Guide to griswold iron kitchen item collecting

Griswold cast iron kitchen ware may be the only collectible with such practical use. Learn what it is, how to indentify it, and how to build your collection.

Remember your grandmother heaving her 10-ton cast iron skillet out of the cabinet and onto the stove, and remember the wonderful food that came out of it? Today, people enjoy Griswold cast iron kitchen products for both their practical and collectible values. Cast iron cooks evenly, making it a great choice for making foods like pancakes or breads, and it is practically unbreakable. Unlike many other types of collectibles, your collection of Griswold items will provide you with years of service, yet still offer the thrill of the hunt while you search for the perfect piece to add to your collection.

The Griswold Manufacturing Company was formed in Erie Pennsylvania in 1865. While there first product was a line of door hinges, they are best known for kitchenware items such as muffin tins and trivets, skillets in a wide variety of sizes, and other types of pots and pans. While later on in their history they manufactured items out of cast aluminum, it is the cast iron items that put the light in the avid collector's eyes!

Most Griswold items have maker's marks on the bottom. The first mark was simply the word Erie. Seven different marks appeared on Griswold cast iron items from 1865 until 1957, when the company went out of business and sold their molds to a company called Wagner Manufacturing Company of Sydney, Ohio. Collectors can use the type of mark on their cast iron piece to get the approximate age of its manufacture, but there was some overlap in the use of each mark. Cast iron double stamped with the words Wagner and Griswold (and therefore made after the 1957 sale) have almost no collectible value. Some items also carried numbers by the maker's mark. These are pattern numbers, and can help you identify exactly which piece you are pondering.

American cast iron production had its heyday from approximately 1900 to 1940. The

earliest pieces (1865-1900) are thinner and lighter in weight, and by the 1940s, the quality of the pieces went down as the company tried to cut costs in an effort to stay in business in the wake of the World Wars. Rarity as well as quality affects an items price. Griswold cast iron items can be priced anywhere from bargain basement to several thousand dollars. Skillets are the most commonly found Griswold items, and therefore they are usually among the most affordably priced

Sometimes, the way to get a bargain on a piece of Griswold is to take a gamble on an item in somewhat less than perfect condition. While it can take a lot of work to clean a piece of cast iron cookware that has led a hard life, a little elbow grease can make a world of difference. And even if you aren't completely successful, cast iron is so sturdy that you can at least take comfort in the fact that you won't make matters any worse. But as with any other collectible, condition does affect value. Don't bet the farm on a piece in bad condition - it may not clean up to your ultimate satisfaction.

Another fun cast iron collectible is known as the Griswold Pup. These little charmers are under 2" tall, and come in various finishes. But buyer beware, reproductions have been flooding the marketplace recently both in flea markets and at online auctions. Buy from a reputable dealer and know what you are looking for. If the price for the pup that caught your eye seems way too good to be true, it probably is!

Collectors of Griswold cast iron number in the thousands, and the company's history is well documented in books and online. There are also several collector's clubs, both online and in the real world. Joining a club or society can give you lots of information about your newfound hobby, and help you make informed choices when you expand your collection.

So hit the flea markets, garage sales, and antique markets and see if you can hunt out some Griswold cast iron. Just don't park too far away from where you are shopping - schlepping these heavy items to your car can be a backbreaking experience!

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