What’s cooking? Nostalgia and memories drive popularity of kitchen collectibles

The kitchen is the heart of the home and many people have fond memories of sitting in granny’s kitchen, watching her use a variety of utensils to handle the cooking and baking chores at hand. The fondness of those memories, and the nostalgia conjured when handling an old utensil, are two of the reasons why collecting kitchen collectibles has gained in popularity.

Bren Bornyasz of Brensan Studios in Scottsdale, Ariz., said kitchen collectibles “bring back a feeling of nostalgia, of better times, safer times, and childhood memories of family and mom.”

Popular Kitchen Collectibles
antique colander
A blue and white swirl colander made of graniteware. This example measures 11 1/2 inches in diameter and stands 4 1/2 inches high. Photo courtesy of A Rustic Garden.
staffordshire pitcher
A shorter is bigger than a creamer, but smaller than a pitcher. This Staffordshire, England, example is 4 1/2 inches tall and almost 4 inches across.
antique mustard box
A Stickney & Poors Mustard box has a label inside in good condition, but its outside label only partially remains. The lid must have arrived at the grocers nailed down because there are holes around the top. Photo courtesy of A Rustic Garden.

Michelle Staley of My Granny’s Attic Antiques in Shawnee Mission, Kan., said some of her fondest memories revolve around her granny’s kitchen. “As a child, my granny would take out a drawer filled to the brim with exotic utensils, put it on the floor with a couple of pots and let me go to town,” Staley said. “She never complained about the noise or the mess I made. Collecting kitchen utensils allows you to bring those kinds of memories into your home.”

Staley pointed out that kitchenware items are small and easy to display, another reason for their collecting popularity. “I attach mine to large, flat vintage baskets with copper wire and hang the basket on the wall,” she said.

The variety of kitchen utensils available is another attraction for collectors. Numerous styles of devices are collected, including graters, shredders, choppers, mixers, knives, pots and pans, dishes, glassware, molds and tins.

Colors also attract collectors, Staley maintained. Some folks focus on green and yellow wood-handled items, while others gravitate toward pieces with pink, natural, red, white or black painted handles.

Primitive kitchen utensils like wood butter molds, tin cookie and biscuit cutters and handcrafted wrought iron spoons also have become popular. “The field is wide open and only limited by your taste and imagination,” Staley noted.

Susan Ingram of A Rustic Garden in Mount Sterling, Ill., said that everything from salt and peppers to cast iron skillets are hunted continually by collectors. In addition, Ingram noted, “Pottery and stoneware are always sought after and antique advertising is a rising collectible because there are so many areas to collect like coffee, dairy and Coca-Cola products.”

Bornyasz said she would put utensils like egg-beaters, garlic presses, peelers and cake splitters at the top of the popularity charts, but added that there is a strong movement toward baking pans, tins and muffin trays, especially the shaped examples like corn cobs and decorative shapes of hearts or diamonds.

“A while ago toothpick holders were very popular and there is still some continued interest,” Bornyasz said, “and there always is the timeless salt and pepper collector.”

Some of the more obscure items that sell well for Bornyasz are frogs – but not the kind that croak. “These frogs were put in the bottom of a bowl to hold flower stems and are usually made of glass,” she pointed out, “but the older ones are metal and sometimes silver plated. They sell for between $8 and $50.”

Another kitchen collectible gaining popularity is the creamer, Bornyasz said. Sugars aren’t as popular although some sell as sets. “Just about anything with a spout is popular, including small gravy boats and milk pitchers,” she added.

Staley said she has seen an increased interest in old wood kitchen collectibles. “When you hold an antique butter mold in your hands, it has a velvety smoothness to it and you can’t help but wonder how many people before you held this very piece,” she said.

Staley also sells quite a few vintage waffle irons and other electrical appliances. “The shape of the item is as attractive to people as the function,” she said. “I recently sold a Westinghouse waffle iron from the 1950s to a man because his original one had just broken and he wanted the very same one he had used for the past 50 years.”

Kitchen utensils range in price from $5 to $25 or more, depending on the condition and the rarity of the piece, according to Staley. “Some of the ‘O-Matic’ items can sell for $35, while cabbage or slaw cutters go for $25,” she said. “Guardian Service Wear and Club Aluminum pots and pans sell from $15 for a small lidded pot to $110 for an omelet pan.”

Other examples, she pointed out, include an Imperial coffee grinder at $95, an Enterprise cherry stoner at $55 and a plunger type wood butter stamp in a shock-of-wheat design at $45.

Bornyasz said she feels the smaller, more affordable utensils are the most popular with collectors, including items like hand-cranked egg beaters that sell for $20 to $30, glass juicers in the $15 to $25 range, and Jell-O molds for $8 to $9 for a common shape and up to $25 for a more unusual one. Recipe books are always popular and sell in the $8.50 to $12.50 range, she noted, and vintage tablecloths attract much attention, especially the embroidered ones, which typically sell for between $18 and $50.

Ingram said that old coffee tins with colorful advertising bring between $25 and $125, while dispensing tins from a grocery store where coffee and teas would be scooped for customers run between $125 and $1,500. Yelloware pottery canisters sell at very high prices, she maintained, and stoneware doorstops run between $400 and $2,000, depending on color and availability.

Just about every collector has a story about an unusual kitchen collectible. Staley said the strangest kitchen collectible she ever sold was a pair of French’s Mustard glass jars with pump tops. “I found them in a free box at a sale that I attended on a fluke,” she said. “I put them in my shop and they were gone in a week. I was amazed that anyone would ever want them.”

Bornyasz said she recently sold a T-shaped handle chopper with a flat blade made of hand-forged metal for $400. The chopper was unusual because its handle was gold plated and engraved. “One can only imagine the wealth of a family that had their kitchen utensils gold plated,” she observed.

Kitchen Collectibles Resources

A Rustic Garden
RR3, Box 4C
Mount Sterling, IL 62353

Brensan Studios
8912 E. Pinnacle Peak Road
F-9, Box 532
Scottsdale, AZ 85255

My Granny’s Attic Antiques
13501 W 90 Place
Shawnee Mission, KS 66215

Kitchenalia collectibles resources
spiffy kitchen collectiblesSpiffy Kitchen Collectibles
By Brian S. Alexander
Retail: $24.99 
Your price: $12.
antique trader kitchen collectiblesAntique Trader® Kitchen Collectibles Price Guide
By Kyle Husfloen
Retail: $19.99
Your price: $13.59