Did you know that cast iron skillets are so durable that they can last for centuries? Some have even become family heirlooms, being passed down from generation to generation.
Given this aspect, finding out the age of a vintage cast iron skillet can be interesting. Many people don’t know how to tell how old a cast iron skillet is.
Given this factor, the following are some things that you should focus on, particularly if you want to determine the age of your cast iron skillet.
Telling the Age by the Pan
Many people usually try to tell the age of a pan based on their appearance.
However, that’s not a good indicator. Poorly kept cast iron skillets can look older than they actually are, whereas well-kept pans can look younger than they are.
However, if you want to determine the true age of your pan, you should instead look at the following factors:
Older pans have a smoother and less pebbled surface than newer ones. Newer cast iron skillets contain a thick and pebbled surface; then, it may be newer.
It is also more likely to have been manufactured in the U.S. Additionally, newer pans have thicker walls as compared to older ones.
Apart from the texture, the weight of the pans also differs based on their age. Newer cast iron skillets tend to be heavier.
A comparison of two popular types highlights this factor – users found that a Number 8 Lodge cast iron skillet from the 1960s – 1983 weighed 4.65 lbs., whereas the Griswold number 8 “ERIE” spider cast iron skillet from 1906 weighed 3.85 lbs.
Texture and Weight are two of the simplest ways that you can determine the age of the pan.
However, many people find this method to be a bit difficult, particularly since you need to have two different pans in order to compare it effectively.
Luckily, this is not the only way that you can figure out how to tell how old a cast iron skillet is.
Telling the Age by Markings
Another effective way to tell the age is to look for markings on the pan. Some cast-iron skillet pans have markings that can easily be searched for online.
In fact, that is how people usually learn about the origins of their pan. Based on the kind of markings the pan has, you can discover just who made the pan, when it was made, and more.
The following are some standard markings on cast iron skillets that you should pay attention to:
Another type of mark that cast iron skillets can have is a gate mark. This is a raised slash or a scar on the bottom of the pan.
The main thing with gate marked skillets is that they don’t have any other marks, such as a manufacturer name. It’s very easy to mistake them for low-quality pans.
However, cast iron skillets with gate marks qualify as vintage pans. They’re centuries old because the gate marks occur based on an old casting technique that was used in the 1800s.
This casting method was discontinued in 1890, making cast iron skillets with gate marks rather rare.
While you will know that your pan is very old, it will be harder to determine who manufactured it. In the 1800s, cast iron foundries avoided putting logos or more on their wares.
Just know that if your skillet has a gate mark, it is rare and extremely valuable.
You can have a look at the gate mark on a cast iron skillet here.
Made in the USA
Another easy sign that you can use to determine the age of your pan is the Made in USA mark that you can find on the bottom of the pan.
This was used during the 1960s when trade requirements were extremely tight, and manufacturers had to mention the country of origin of all pieces produced.
This is an identifier for a large number of cast iron skillets produced during the 1960s and afterward.
If the pan has a manufacturer logo, you can see it at the bottom of the pan. It’s usually just a small logo of the company name, which you can then use a reference.
It’s a good idea to cross-reference the logo with the help of the following resources:
- Smith & Wafford – Blue Book – The Book of Griswold & Wagner, Favorite, Wapak, Sidney Hollow Ware (5th ed. 2013)
- Smith & Wafford – Red Book – The Book of Wagner & Griswold, Martin, Lodge, Vollrath, Excelsior, ©2001
Apart from these books, you can also look for the manufacturers online, but these books are the most comprehensive collections to use.
When looking for manufacturer logos, you can identify the age of your pan more easily, but care has to be taken.
If you don’t know what you’re looking for, it can be easy to overlook the pan. Additionally, even unmarked pans have small manufacturer identifiers that you can use to tell their age.
Based on this factor, we’re also including some common manufacturing logos and what they mean:
These are some of the earliest pans produced by the Griswold Manufacturing Company. Earlier versions of their pans did not contain the entire name.
If your pan has only the word ERIE on it, it is possible it is from the Griswold Manufacturing Company and was made during the late 1800s or during the early 1900s.
ERIE refers to the location of the company as Griswold Manufacturing Company was established in Erie, Pennsylvania. Based on the logos, the following categories can be found:
ERIE Spider Skillet
This skillet is rare, valuable, and extremely sought after. It is also produced by the Griswold Manufacturing Company.
The pan features a design of a spider web with a spider in it and the words ERIE etched into the body of the spider.
This is one of the earliest pans produced by the company, dating back to 1906.
If it is in excellent condition, it can have a market value of thousands of dollars, and you will find buyers and collectors flocking to take this piece off your hands.
Iron Mountain Skillets
Another type of cast iron skillet pans produced by the Griswold Manufacturing Company is the Iron Mountain skillets.
They are loved because they are great for cooking, and many are favorite cookware pieces.
Made in the 1940s, the Iron Mountain skillets have a very distinctive handle, which makes them easy to identity.
They also have a pan number on the bottom, a heat ring, and a product number (4 digits) at the bottom.
These pans were also made by the Griswold Manufacturing Company, but they made during 1890 and 1915.
Given the manufacturing practices at the time, many of the VICTOR skillets do not have the company name. However, the pans made during 1915 carry the Griswold name.
They also feature a heat ring, a pan number as well as the product number consisting of 4 digits that are on the bottom of the pan.
If your skillet is unmarked and only has a heat ring with notches in it, then it is a Lodge skillet. These skillets were made by the Lodge Manufacturing Company and are considered genuinely vintage. They were made as early as the 1930s.
If the pan has notches in the heat ring and also features the text Made in USA, it is Lodge skillet that was made in the 1960s.
However, if the unmarked pan has raised letters at the bottom and a handle with a number on it, then it was made in the late 1800s to early 1900. It belongs to the Blacklock Foundry that paved the way for the Lodge Manufacturing Company.
Made by the Vollrath Manufacturing Company, these skillets can have the company name or be left blank.
However, one common identifying factor is the underlined number that is printed on the center, the bottom of the pan. In this case, it means that you have a Vollrath pan that was made during the 1930s to the 1940s.
These skillets were made by the Birmingham, Stove, and Range Company (BSR). They manufactured pans from 1957 till 1993.
Based on this, many of their pans are unmarked. One of the biggest tell-tale signs here is by looking at the underside of the pan’s handle.
BSR pans have a ridge under the handle and a number as well. Based on these, you can identify the BSR skillets into the following subcategories:
This was manufactured during the 1930s and the 1940s. These skillets usually have a letter at the bottom of the pan.
They also feature a number that goes with the pan but no other defining markers.
These were made during the 1950s and are easier to find than the Red Mountain variation. They also have smaller spouts for pouring as compared to other skillets.
The 1960s version of the Century pans also has the Made in USA text inscribed into the bottom.
These are some of the most common ways that you can learn how to tell how old a cast iron skillet is. For many, this can be a great way to find out how old their favorite cast iron pan is.
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