5 Top Cooking Collectibles

Collectors are known to look in the basement or the attic for coveted family heirlooms and valuable vintage objects including the top cooking collectibles. Among mom’s china or grandma’s baking dishes, collectors find cooking collectibles which have good design elements, good condition, and fine quality will maintain high values in the collectibles marketplace.

These 5 top cooking collectibles rank some of the most coveted, popular, and valuable vintage objects associated with cooking and kitchens. Collectible objects ranging from aprons to zesters are all the rage in the market now. Vintage utensils, flatware, and appliances are of interest to vintage estate sale, yard sale, and thrift store shoppers but do these items make the cut? Read on. Here are the most popular top cooking collectibles that stir memories of kitchen fun.

1. Cookbooks

Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook

Old cookbooks have been collectibles for centuries. Recipes handed down from generation to generation are cherished keepsakes. Cookbook collectors amass their collections by country or region like the highly regarded and coveted work by Jasper White’s The Summer Shack Cookbook from one of New England’s premier seafood experts, The William Greenberg Desserts Cookbook: Classic Desserts from an Iconic New York City Bakery, or Martie Duncan’s nod in the form of a cookbook to her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama choc-full of recipes called Magic City Cravings.

The connection between cookbooks and memory is a strong one. Some cookbook lovers build collections based on specific meals, holiday fare, or special occasions. Some well known American cookbook authors highlight how Americans ate during the late 20th Century and early 21st Century. The cooking style of Ina Garten evinced in The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook and Martha Stewart’s Entertaining both speak to the way Americans cooked and ate over the last 30 plus years. These cookbooks and others like them all promise to be must-haves in any cookbook collection and are destined to increase in value.

Some vintage cookbook collectors look for historic recipes or instructions like those found in the White House Cookbook, Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, The Joy of Cooking, Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook, Grandma’s Little Black Book of Recipes, Amelia Simmons’ American Cookery, Eustace Murray’s The Oyster…, Salvador Dali’s Les Diners de Gala, Jacques Pepin La Methode, among many others. Values for these cookbooks on the vintage and antiques market range from under $100 for some to several thousands of dollars for first edition or rare cookbook volumes.

2. Fine China

fine china

While many people are saying that entertaining with large china services is out of fashion and collecting fine china is dead, many collectors strongly disagree. Young collectors, as I am told on my video call appraisal sessions with clients, are searching online and collecting fine china with vigor. Established collectors are educating their children and grandchildren about the value in fine china and many fine china sets are staying in families for the next generation making this category one of the top cooking collectibles.

The desire to collect fine china like French pieces by Haviland of Limoges, Denmark’s Royal Copenhagen in the famous Blue Onion pattern, Hungarian Herend pieces like those collected by Princess Diana of Great Britain, England’s Royal Doulton and Portmerion premiere china, and other name brands are being collected in great numbers now. This collectible category has been enhanced by offerings on a multitude of internet websites. Fine china pieces, especially serving or rare pieces by a major manufacturer in a popular pattern may be pricey but collectors still must have that coveted gravy boat, soup tureen, or saucer to complete a service for twelve or even twenty. Popular patterns command higher prices like those with gilt details, porcelain bodies, and hand painted decoration. The better the dinnerware china and the greater the number of objects in the collection, then the more valuable the fine china service.

Don’t need the entire dinnerware china service, then consider collecting a few choice pieces. Today, collecting individual fine china pieces is en-vogue. Many mix-and-match china pieces for a youthful yet impressive look when setting a table. Collectors seek out rare items like fine china oyster plates, Presidential china in patterns selected by the US Presidents and First Ladies, and hand painted pieces decorated from all over the world.

Values vary widely based on the china’s manufacturer or maker, popularity of a pattern, condition, matching sets, and other factors. Amassing a collection of fine china and displaying it at home is one of the most rewarding aspects of collecting fine china. Dinnerware china, even today, still remains a highly desirable cooking collectible. Limoges, Herend, Royal Copenhagen and other manufacturers hold their value very well for pieces that date back to the 1800s and early 1900s. Vintage and antique pieces by specific manufacturers hold their value well in the marketplace. For instance, a service for twelve (12) of good quality fine china by a well known manufacturer in a popular pattern can command thousands of dollars for the entire service.

Traditional designs like delicate flowers, fruits to suggest abundance, and traditional landscape designs like those on transferware platters originating from ceramic strongholds such as Staffordshire England and Limoges France will hold their value and trade actively at auction and online.

3. CorningWare cookware

Corningware L'Echalote

Another cooking collectible that has been growing in popularity is cookware and ovenware. A kitchen collectible that has caused a great stir in the market, particularly online, is vintage CorningWare, the American ovenware introduced after World War II. CorningWare ovenware and cookware is produced from Pyroceram, a ceramic-glass material that can withstand major thermal shock.

Some of the most popular and valuable patterns of CorningWare were based on simple designs that stood the test of time. For instance, Blue Cornflower pattern, circa 1958-1988 is a white based pattern with a simple, folksy or country-inspired blue floral design on the side. This pattern became the quintessential pattern of CorningWare and it remains highly sought after with collectors. This is a good lesson to learn about any fine china pattern or established brand—the design that makes buyers associate with a manufacturer will maintain its value.

