10 Most Valuable Cast Iron Skillet (Super Rare Model Costs $8,000)

Collector‘s Gold: Uncovering the Most Valuable Vintage Cast Iron Skillets

There‘s a reason why cast iron skillets have been a staple of American kitchens for well over a century. With their even heating, non-stick cooking surface, and rugged durability, cast iron provides an unparalleled cooking experience that only gets better with age. It‘s no wonder that vintage skillets from the "golden age" of cast iron are now highly sought-after collectibles routinely selling for thousands of dollars.

As both an antique collector and cast iron enthusiast, I‘ve spent decades studying, hunting for, and cooking with these magnificent pieces of American culinary history. Whether you‘re a serious collector, avid home chef, or just want to learn more about the mystique of old iron, this post will take you on a journey to uncover the 10 most valuable cast iron skillets on the market, reveal the secrets to identifying the real deals from the fakes, share my tips for scoring your own cast iron treasures "in the wild," and explore what makes cooking with vintage skillets such a joy.

A Brief History of Cast Iron in America

While cast iron cookware has existed in various forms for over two thousand years, it wasn‘t until the mid-19th century that cast iron skillets as we know them became commonplace in American kitchens. As the country rapidly industrialized, advancements in casting techniques and mass production helped make durable, affordable cookware like cast iron skillets an indispensable tool for home cooks.

Two companies in particular came to dominate the "golden age" of American cast iron cookware in the late 1800s through the early 20th century:

Griswold Manufacturing (1865-1957) – Based in Erie, Pennsylvania, Griswold is considered the gold standard of vintage cast iron. Renowned for their light weight, smooth cooking surfaces, heat rings, and iconic cross logos, Griswold skillets from this era represent the peak of cast iron craftsmanship and are the most coveted pieces for collectors.

Wagner Manufacturing (1891-1952) – Griswold‘s friendly rival, the Sidney, Ohio-based Wagner produced cast iron skillets and cookware every bit as prized as Griswold‘s. Their stylized logo and use of nickel plating set Wagner apart.

Other notable manufacturers like Wapak, Favorite, and Martin Stove round out the list of the most collectible vintage skillets. But what specific pieces are considered the cream of the antique cast iron crop? Let‘s dig into the 10 most valuable cast iron skillets on the market.

The 10 Most Valuable Cast Iron Skillets

  1. Griswold Cast Iron #1 Slant EPU Logo Skillet w/ Heat Ring – $8,500
  • Year: Early 1900s (1900-1912)
  • Logo: Slanted EPU "ERIE"
  • Size: 5" w/ 3" cooking surface
  • Notes: Extremely rare miniature skillet featuring block-lettered logo and heat ring. One of the most desirable pieces for Griswold collectors.
  1. Griswold Cast Iron #13 Large Block Logo Skillet – $5,000
  • Year: 1910s
  • Logo: Large block "GRISWOLD"
  • Size: 12" diameter, 2.25" rim
  • Notes: Legendary skillet in scarce larger size. Prized for its smooth, glassy surface. Arguably the holy grail for many Griswold aficionados.
  1. Wapak #8 Indian Head Logo Skillet – $4,000
  • Year: Early 1900s (1903-1926)
  • Logo: Raised "WAPAK" w/ detailed Indian head
  • Size: 8.25" cooking surface, 2.25" rim
  • Notes: Extremely collectible skillet featuring iconic Wapak Indian head logo. Scarce larger #8 size in great condition.
  1. Griswold Cast Iron #20 Large Block Logo Skillet – $2,800
  • Year: Early-Mid 1920s
  • Logo: Large block "GRISWOLD"
  • Size: 20" diameter, 3" rim
  • Notes: Highly uncommon largest skillet produced by Griswold. "Whale" of a pan used for mass cooking. Impressive display piece.
  1. Favorite Piqua #8 Smiley Logo Skillet – $1,500
  • Year: Early 1900s (1916-1935)
  • Logo: "Smiley face" Favorite Stove & Range Co.
  • Size: 10" diameter, 2" rim
  • Notes: Beloved skillet from esteemed maker Favorite Piqua in desirable #8 size. Prized for its light weight and machined surface.
  1. Wagner #13 Stylized Logo Skillet – $1,200
  • Year: 1920s-1930s
  • Logo: Stylized "Wagner Ware Sidney -O-"
  • Size: 13" diameter, 2" rim
  • Notes: Sleek, large skillet from Wagner‘s prime. Gorgeous two-line stylized logo and ultra-smooth cooking surface.
  1. Griswold #2 Victor ERIE Spider Skillet – $750
  • Year: 1890s
  • Logo: Block "VICTOR ERIE" w/ spider & web
  • Size: 4.5" w/ 2.75" cooking surface
  • Notes: Extremely old, small Griswold skillet featuring unique spider & web logo. Scarce piece, not many still around.
  1. Martin #10 Slant Logo Skillet – $500
  • Year: 1930s-1940s
  • Logo: Slanted "Martin Stove"
  • Size: 11.625" diameter, 2.5" rim
  • Notes: Hugely collectible skillet from lesser-known Southern maker Martin Stove & Range. Renowned for superb craftsmanship.
  1. Chicago Hardware Foundry #8 Skillet – $400
  • Year: 1930s
  • Logo: "CHF" in diamond
  • Size: 10" diameter, 1.75" rim
  • Notes: Scarce skillet from short-lived maker CHF. Unique handle and diamond logo make it a collector favorite.
  1. Birmingham Stove & Range #14 Skillet – $350
  • Year: 1930s
  • Logo: "Birmingham Stove & Range Co."
  • Size: 15" diameter, 2.25" rim
  • Notes: Massive, near pristine skillet from Southern maker BS&R. One of the largest vintage pieces you‘ll find.

