Wagner cast iron is antique cookware that is regarded as one of the best in the market. Despite its age, it still works fine. It is bought by people who prefer vintage cast iron cookware or collectible enthusiasts. However, it can be challenging to identify Wagner cast iron. Below is the cookware’s history and how to identify it.
This article will cover
- History of Wagner Cast Iron
- The Value Of The Wagner Cast Iron
- The Identify Guide Of The Wagner Cast Iron
- Why Use The Wagner Cast Iron
History of Wagner Cast Iron
Wagner cast iron was produced by the Wagner Manufacturing Company, founded by two brothers, Bernard and Milton Wagner, in 1891 in Sydney, Shelby County, Ohio. In the following years, two more Wagner brothers, Louis and William, joined the company.
The company was one of the largest manufacturers of cookware in America during its time. Their range of products included scoops, kettles, bean pots, skillets, Dutch ovens, griddles, waffle irons, etc. They also had a nickel-plated range of products that didn’t react to acidic foods.
In 1894, they started manufacturing aluminum cookware, making them one of the pioneer companies. They had the most advanced manufacturing facility, and they were globally recognized and awarded for it.
During this period, they had competitors, such as the Sidney Hollow Ware founded by Philip Smith and Griswold. Sidney’s products were of high quality and sold well in the market. However, in 1987, they bought Sidney Hollow Ware.
This acquisition strengthened the Wagner Manufacturing Company. Even though Sidney was resold back to Philip in 1903, it wasn’t reopened.
To cope with the reduction in sales during the Great Depression, the company introduced a new product, Magnalite. Even though this product was highly successful, it didn’t stop the decrease in sales. The company could no longer cope and was sold to a car manufacturing company, Randall Company, in 1952.
The Randall Company also acquired Griswold in 1957. Both companies were resold to Textron in 1959. Finally, in 1969, General Housewares Corporation bought both Wagner and Griswold and officially stopped production in 1994. In 2005, the American Culinary Corporation bought both Wagner and Griswold.
Wagner cast iron cookware was one of the finest in its days. They were ultra-light and of high quality, characteristics that most modern cast iron cookware doesn’t have. As such, they are favorites of antique collectors.
However, you need to know how to identify a Wagner cast iron correctly as there are many adulterated products in the market. You can also check for genuine photos of Wagner cast iron on reliable collector websites to aid your search.
The Value Of The Wagner Cast Iron
Wagner products are no longer manufactured again. As such, they can hardly be found in the market. Due to their usefulness despite their age, they cost a high amount of money. They are sold for nothing less than $1500 per piece.
However, not all Wagner products sold at a high price are original. Inferior goods are also sold for high prices under the guise of Wagner products. Here are some of the things that determine the value of Wagner cast iron:
The construction often determines how old the cookware is and how much it is worth. Usually, vintage cookware like Wagner cast iron often has raised rings at the bottom, allowing some space between the cookware and the stovetop.
Also, every part of the handle is molded together. There is no need for a ridge or rivet. Also, take note of all the markings on the pan’s bottom. If they are the same as Wagner’s trademarks and logos, the cookware is an original Wagner product.
The condition of the Wagner cast iron also determines its value. It’s less likely for the cast iron to be the same as the day it was made. However, the fewer changes the cookware has, the higher the value.
If the cast iron is in mint condition, it will be as good as new despite its age. This happens if the cookware was rarely used and properly kept. If the Wagner cast has some flaws, then the condition is excellent.
If it has survived a few crashes, then it is in good condition. The value attached to each condition is different. Ensure you look out for discoloration, signs of repair, chips, etc., before you buy any Wagner cast iron.
This is perhaps the most significant determinant of the Wagner cast iron value. Wagner cast iron cookware is very rare as production no longer takes place. Besides, its unusual characteristics have yet to be matched by most modern cookware manufacturing companies. The value increases with the rarity of the Wagner cast iron piece you find.
