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Collecting Vintage Cast Iron – What You Need to Know

Vintage cast iron pans that have been passed down from generation to generation are not only nostalgic but also a wonderful implement for cooking. At estate sales throughout Puget Sound, we often see cast iron. But not all are vintage. So, let’s talk a little more about what you need to know about collecting vintage cast iron pans.

What Makes it Vintage?

In the world of vintage cast iron, any pan manufactured before 1957 is considered vintage, with several major manufacturers of cast iron in the 1800s to the early 1900s. Those who are considered vintage and include:

  • Birmingham Stove & Range

  • Griswold Manufacturing

  • Lodge

  • Sidney Hollow Ware

  • Wapak Hollow Ware

What to Look For

To identify vintage, look on the bottom of the pan for a stamped trademark or logo that indicates the foundry where the piece was made. This might be as simple as the name of the city where the pan was made, or a more elaborate script, logo, or symbol.

What to Look Out for

When looking for vintage cast iron, you need to inspect them well. Here are a few important aspects to inspect:

Cracks. Cracking is caused by thermal shock and is usually seen on the sides of the pan. They run vertically and some may be confused with scratches. A good way to check for cracking is to use a flashlight to thoroughly inspect the pan. Another great way to rule out cracks is to tap the bottom of the pan with your knuckles. If you hear a bell-like ring, the pan is crack-free.

Warping. Warping also happens due to thermal shock, but with vintage cast iron minimal warping is forgivable. To check for warping, you want to lay the pan flat and then see if there’s movement. A flat-bottomed pan is important if you plan to use your pan on a glass-top stove. But if that’s not you, a small amount is okay. Remember, you can bake with cast iron or even use it outdoors, so don’t completely write off a warped pan. Just be cautious.

Pitting. You want to avoid pans with excessive pits simply because it makes it difficult to get an even layer of seasoning.

What about Dirty or Rusty Pans?

Cast iron skillets are incredibly durable and more often than not, a rusty pan can be restored to its former glory. Just so long as the pan hasn’t turned bright orange, a pan with minimal rust can be brought back to life.

How to Restore Cast Iron

Sure, you’ve been told to be gentle with cast iron. But that’s because you want to preserve all the seasoning. Well, when bringing it back to life, you throw out all the rules. You’ll need steel wool, a sponge with a side that can scour, dish soap, and vegetable oil. Here’s a step-by-step:

  1. Scour with Steel wool: Get the pan wet and add a bit of dish soap. Then get scrubbing using your steel wool. Working a small area at a time, work your way around the pan and remove the rust.

  2. Rinse: Make sure your pan is completely clean before moving to the next step

  3. Dry: Using a towel you won’t mind ruining, dry your pan completely. Then sick it in a 350-degree oven for a few minutes to evaporate any moisture.

  4. Re-season: Make sure your pan is cool to the touch, then add a tablespoon of vegetable oil, or even Crisco, and rub it in with a paper towel. Then place the pan face down on a lined baking sheet in a 350-degree oven for an hour. When the time is up, leave the pan in the oven to completely cool.

If you’re looking to start or add to your vintage cast iron collection, we recommend you check out our upcoming estate sales. We’d love to see you!


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