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Cast Iron Treasure Hunt: The 15 Most Valuable Vintage Skillets Revealed

Antique cast iron skillets are cherished family heirlooms, the prized possessions of serious collectors, and the secret weapons of seasoned cooks. Crafted with pride in American foundries that thrived from the late 1800s through the mid-20th century, these skillets were built to last generations. Today, vintage pans from brands like Griswold, Wagner, and Piqua are more coveted than ever for their smooth cooking surfaces, lightweight feel, and storied pasts.

As an experienced collector who has bought, sold, and cooked with countless antique pans over the decades, I‘ve developed an eye for the very best—and a directory of contacts who share my passion for cast iron. I‘ve interviewed fellow collectors, scoured auction records, and tested hundreds of skillets to uncover the 15 most sought-after models. Whether you‘re looking to start your own collection or simply want to learn more about these marvelous culinary artifacts, read on for an expert guide to the most valuable vintage cast iron on the market.

The Legends: Top 5 Most Valuable Vintage Skillets

If money is no object and only the rarest, most iconic pieces will do, set your sights on these five cast iron legends.

  1. Griswold No. 2 Skillet (Erie, PA, 1890s-1900s)
    • Size: 4.5 inches
    • Value Range: $4,000-$8,000
    • Distinguishing Marks: ERIE logo, heat ring, intricate handle design
    • Rarity: Extremely scarce, <100 known to exist

The holy grail for serious Griswold collectors, this tiny treasure was one of the earliest skillets produced by the Griswold Manufacturing Company in Erie, Pennsylvania. The No. 2 is also the smallest skillet Griswold ever made, with a minuscule 4.5-inch cooking surface that‘s just the right size for a single fried egg. Skillets this size were made in much smaller quantities than larger, more practical pans, and few have survived over a century of use.

"In more than 40 years of collecting, I‘ve only seen a handful of authentic Griswold No. 2s come up for sale, and they always cause a stir," says Joan Simmons, a longtime collector and dealer based in Tacoma, Washington. "The combination of age, scarcity, and that iconic ERIE marking makes them the ultimate prize for Griswold enthusiasts, and they routinely sell for upwards of $5,000 in good condition."

  1. Griswold No. 13 Skillet (Erie, PA, early 1900s)
    • Size: 12.25 inches
    • Value Range: $3,000-$6,000
    • Distinguishing Marks: ERIE logo, heat ring, early handle style
    • Rarity: Extremely scarce, <200 known to exist

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Griswold‘s No. 13 skillet is a massive pan that dwarfs nearly all other vintage skillets. With a 12.25-inch cooking surface, it‘s the largest size Griswold produced in its earliest days, when pans were made with the desirable ERIE logo. This skillet‘s sheer size and weight, combined with its age and scarcity, make it another holy grail for Griswold collectors.

"The No. 13 is a true beast of a pan, and an amazing find for anyone who loves to cook for a crowd," notes Mike Jones, a collector and restorer based in Louisville, Kentucky. "It‘s incredibly rare to find one in good condition, since many were heavily used and abused over the years. But the lucky few who own a No. 13 treasure it for its history and unmatched cooking performance."

  1. Wapak "Indian Head" Logo Skillet No. 8 (Wapakoneta, OH, 1903-1920s)
    • Size: 10.5 inches
    • Value Range: $1,500-$3,000
    • Distinguishing Marks: Raised "Indian Head" logo with headdress on bottom
    • Rarity: Quite scarce, <500 known to exist

Produced for only a short time in the early 20th century by the Wapak Hollow Ware Company, these skillets are prized for their elaborate Native American-themed logo. The detailed "Indian Head" mark, thought to depict a member of the local Shawnee tribe, makes these pans folk art as much as cookware. The No. 8 skillet is an especially desirable size that‘s large enough for everyday cooking but lighter than massive 12-inch-plus pans.

"Wapak ‘Indian Head‘ skillets have a dedicated collector following that goes beyond the general antique cast iron community," says Sarah Kellerman, owner of The Pan Handler vintage cookware shop in Akron, Ohio. "Some collectors are drawn to the historical aspect and the controversy around the logo, while others simply appreciate the beautiful design and craftsmanship. Either way, these pans are increasingly hard to find and prices keep climbing."

  1. Favorite Piqua Ware No. 12 "Smiley" Skillet (Piqua, OH, 1920s)
    • Size: 11.75 inches
    • Value Range: $1,200-$2,500
    • Distinguishing Marks: Raised "smiley face" logo on bottom
    • Rarity: Quite scarce, <1000 known to exist

Piqua Ware‘s distinctive skillets feature an ultra-smooth cooking surface and whimsical "smiley face" logo that make them both high-performance and highly collectible. The No. 12 is the largest size "smiley" made and offers a generous cooking area for big-batch recipes. Well-preserved Piqua Ware skillets in this desirable large size are hard to come by.

