Vintage kitchen tools and gadgets are collectible and can be worth quite a bit of cash if offered to the right buyer. If you're going through old kitchen supplies or visiting a flea market, it might pay to check the value of older items before tossing them in the garage sale box.
Which Kitchen Gadgets are Collectible?
If your kitchen gadget is no longer in production or is made in a style that's not readily sold in retail stores today, it's likely considered collectible. Collectors are interested in items such as potato mashers, eggbeaters, ice cream scoops, melon ballers, olive forks, and tin cookie cutters, just for a start. Before you start listing your old melon ball scoop on eBay, however, it's important to check into its value to collectors: not all older kitchen appliances are worth more than a few dollars.
What Makes a Kitchen Item Valuable?
Some qualities are more valuable than others, and value generally relates to scarcity. If your old kitchen gadgets are hard to find and in new condition, they may be worth quite a bit to a collector.
Unusual features, shapes, and styles of ordinary kitchen items make them more valuable. For instance, something as mundane as an ice cream scoop can be worth hundreds of dollars if it’s made by a well-known manufacturer like Gilchrist, and it has an unusual shape.
If the condition is excellent to mint (rarely if ever used), collectible value increases. Most kitchen items were sold to be used in kitchens frequently, and the old ones were made to last. It’s unusual to find one that doesn’t show some wear.
Manufacturers made small quantities of items with specific types of handles. As a result, certain types of handles can make a gadget more valuable. For example, many collectors are eager to find items with wooden handles painted red or green. These were very popular in the 1930s and 1940s.
Potato mashers with green handles and metal implements go for about $10–15 each and a metal tea strainer with a red handle can bring $5–10 in some cases. Just be sure not to wash those items with a painted handle in the dishwasher or you risk removing all the color.
Bakelite (a type of durable plastic popular in the 1930s) devotees scour flea markets and antique shops for utensils with handles in the usual colors of red, butterscotch yellow, or apple green. As a result, these items art relatively valuable. For instance, a set of butter knives with Bakelite handles in various bright colors might sell in the $40–50 range. A set of matching lobster forks with brown marbled handles, or another unusual type of implement, would bring in a similar amount, while a salad serving set with yellow handles might fetch $20–25.
Single items with Bakelite handles, like a meat fork or a fancy cake server, can often bring in $20–25. Find a large slotted spoon or pastry cutter in very good condition and you can expect to sell it for $12–20 when the right customer comes along.
Cookie cutters range in price from $40–$1,550 in many price guides. However, the exceptionally valuable examples date back a lot farther than most of those stashed around the average house. The older examples often date back to pre-1850 and have flat backs.
Cookie-cutter fans try to find the most unique shapes and extra-large or small sizes when they’re hunting and gathering. Examples include cookie cutters shaped like Abraham Lincoln or a moose with extra-large antlers. Find a vintage spaceman cutter from the 1950s and you might get as much as $75–100 for it. Vintage Halloween examples shaped like witches and cats with arched backs can also be worth about $25 apiece, sometimes more for unusual designs.
But most any tin cookie cutter holds some value, even it's just a few dollars.
- Examples with little painted wooden handles bring a little more money than those without, even in ordinary shapes like hearts or stars.
- Older copper cookie cutters are usually more valuable than similarly-shaped aluminum examples.
- Newer plastic cookie cutters are usually less valuable unless they depict a very unusual subject matter and are no longer being marketed.
Is it Safe to Use Old Kitchen Items?
It is perfectly safe to use your vintage culinary items as long as they're not rusty and none of the paint on the handles flakes off into your food. Being quite durable, your favorite vintage kitchen implements will likely be around for the next generation of collectors if you're not quite ready to put them to rest just yet. Simply hang on to those collectibles and continue to use them.
There’s also something great about taking a gadget out of the drawer to use it and thinking about your grandmother, mom, or a favorite aunt if you're fortunate enough to have some of their kitchen tools. In this way, kitchen collectibles can truly become family heirlooms.