A Cool Collectible: Vintage Cast Iron Trivets

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I’m starting a regular feature here on the blog, focusing on a different antique or vintage area of collecting. For today I’m calling it: Tuesday’s Take on an Antique Treasure.

The idea is to highlight a collectible and maybe learn a thing or two. This week’s area: cast iron trivets.

Formed by pouring hot, molten iron into pre-made molds, these three or four legged platforms were made for holding sad irons or hot pots and pans.

vintage trivet

I’ve bought and sold a number of these over the years, including the Wilton and Griswold reproductions (1930s onward).

Griswold is also a famous maker of cast iron pans. Both companies labeled their products on the back or bottom, so there’s no confusing them with older versions.

vintage cast iron trivet collection

I recently bought a lot of five trivets (above) at an estate sale, which I thought they would make a fine choice to begin this feature with.

vintage cast iron trivet

One of the first things I learned was that early manufacturers did not mark their trivets. So right away I knew that one of mine was a reproduction, since it is marked “Distelfink.”

I knew it wasn’t old when I bought it, even before I looked at the back, because the look and feel of the surface was “off,” as was the weight. The whole thing gives off a “new vibe.”

Photo from Real or Repro: Trivets New and Old

Next I observed in some photos what machine made grinding marks (above) look like and bingo, one of mine had those on its sides. It’s a repro as well.

This one I had had some hope for because the legs were longer than others I’ve seen (3/4″), and that is usually a sign of age. However, the length you are looking for in older trivets is 1 1/2″ or more.

vintage cast iron trivet

I also learned that rust on the surface is another sign of reproduction. Only one of mine, the small tree-shaped one had rust (I’ve brushed and oiled it so the rust is gone for now). Its general look and feel had already led me to believe that it was not an “antique.”

vintage cast iron trivet

An article I read actually pictured the square one (above). If it had been an antique, wording would have been embossed in the inner circle–mine is blank.

I was surprised about this one because the look and feel had led me to believe that it might be older.

vintage cast iron trivet

That leaves my fifth, spade-shaped trivet with side railing (the raised lip all the way around the edge). It has slightly higher feet, but they are round, rather than square or rectangular, which is what you would be looking for in an older trivet.

Again, the weight and texture of this one feels “right,” but I could be wrong (of course!).

side view of vintage cast iron trivet

Something else you look for in an antique trivet is a “casting gate,” that is, a piece of ragged metal sticking out from the side. This would be where the trivet was broken off the mold.

This one has something like that off the left side, but it’s been filed down, something not commonly done. I’m obviously going to have to do a little more research on this one.

What’s the price difference? It seems that the Griswold and Wiltons go for about $8 to $25 dollars. While the price range on the antique versions would start at about $30 and go up to the hundreds of dollars. Big difference, so it pays to know what you’re dealing with.

My general feeling is that all of mine are on the newer (vintage) side, rather than the older (antique) side. I learned a lot by taking the time to do a little research. Now I’m hungry to get an antique trivet in my hands to really feel the difference.

Find all of my Cool Collectible posts here.

I hope you found this post useful!

Do you own a genuine, antique trivet?
What can you tell us about it?

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Bye for now,
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    1. Thanks Kath! I think "vintage" is turning out to be my main niche. Hey, do you have a blog that I should be following?!! Thanks for dropping in–

  1. Good idea for a series! I love the one with the bird. You had a lot of good info here on dating these. Thank you for sharing this at History & Home this week, take care. Dawn @ We Call It Junkin.com

  2. Just moved into a new house and came across six trivets that were my husband’s grandmothers. I’ve read thru several articles on-line and just came across your site. I’m still not sure if mine are old or new, as they seem to have some of the qualities of both! But I’d really just like to clean them up and use them as decor. Can you tell me how you cleaned yours? Thanks so much! KC Peckham

  3. I have a pretty big trivet collection, over 150 last count. My collection starts with my great grandmother’s trivits & has passed down thru Grandmom, mom, & now me.

    I have learned over the years that older cast iron trivets don’t have a maker’s mark. The texture of the iron is generally smooth, not grainy or rough, and they’re pretty heavy. They also tend to have taller legs due to being used over hearth fires & wood burning stoves.

    They will sometimes, but not always, have break marks along the edges, particularly if made in a sand cast mold. I think they are a wonderful form of art & so expressive of the American craftsman.

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