How to avoid fake Griswold and Wagner cast iron antique cookware

By Doris Mosier

I’d be the first to admit I’ve been fooled a few times and purchased reproductions in my quest to add to my growing collection of vintage cast iron cookware, especially when I was a new collector. Now that I know better, I use reproductions I’ve bought to show people what not to buy.

Focusing Collecting Efforts on Cookware

Cast iron skillet handles

Unmistakable handles of cast iron skillets (Archive photos)

Specializing in the best, I collect Griswold cast iron cookware made between 1880 and 1957. The earliest of the cookware was marked ERIE for the Pennsylvania city it was made in. ERIE iron remains among the finest of Griswold’s foundry products.

One Griswold item especially difficult to locate is the Erie No. 5 skillet, made only in 1907, and with very low production. One in good condition is valued at $650 to $700 price range. A reproduction is valued at $5 or less.

A collector who saw some reproduction Griswold cast iron cookware at a flea market might think he or she had made a great find, especially if priced at $75 or $100. However, the faint markings can give the new collector cause for pause and give the example away as a reproduction.

Clues For Authenticating Cookware

If you had an authentic skillet with you, you’d immediately see the difference; but let’s face it, if you’re looking for a difficult-to-obtain collector’s item, you won’t likely have a duplicate with you.

Learn to look for the tell-tale signs of a reproduction: poor casting, faint markings, orange rust and a “heavy” feel.

One trait that happens when a foundry uses an authentic item to make a reproduction is what collectors call “shrinkage.” A new skillet mold made from an original skillet as a pattern will shrink a bit in the process. The new skillet also tends to weigh more.

Association Offers Assistance and Camaraderie

After a while, an expert learns the heft and style, almost at a glance. If you compare a fake Erie No. 5 side by side with an original, you’ll see the fake is slightly smaller but heavier.
Reproductions abound when people collect anything of rarity and value. There are always people out there ready to take your money, even fraudulently. Any good collector’s organization tries to educate its members so costly mistakes don’t happen to them.

At the Griswold & Cast Iron Cookware Association, we pride ourselves in making information about reproductions in several ways. Our club’s website has listings of known reproductions under “Cookware,” including pictures and pertinent information for anyone to access.

At our four regional meets and at our annual convention, reproductions are always available for discussion and review to keep members apprised of new schemes designed to part them from their money.

In our publication, “The Pan Handler,” we feature a reproduction in each of the four annual issues. To learn more about other reproductions, visit the Griswold & Cast Iron Cookware Association.

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