Thanks everyone for your comments on my rare Griswold #2 Skillet! As I mentioned, I was lucky enough to find a larger #8 Griswold pan on a nearby shelf on the same day.
I usually find large cast iron pans too heavy to handle but this one seemed surprisingly light when I picked it up. Vintage cast iron has thinner walls and smoother finishes than those produced by major manufacturers today. I suspect this has to do with labour costs, as the old Griswold and Wagner factory workers completed the extra step of grinding the pan interiors to a smooth finish after casting. Some sources also refer to higher quality metals being mined during that era.
There are pros and cons for both vintage and modern pans. The newer Lodge cast iron pieces have a rougher finish, but their thicker walls allow the pan to heat up slowly and retain even cooking temperatures. Griswold pans are better for searing, as their thinner walls heat up more quickly. The smooth surfaces are better suited to seasoning, and subseqently provide better non-stick performance.
I love this elegantly simple detail at the underside of the handle as it meets the pan. Apparently this is an identifying mark for collectors to differentiate authentic pieces from fakes.
I was certainly surprised to learn the high value of the collectable small skillet shown below. This larger pan, on the other hand, is in a much more common size and is therefore valued at about $40. I think I may have to dabble in the art of Thrift ReSelling for the little guy, and keep this one for myself.
My plan is to clean the pans thoroughly and season them well so I can examine their true condition. The beauty of old cast iron is their ability to be stripped, cleaned, and restored. I can't wait to see the results of this process! If all goes well, I will post a tutorial on the subject. =)
If you are planning to keep your eyes peeled for valuable vintage cast iron pieces, here are the Top Five pointers I picked up:
1. