Collector's Corner: Vintage Pyrex Kitchenware
By Linda S. Mills
Remember when you sat in mom's warm kitchen and watched her whip up your favorite comfort foods? Chances are you'll never taste a mac and cheese quite like hers again, but the brightly patterned Pyrex dishes she cooked with have become a hot collectible and a charming reminder of days gone by.
Pyrex, you say? Isn't that those non-descript glass pans and red-lined measuring cups stacked along grocery shelves? While most of us think of today's utilitarian cookware as anything but interesting, there was a time (from the late 1940s through the mid-1980s), when the Corning Glass Company produced a wonderful array of colorful, embellished cookware that is prized today for its unique beauty and considered a healthier alternative to plastic containers and glazed imported ceramics.
Corning Glass began manufacturing clear kitchenware in 1915, and their heat-resistant baking dishes, custard cups, bowls and etched serving pieces landed on nearly every American table throughout the 1920s and 1930s. The end of WW II marked the dawning of the great baby boom era and a period of considerable economic prosperity. Homemakers spent vast amounts of time in their kitchens and favored cooking implements that were more vibrant as well as sturdy. Corning responded by creating white (opalized) glass casseroles, refrigerator containers, mixing bowls and baking dishes that were finished with rainbow colors and whimsical patterns, reflecting the popular styles and trends of the day.
During the 1950s, turquoise and pink were all the rage, and patterns such as "Amish Butterprint" and "Gooseberry" mark the decade that produced some of the most intricate, finely crafted designs. Green, gold, orange and brown mirrored the mod 1960s and early 1970s, and some of the bolder graphics, such as the rare "New Dot" (1967), are in high demand today.
Savvy collectors look for Pyrex that is in near-perfect condition, without cracks, chips or fading. They often focus on completing an entire set of a favorite pattern or invest in '50s gems, hard-to-find colors/patterns, and unique promotional pieces that were marketed for a brief period of time. While an occasional scratch may be acceptable, the monetary value is directly proportionate to the overall condition of an item. Pieces that include the original box, a clear/painted lid or warming cradle will fetch a higher price, as well.
Lots of interesting pieces are available for purchase online. Lucky collectors can also stumble upon some great finds at thrift stores and flea markets for modest prices ($2-$10), while antique stores often double or triple the asking price, especially for rare, older patterns. A set of 4 "Amish Butterprint" mixing bowls (1959) may still be a relative bargain at $60, but extremely rare "Rainbow Stripes" (1965) goes for as much as $150 a set, and you'll probably never find them at your local Goodwill.
So while you're busy raiding your mother's attic, here are some great resources to help you learn more about her long-forgotten Pyrex treasures.
Pyrex Love - Link to website - This site offers a great overview of vintage Pyrex history, colors, patterns, care instructions and other practical tips for collectors.
Pyrex Love Flickr Group - Link to website - A great, interactive community of Pyrex collectors who post their latest finds and other fun information about their favorite treasures.
The Pyrex Files - Link to website - This site offers vintage Pyrex pattern identification.
Corelle Corner - Link to website - Various pages offers information on Pyrex patterns and the Corelle dishes that were sold as companion pieces to Pyrex cookware.
The Pyrex Museum - Link to website - A must see for Pyrex collectors who travel to the Pacific Northwest.
About the author:
Linda S. Mills is a freelance writer with a background in the education and non-profit sectors. Her articles, essays and short fiction have appeared in local newspapers, magazines and various online venues. She enjoys lending an authentic, creative voice to everyday topics. You can find her writing at Constant-Content.com
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