Anyone else wondered, “Why do some people prefer vintage cast iron?”
You know, the old skillets and dutch ovens made before 1957?
Cast iron was individually made because there were no automated factories to mass-produce.
However, manufacturers had to adjust when labor costs rose, and demand grew.
Although many people will say there is no significant difference in how modern cast iron and vintage performs, it is mainly preference.
But those who prefer vintage cast iron disagree, and their reasons vary.
So, let’s explore some of their rationales.
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Why Do Some People Prefer Vintage Cast Iron?
There are many reasons someone might prefer vintage cast iron. It might be the craftsmanship of the pan itself or a belief that vintage performs better than modern. Maybe a Griswold was passed down to them, which holds particular value. Another reason is someone collects it, and it gives them a sense of pride. Other reasons have to do with the history of the pan or that it is good for the planet. Or maybe they can’t explain it; they just prefer it.
Some people enjoy the way cast iron used to be made.
Because each piece was handcrafted, they had more control over the finished product.
Cast iron was machined and polished, leaving the factory as a smooth, shiny piece of iron with no seasoning. The seasoning was built up over time but retained its unique craftsmanship.
Much of the cast iron from the late 1800s and early 1900s is still used today.
Pans that are highly sought after come from manufacturers such as:
- Birmingham Stove and Range (BSR)
- Lodge (formerly called Blacklock Foundry)
- Sidney Hollow Ware
- Wapak Hollow Ware
- Columbus Hollow Ware (Favorite Piqua Ware)
Of the manufacturers listed, only Lodge is still in business. So Lodge has both vintage and modern cast iron.
Many people say a vintage pan performs better than modern cast iron.
Before automation, manufacturers cast the walls thinner and machined the pan’s surface to be smooth.
So right from the start, the pan was lighter in weight and heated up faster. And cooking with lots of fat built up a seasoning over time.
Now the pan is as nonstick as Teflon.
You can’t get that kind of performance from modern cast iron or even the new vintage.
However, not every piece acquired comes ready to use. It often takes quite a bit of work to restore it.
But if your grandmother passed down her favorite skillet that was passed down to her, chances are it performs well.
3. Sentimental Value
If you’ve had vintage cast iron passed down to you, you are more likely to be attached to it. Especially if you like cooking with cast iron.
When you use it or see the pan displayed, it brings back good memories. Or there is a pleasant association with the piece.
And the idea of passing it down to your children brings you great joy.
People collect all kinds of things and vintage cast iron is very collectible. And people who get into it might describe it as a passion or even obsession.
They may comb through antique stores or flea markets. You might even find one at a garage sale.
Collectors research and learn what to look for. They know a dirty skillet or one with a bit of surface rust can be restored, but try to stay away from cracked, warped, or pitted pieces.
Some collectors restore and sell, while others restore and use. Or they might do both.
They have hit the jackpot if they ever find an inexpensive one that doesn’t need to be restored.
Many have a vast collection, and yet they keep looking for more.
Vintage cast iron in perfect condition can sell for hundreds of dollars. Of course, some pieces are worth more due to their age or markings.
These are all things a collector learns.
Watch the video below to see more vintage cast iron than you’ve probably ever seen before on this collector’s trip to Brimfield’s Annual Antique Show.
RELATED > > > > > Are Most Vintage Cast Iron Pans Warped?
2021: Returning to Brimfield in Search of Cast Iron
Knowing how it was made is one thing. But imagining the history of a particular pan is what draws some people to vintage cast iron.
Just thinking about the previous owners and how they used and took care of the pan brings them comfort or joy.
However, it is essential to know that cast iron was sometimes used for other things.
People may have melted, boiled, and held toxic products in their pan. For example, melting lead wasn’t unusual.
Most of the time, cast iron pans were used for cooking, though.
6. Status Symbol
People who find or own a vintage cast iron pan love to show it to you if they know you like cast iron.
They are proud of their pan, and it says something about them.
I don’t know if it indicates wealth or position, but maybe within a cast iron community or forum.
Or, if a celebrity chef endorses a certain vintage pan that the person owns, they feel a sense of pride.
A few people like the idea that their pan won’t end up in the landfill.
Although this can be true for modern cast iron, too, vintage means it’s been around for a while and is still getting used.
Overall, vintage means less waste.
8. Can’t Explain It
A girl found an interesting cast iron pan at Good Will. She was just drawn to it, and she couldn’t explain why.
But it led her on a quest to find out everything she could about the pan. She found out the piece was vintage, and now she likes looking for more interesting vintage cast iron.
People like this don’t necessarily think vintage is better, but for whatever reason, they like it more than modern.
Why do some people prefer vintage cast iron?
As you can see, there are many reasons or no reason at all.
But probably the top three reasons have to do with the craftsmanship, the performance, or the sentimental value of vintage cast iron.
Or some might like vintage better because they enjoy collecting it. Collectors often restore and sell, but not all.
Some lesser-known reasons have to do with the imagined history of the pan, as a status symbol, or that vintage cast iron is eart- friendly.
Since I don’t own any vintage, I don’t really have an opinion.
How about you? Where do you stand on vintage cast iron?
If you are interested in finding out how to identify it, check out the following.