"There‘s just something special about cooking in a pan with a smiling face on the bottom," enthuses Piqua Ware collector and home cook Lisa Nguyen of Sacramento, California. "Beyond the adorable factor, these skillets cook like a dream thanks to their ultra-polished interior finish. The No. 12 is the ultimate Piqua pan if you‘re lucky enough to snag one."

  1. Griswold No. 2 Slant Logo Skillet with Heat Ring (Erie, PA, early 1900s)
    • Size: 5.25 inches
    • Value Range: $1,000-$2,000
    • Distinguishing Marks: Slanted "GRISWOLD" logo with heat ring
    • Rarity: Quite scarce, <1000 known to exist

Another pint-sized marvel from Griswold‘s early years, this slightly larger No. 2 skillet features a slanted logo and heat ring on the bottom. The heat ring is a telltale sign of pans made before 1910, when most wood stoves had a circular opening to nestle the pan into. Skillets with heat rings tend to be lighter and smoother than later models.

"Griswold collectors geek out over minutiae like logo variations and heat rings, and this little No. 2 has both going for it," says longtime collector James Prescott of Springfield, Illinois. "It‘s a marvelous piece of cast iron history, not to mention a perfect pan for cooking a burger or grilled cheese for one."

The Second Tier: 10 More Valuable Vintage Skillets

While they may not set world records, the skillets rounding out the top 15 are still highly coveted by collectors for their quality, rarity, and unique attributes. If you‘re looking to start a serious cast iron collection without spending thousands on a single pan, these skillets are excellent places to begin your search.

Brand & Model Size (in) Value Range Key Attributes Rarity
Wagner No. 13 Skillet "Long Logo" 13.25 $800-$1,500 Stylized logo, smooth surface, early 1900s Scarce
Lodge No. 5 Skillet "Hammered Finish" 8 $600-$1,000 Hand-forged texture, 1930s vintage Uncommon
Vollrath No. 8 Skillet 9.75 $500-$800 Sleek handle, high-gloss interior, 1930s-40s Uncommon
Wagner No. 6 Skillet "Pie Logo" 9 $400-$700 Crisp geometric logo, 1920s vintage Moderate
Griswold No. 14 Skillet "Iron Mountain" 15 $400-$600 Textured surface, ribbed walls, 1940s Moderate
Sidney Hollow Ware No. 10 Skillet 11.625 $300-$500 Intricate handle design, heat ring, early 1900s Moderate
Martin Stove & Range No. 9 Skillet 10.5 $300-$500 Tapered "teardrop" handle, 1940s Moderate
Chicago Hardware Foundry (CHF) No. 7 10.125 $250-$400 Raised foundry mark, hammered finish, 1930s Available
Birmingham Stove & Range No. 8 10.25 $200-$300 Large pour spouts, ring-style handle, 1930s Available
Favorite Smiley No. 3 6.25 $150-$200 Baby "smiley" logo, petite yet practical, 1920s Available

Starting Your Vintage Cast Iron Collection

Spotting Reproductions: Job one for any serious collector is learning to distinguish authentic vintage pieces from modern reproductions. Look for pans clearly marked with a known maker‘s name, size number, and city of manufacture. Vintage pans should have a relatively thin, lightweight feel compared to modern cast iron. Cooking surfaces should be smooth to the touch rather than rough or pebbly.

Condition Grading: Pricing for vintage cast iron depends heavily on condition. Pans are graded on a scale from 1 to 10 based on factors like rust, pitting, cracks, chips, warping, and scratches. Skillets rated 8 and up with clean, undamaged cooking surfaces command the highest prices, while those with minor flaws may be had for a bargain.

Hunting Grounds: Scour flea markets, estate sales, antique shops, and online marketplaces to find potential treasures. Cast iron-focused buy/sell groups on Facebook are increasingly popular hunting grounds. Don‘t be afraid to negotiate prices, especially for pieces with some wear and tear.

Cleaning & Restoring: Many vintage pans need TLC to strip away old seasoning, remove rust, and reveal their original beauty. Avoid harsh chemical cleaners and instead use an oven cleaner or lye bath to dissolve built-up grime. Once stripped, skillets can be sanded to a glassy finish, re-seasoned with oil, and put back into service.

The Thrill of the Hunt

As with any collecting hobby, the thrill lies as much in the hunt as the acquisition. Stumbling upon a long-lost Griswold or Wagner in a barn, basement, or backwoods antique shop never gets old.

"Every pan tells a story," muses collector Mike Jones. "Who made it, what they cooked in it, the family it fed over generations. When you bring a crusty old skillet back to life, you‘re not just preserving an heirloom—you‘re carrying on a tradition and maybe even creating some new memories of your own."

So whether you‘re scrambling eggs for breakfast, searing a steak for dinner, or serving up a cobbler for dessert, treasure the magic of cooking with vintage cast iron. These pans have already lived long, storied lives, and with proper care, will keep turning out mouth-watering meals for generations to come. Happy collecting—and bon appétit!