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What is Vintage Cast Iron?

By Norma Jean Howland
Updated May 17, 2024
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When it comes to cast iron, most people think about cookware, but vintage cast iron can be found in just about anything old, from a bootjack to a bookend. Cast iron is an alloy that is usually composed of iron, carbon and a mixture of other elements. This compound is melted and poured into a cast, and the results may be soft and strong or brittle and hard, depending on the type of mold and exact mixture. Since cast iron has been around for a very, very long time, there are many antique items around today that were made from it.

Although modern day cast iron is quite often associated with pots and pans, this metal has been in use for centuries, so finding antiques will not usually be limited to the kitchen area. Of course, there are many cooking items made from cast iron as well as turn of the century fire tools and old-fashioned irons that may come in handy as paperweights. Other cooking-related items fashioned out of vintage cast iron are stoves, teapots and cauldrons.

Vintage cast iron may also be found in antique toys, which often have intricate detailing, including toy cannons, ice wagons and fire trucks. There are doll house items made from cast iron as well, such as vintage doll dressers with drawers that open and miniature cook stoves. For the automotive enthusiast, there are antique cars, buses and tractors made from cast iron, painted in red, blue, or green. Cast iron was also a popular choice for saving money in the past, with different styles of banks, from an elephant coin bank to an ice cream truck bank.

Of course, vintage cast iron may be found in more practical items that were used around the house, too, including fire tools, doorstops, and match holders. In the den or study, vintage cast iron was used for bookends, inkwells and name plates. Cast iron even found its way into practical items such as boot scrapers and, what may have been considered a luxury, cast iron mirror frames.

On the rare side, vintage cast iron is often found in one-of-a-kind items, such as a fireman’s helmet painted bright red or a lighthouse lamp. For those who smoke, there are even cast iron cigar cutters or ashtrays. Since cast iron tends to be heavy, it was often a popular choice for a doorstop, and there are some unusual ones out there — from a ship anchor to a pig-shaped stopper.

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Discussion Comments

By anon244289 — On Jan 31, 2012

I find all kinds of metals and minerals interesting. I've worked with different metals as a machinist, and I've just purchased an antique cauldron kettle. It has some kind of mixing or plunging handle with a big white ball on the end of the handle. Could you tell me what this is?

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