My favorite event of the year is the G&CICA National Conference. G&CICA is the Griswold & Cast Iron Cookware Association (http://www.gcica.org/), and it’s full of people who love vintage cast iron as much – or even more! – than me.
Folks bring fabulous iron from all over the country to sell, trade, or just show off. It’s traditionally one of our biggest buying events of the year, though last year’s Simmons Auction, and a couple of collections have eclipsed that.
The event is held in a different city every year. Last year was Springfield, MO and this year it was Baton Rouge, LA from 19-22 April. Baton Rouge was a great pick this year, as my home city of Minneapolis had 2 feet of snow drop in a blizzard the weekend before I left.
Most years, the event starts on the Thursday, with check-in day, but not this year! Two of the hosts, Clayton M. and Malinda F. started the the party early, and invited everybody over to their house for a southern meal. They brought their friends in to help, and there were multiple grills going out the back of the house, with everything from crawdads to alligator!
The next day was the official start, and check-in day. It’s meant to be an easy day where people check in, get their registration kit, and unpack, but it’s full of catching up with old friends, and best of all – Room Sales! Many G&CICA Members bring boxes and boxes of cast iron to sell. These people know what they’re doing, so most of the pieces have been cleaned and seasoned. I always reclean and re-season every piece I get, but having all the hard scrubbbing done by somebody else is quite the blessing.
I think my favorite score from Room Sales was this Selden & Griswold Waffle Iron from the late 1800’s.
It has a button hinge, and a circular waffle pattern. Thank you, Sonny McCarter for such a cool piece! This one is going into my private collection. Sorry folks!
The serious iron starts on Friday, with Show & Tell of interesting and unique pieces that people have collected in their travels!
Bob Kellerman was the next speaker. He had just retired from being the CEO of Lodge Manufacturing, and had a 48 year career with the company. He is the direct descendent of Joe Lodge, who founded Lodge Manufacturing in 1910. Of all the foundries that our vintage pans come from, Lodge is the only one still in operation today.
Bob was an interesting, and highly entertaining speaker. Of course there was a Q&A afterwards, and if there was one crowd that was going to stump the guy who’d know the most about Lodge, it was G&CICA Members!
Not only that, he generously gave everybody in the audience a Lodge Skillet to take home. What a cool gift! Bob stayed around to talk cast iron and answer questions for quite some time after the presentation.
The first afternoon presentation was something special. Joel Schiff had been an avid cast iron collector, and an incredibly knowledgeable member of G&CICA and WAGS (Wagner and Griswold Society). He had a 10,000 piece collection of both American and European cast iron cookware, and his big dream was to create a cast iron museum. His heirs have been working towards that dream, and have spent thousands of hours cataloging his collection. You can see some of his pieces at http://schiffcastironcollection.com/.
That evening was the cast iron auction. I love cast iron auctions!
Items are laid out on tables so you can check their condition, and give them a closer look prior to bidding.
Everybody is furtively making notes on condition and their maximum bid, and trying not to let anybody else see them.
There were all kinds of cool items, pretty much every size skillet and dutch oven, a George Washington Bicentennial Skillet Lid, a Wagner No. 13 pie logo skillet, toys of all shapes and sizes, hammered items, a Wearever salesman sample cast, and what was really cool – a set of Wapak Indianhead pieces, not only skillets in multiple sizes, but waffle irons too!
I try and look casual about the things that really excite me (like the Griswold Loaf Pan, and the Lodge Acorn skillet), whilst keeping an eye on who else is lingering in front of those items. Will I have fierce competition with deep pockets?
One cool piece is the aluminum Wagner Oven Skillet to the left.
It has a wooden handle that you can remove – so you don’t have to worry about the handle getting hot, or catching on fire (if you’re on a campfire).
It was made in the 1930’s, and in retrospect, I wish I’d bid on it. I’d love to take this camping!
The auction took several hours. I was exceedingly pleased to get both a Griswold Loaf Pan, and the Lodge Acorn Pan. Of course, I ended up with more pans (and a blue Griswold Skillet Cover) than I planned but that’s pretty normal for me!
We had a treat when G&CICA Member, and retired cattle auctioneer Harold Henry (pictured) jumped in to auction off a few pieces. Harold has an extensive collection, with a preference for Lodge. Pan Handler founder Mary wrote a blog on his collection, which you can read here.
A confession – every auction I go to, I seem to make one mistake. This year I wasn’t paying attention, and launched into some enthusiastic bidding for what I thought was a set of pans. When I won, I was surprised to find out I won a #3 Griswold Lid! I’d jumped in one lot too early! Fortunately I was able to sell the lid to another member.
I studiously avoided the swap meet the next morning. I had overspent my budget at the auction the night before, and the last thing I needed was more temptation! Not only that, I had – perhaps foolishly – flown to this event, rather than driven, so my ability to transport cast iron back to Minnesota was limited.
I did make it to a talk on the Martin Stove & Range Co from Florence, Alabama. Did you know that Lodge made some of Martin’s skillets for them? If you find a vintage pan with the customary Lodge 3-notch heat rin, but a Martin logo on it, you’ll know what it is! I’ve uploaded some photos of the lesser known Martin pieces below.
Later that afternoon, members displayed the more interesting parts of their collections during Table Topics. Personally, I would be happy with an entire day of table topics, there is never enough time to talk to people about their pieces!
As you all know, I have a special place in my heart for hammered pieces, and local boy Eric McAllister had just the table for me, with a hammered muffin pan, hammered corn stick pan, hammered griddle…. hammered everything!
Following Table Topics was the club’s Annual General Meeting, and at night was the Banquet! It was the best kind of banquet too, with lots of prizes, and very few speeches! I even won a Service Award, for helping with both the club’s newsletter and website, so I came away with TWO free skillets from this conference!
Next year, the event is being held in Florence, KY (right near Cincinnati, OH) and I can assure you of two things:
1. I’m driving, not flying, and
2. I”m taking a Very Big Trailer for all my cast iron!
PS – If you want to join G&CICA and come to this, and other events around the USA, you can join right here. The membership fee is $25 per person, or $30 for a family. Tell them Anna sent you!