Buying vintage cast iron is a game, a task perhaps better suited for a private investigator than a collector — where the seeker must be able to pair dates to logos, maker’s marks, handle shapes or other such seemingly minute details to evaluate rarity and value.
In the yard sale or flea market environment, this must be done at once, because there are others out there with their handy blue, grey and red books. But on eBay, you can take a moment to come to your senses, and allow yourself to fall hard for the prestige of a skillet this rare. Here are five reasons a $2,800 skillet is the best thing you’ll buy all year.
It’s a Griswold.
For the uninitiated, Griswold is king and court in the vintage skillet world. It’s important to get a grasp of this. It was as dominant a force in the industry in its time (1865-1957) as Lodge is today. Today, skillets that carry its name are lauded for their craftsmanship and attention to detail (more on this later).
It’s exceptionally rare.
This skillet was manufactured between 1924 and 1939. Griswold updated the trademark stamp on the stove side of its skillets many times, and that it changed the font of its name from italics to block lettering in 1920; some of the skillets with this block lettering received more incisions — “Cast Iron Skillet,” “Erie PA, U.S.A,” and the number at the hilt. We also know that it didn’t make skillets this large (13″) with a heat ring until 1924, and the block lettering was reverted back to italics around 1939. All together, this skillet is old, has more identification points than any Griswold ever made and, due to the decline of wood stoves at the time, was not manufactured all that often. So, there’s that.
It’s the best skillet you’ll ever use.
This thing is special. By way of hand-casting from black sand molds, obsessive attention to iron quality and complete commitment to a hand-made process, it would not be inaccurate to call Griswold the Apple of its industry in its time. Its skillets are the benchmark that many contemporary cast-iron makers riff on (including my modern grail cast iron), but don’t quite nail down.
It’s in great shape.
Somewhere down the road, the idea that cast iron is at all durable was latched on to, proliferated and is now too big to effectively shoot down. Cast-iron skillets are absolutely, unequivocably not durable. They can chip, crack, shatter and warp from drops, overheating, cooling too fast and a number of other things you wouldn’t think are issues. That makes this skillet — which, again, is just under 100 years old and extremely rare — something of a miracle. The fact it has no chips, cracks, dings or visible signs of warping is sort of astonishing. That said, request more and detailed images of the cooking surface before buying just to be safe.
It’s going to last forever.
It’s made it this far without much trouble. So long as you don’t toss it in a campfire then an ice bath, it’ll do just fine with regular use. Or you could condemn it to a life of hanging on the wall. It is that pretty.