The Identify Guide Of The Wagner Cast Iron
Identifying a Wagner Cast iron can be difficult if you don’t know how to go about it. Wagner Cast Iron changed its markings and logos over time. Besides, other companies took over Wagner at some point in time, which caused a change in the markings. Here is a guide on how you can identify Wagner cast iron;
WAGNER (1891 – 1921)
The company used the trademark “WAGNER” for the first thirty years of its operations. The trademark was incised in a straight line or an arc. Sometimes, it had the incision, “SIDNEY, O” below it.
Wagner Ware (1914 – 1922)
However, in 1914, the first trademark was modified. Wagner Cast Iron started using the trademark “Wagner Ware” on its cookware. They tried their best to insert the new word into the letters on their previous products.
Stylized logo (1922 – 1935)
Around 1922, Wagner Cast Iron made a stylized logo, which became an iconic trademark. The stylized logo was a combination of large-sized “W,” “SIDNEY,” and “O.” The “W” stood for Wagner Ware and the “O” for Ohio.
However, the stylized logo had no fixed position on the bottoms of the cookware; it was moved around often. Between 1924 and 1935, the logo was set in the center until it was finally fixed in the 12’ O’clock position.
The stylized logo was used for some time before variations were added to it. The number and letter were moved a bit upwards, while the words “CAST IRON SKILLET” were added and placed in a 6 o’clock position.
Both the stylized logo and new words were surrounded with a border to form the shape of a wedge. Since the shape looked like the slice of a pie, it was called the pie logo. The pie logo appeared on the skillets for almost ten years before it went out of production.
However, after 1959, Wagner Cast Iron had been sold to Randall. Randall moved the foundry to Cincinnati; as such, the words “SIDNEY -O-” were removed from the pie logo. Many people see 1959 as the year high-quality Wagner products were no longer in production. General Housewares Corporations bought Wagner from Randall, and this affected the markings on the skillets.
Why Use The Wagner Cast Iron
Wagner cast iron still performs better than most modern cast iron though it’s vintage cookware. Here are some of the benefits of using one:
It is tough and durable
Just like its counterparts, Wagner’s cast iron is tough and almost indestructible. This is why it is still useful after many years of production. In fact, it can outlast a lifetime and serve as a family heirloom. However, ensure you maintain it properly.
It can withstand extremely high temperatures
The Wagner cast iron conducts heat quickly and can withstand very high temperatures. It comes in handy if you need to cook over rowan fire. It also distributes heat evenly across the cooking surface and retains heat even after it’s no longer on the stovetop. Its rustic look also makes your kitchen a historic feel.
It is more elegant than modern cast iron
Equally important is that Wagner cast iron is more elegant in look and better than most modern cast iron cookware, which is rough. The makers of the Wagner cast iron paid attention to every detail, as both the interior and exterior of the cookware are smooth.
It is non-stick when adequately seasoned
The Wagner cast iron can be a mess when you first come across it. This is because it has spent many years unused and uncared for. However, you can restore it to its original condition. Ensure you clean it with warm water, mild soap, and a non-scratch scrubber.
This will remove the dirt buildup and prepare the pan for seasoning. If it is rusty, make a mixture of salt and lime, apply some on steel wool and use it to scrub the affected area vigorously. If you clean it well, the pan will look as good as new. After cleaning, apply some oil to every side of the pan’s interior and heat it. You’ll notice how non-stick it is when cooking.
Wagner cast iron is highly-treasured cookware because of its excellent performance and rarity. You can buy it as a collectible or add it to the cookware you use in the kitchen. However, ensure you buy the original Wagner cast iron as many fake ones sell for high prices in the market.
Michael Johnson is the founder of The Pan Handler, Inspired by his blacksmith grandfather’s legacy has a deep appreciation for hand-crafted pots and pans, he provides invaluable guides, reviews, and recipes to enhance your culinary journey.