The Blue Cornflower pattern was introduced in large numbers and today’s collectors are grabbing it off the estate sale, yard sale, and thrift store shelves. They add pieces to their grandmother’s or mother’s collections amassed long ago and continue to make their own collections by purchasing pieces in the same pattern whenever possible. This is often how fine china collections in the same family collections have different maker’s marks. Blue Cornflower pieces by CorningWare were made in large numbers and quickly became the quintessential pattern associated with CorningWare. For more than three decades, the simple blue flowers on a white background served as CorningWare’s trademark. A standard in American kitchens, when it comes to cooking collectibles, vintage CorningWare is a mainstay with collectors and chefs alike.

Other cooking collectibles that are found in kitchens of seasoned collectors include cast iron pans, rolling pins, and lithographed tins food product tins. However, cookware that highlights historic patterns from the past like the blue/white floral pattern of Corningware remain sought after with collectors. Some of the other popular and collectible patterns of CorningWare ovenware include the Starburst pattern, circa late 1950s-early 1960s, the Floral Bouquet pattern, circa 1971-1975, and the Blue Heather pattern, circa mid 1970s to name a few.  Later in the company’s history, CorningWare introduced popular and similarly collectible patterns such as Nature’s Bounty pattern, circa 1971 and The Country Festival (also known as Friendship Bird) pattern, circa mid to late 1970s.

Ovenware, cookware, and casserole dishes that hosted a family’s favorite meals often remain part of family collections, as they should, and are in use and on display through many generations.

4. Cookie jars

Cookie Jar

Pop art icon Andy Warhol is partly responsible for sparking the cookie jar collecting craze in America. Cookie jars were introduced as kitchen counter mainstays after World War II and during the post-war American baby boom. Cookie jars came in all shapes, sizes, colors, materials from many manufacturers. Most examples were made by midwestern or southern potteries like Brush-McCoy, Blue Ridge, and others. Popular figures from nursery rhymes like Mother Goose, Humpty Dumpty, and Mary had a Little Lamb were the basis for some of the most popular mid 20th Century figural cookie jars. Cookie jars populated kitchen countertops as veteran fathers and homefront mothers who lived through World War II offered cookies to their growing families.

While cookie jars of all types were a mainstay in 1950s kitchens, cookie jars were relegated to attic storage by the 1970s. It isn’t until Andy Warhol, Pop artist of the 1960s, passes away in the late 1980s that the antique and vintage cookie jar collecting craze takes place. How does the death of a Pop artist known for celebrity portraiture in a highly recognizable and colorful style impact the ceramic cookie jar market? Warhol was a major collector and when his collections were auctioned off following his death in the late 1980s, his cookie jar collection got great press. Why?

Warhol’s cookie jars reflected the variety of cookie jars in the market dating from circa 1945 to 1985. Variety was the constant when it came to American cookie jars. Examples from Warhol’s collection brought high values at auction which prompted an unexpected collecting craze and market run on cookie jars. Cookie jar values skyrocketed and vintage American cookie jars sold the world over for thousands and tens of thousands of dollars in the late 1900s. By the 2000s, values leveled off but cookie jars remain popular and collectible. They still command good prices on the resale market. The result is today’s obsession with collectible cookie jars in various media—ceramic, glass, metal, etc. They make a great statement and recall childhood memories of biting into a chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin cookie with a glass of milk in the kitchen with Mom or Grandma.

5. Cake plates

Like fine china, cookie jars, and cookbooks, cake plates, have become an important collectible for the kitchen over the last three decades. While they come in many different styles and materials, the cake plate has been raised—pardon the pun—to a new level with collectors. Their values have risen too. Milk glass, hand painted earthenware ceramic, Depression-era colored glass, World War II era aluminum, Candlewick Imperial crystal, and many other materials are the stuff of antique and vintage cake plates. Showing off one’s baked goods on a cake plate in the center of a dining table or on a kitchen countertop was a common sight in many mid to late 20th Century American homes.

The cake plate, usually on a stem or pedestal base with a matching cover or dome, is a cherished object and sparks a  tradition that is being revived now. The renewed interest in cake baking and the making of baked goods and desserts has brought cake plates back into widespread use. Some of the more popular cake plates are from the historic glass and ceramic manufacturers. Values for fine china cake plates soared to the several hundreds of dollars while other cake plates, mainly those made of glass, can be acquired for less than $250 each depending on manufacturer, design, and other factors. Cake plates of other materials regularly achieve higher values from seasoned collectors.

The kitchen is a great place to look if you want to start a cooking collection that will remind you of family meals and bygone days. Since kitchens are the center of any home, the objects found and used over the years in the kitchen remain of great interest on the collectibles market. With interest comes value and these top 5 cooking collectibles will remain good indicators of cultural history long after the meal is gone.

You can show me your cooking collectibles to be appraised by scheduling a video call or you can send me photos.

Watch videos on my YouTube channel as I show you how to identify your cooking collectibles.

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