The prices listed reflect the higher end of the market for skillets in excellent, collector-grade condition. In practice, the value of any given vintage skillet can vary significantly based on condition, completeness of marking/logo, and current market trends.

Authenticating Vintage Cast Iron

With skillets routinely selling for hundreds or even thousands of dollars, it‘s no surprise that the vintage cast iron market is rife with reproductions, fakes, and "frankenskillet" pieces combining old and new elements. As a collector, it‘s critical to know how to spot the real deal. Here are some key tells of a legitimate vintage skillet:

Characteristic Vintage (Pre-1960) Modern
Weight Lighter Heavier
Finish Pebbly, rustic Uniform, smoother
Spouts 2, less prominent 1-2, sharp angles
Markings Embossed/incised Printed
Surface Slight pitting Flawless/glossy

Vintage skillets were made using now-obsolete techniques that resulted in a lighter weight but still durable construction. The surface will have a pebbly, almost sandpaper-like texture with slight imperfections and an uneven patina from decades of seasoning.

Look for the presence of a ridge-like "gatemark" on the bottom of the skillet, a tell-tale sign it was made using traditional molding methods. Legitimate vintage skillets also have two pour spouts at 10 and 2 o‘clock, while most modern reproductions only have one.

Be wary of flawless, glossy finishes or printed/painted logos as signs of a fake. And perhaps most importantly – does the skillet just plain look and feel old? Trust your instincts and experience.

Tips From a Collector: Hunting for Vintage Cast Iron

Over my decades collecting vintage cast iron, some of my best "scores" have come from the most unexpected of places. While you can certainly find Victorian gems at antique shops and live auctions, in my experience, the best hunting grounds are:

  • Estate sales & garage sales
  • Flea markets & swap meets
  • Local classifieds (Craigslist, FB marketplace, etc.)
  • Cast iron-focused buy/sell groups on social media

Some of my personal favorite finds include:

  • A #3 Griswold ERIE skillet with heat ring for $15 at an Arizona swap meet
  • A near-mint Wagner #8 with stylized logo for $40 on Facebook marketplace
  • A gatemarked Lodge #5 for $10 at a rural Tennessee estate sale

The keys are persistence and preparation. I always come equipped with calipers, a magnet (real cast iron won‘t be attracted), and a mental rolodex of key markings and logos to hunt for.

As collector and author of The Book of Griswold & Wagner, David Smith recommends, "Buy the logo, not the pan. You can teach yourself to restore rusty cast iron, but you can‘t restore a damaged logo or missing heat ring."

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do you determine the age of an unmarked skillet?

A: If a skillet doesn‘t have a maker‘s mark, you can still estimate its age by assessing the handle design, wall thickness, and pour spouts. Older skillets tend to have stubby, triangular handles, while 20th century pieces have longer, thinner handles. Skillets from the 1800s also tend to have 3 pour spouts and thin, high walls. Compare your mystery skillet to pieces with known dates to gauge its age.

Q: What does "gatemarked" mean?

A: A gatemark is a raised scar or slash on the bottom of a cast iron skillet. It‘s a byproduct of the casting process pre-1900 before the use of two-part molds. A gatemarked skillet is a guaranteed old piece. Most gatemarked pieces are from the mid-late 1800s.

Q: How do you clean and restore a rusty vintage skillet?

A: I recommend a 4-step process:

  1. Scrub off any loose rust or debris with steel wool.
  2. Soak the skillet in a 1:1 vinegar and water solution for 30 mins-1 hour.
  3. Scrub again with a stainless steel scouring pad, then rinse and hand dry.
  4. Apply a thin layer of cooking oil, then bake the skillet upside-down at 450-500°F for 1 hour. Let cool in oven.

After this process, your rusty relic should have a smooth, glossy black patina, ready for cooking.

Q: How big is the vintage/collectible cast iron skillet market?

A: It‘s difficult to gauge the total size of the collector market, but auction data shows that it‘s steadily grown year-over-year. In 2020 alone, premier auction house Morphy Auctions sold over $1 million worth of antique cast iron, with the average skillet going for $1,200-1,500. The most expensive piece, a Griswold #13 skillet from the 1940s, sold for a record-breaking $20,000.

The Joy of Collecting and Cooking With Vintage Cast Iron

I‘ve been hunting for, collecting, restoring, and cooking with antique cast iron for the better part of 50 years. And I can honestly say it never gets old. There is something deeply satisfying about sizzling up a steak or baking a peach cobbler in a skillet older than I am and knowing I‘m partaking in over a century‘s worth of culinary history and memories.

The craftsmanship and quality of these vintage pieces is truly second to none. And it‘s that personal connection to the generations of cooks and stories behind each skillet that imbues them with a character and historical significance you‘ll never get with a shiny new pan.

Whether you choose to become a serious collector or simply appreciate them as functional antique treasures, I invite you to experience the simple joy of cooking with vintage cast iron. Start by finding a pitted old #8 skillet at a local flea market, give it some much-needed TLC, and christen it with a batch of crispy, cheesy cornbread. Taste the difference for yourself, and soon you too may find yourself hooked on the thrill of the hunt for vintage iron.

Happy collecting and cooking!

-Your Resident Cast Iron Connoisseur

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