandma’s kitchen cabinet, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s vintage. Only cast iron made between the late 19th and mid-20th century is considered “vintage.” That’s basically anything produced before 1957. Most cast-iron goods from this time period were made by just a handful of companies:
- Birmingham Stove & Range
- Griswold Manufacturing
- Sidney Hollow Ware
- Wapak Hollow Ware
If these names are stamped anywhere on the pan, it’s a good sign you’re looking at a vintage piece.
Pro Tip: “Made in the U.S.A.” wasn’t stamped on cast iron pans until after automated manufacturing was the main form of production. If you see this, it’s probably not vintage. Find out some common mistakes you’re making with your cast-iron skillet.
What is vintage cast iron worth?
If you’re familiar with antique shopping, you know there are a number of factors that can affect the worth of any item. Cast iron is no exception.
Things like the rareness of the piece and the condition are factors. But for reference, an early Griswold or Wagner item can bring hundreds, if not more than a thousand dollars, if it’s in near perfect condition! Of course, if you’re a savvy shopper, you can buy pieces at a much lower price point. Find out some more vintage kitchen items that are worth more than you think.
Where do you find vintage cast iron?
You’ll find vintage cast iron pretty much anywhere you would look for other antique items. Check out flea markets, garage, and estate sales, antique stores, thrift stores, eBay, even Craigslist. As long as you know what to look for, you should be able to find a great vintage piece for a steal.
Plus, the thrill of the search is a big part of what makes vintage collecting fun and rewarding. The same goes for vintage Fiestaware or vintage Pyrex.
What should you look for?
Before you buy a vintage cast iron pan, make sure it is in fact vintage. Look for a stamped trademark or logo of the foundry that made the piece. This might be as simple as the name of the city where the pan was made, or a more elaborate script, logo, or symbol.
Another thing to keep in mind is the condition of the piece. Avoid pans with obvious damage like cracks, warping, major rust or pitting.
But don’t shy away from a pan that looks dirty—you can easily restore it using the right cleaning methods. Next, find out the 12 most reliable cast-iron skillets you can buy.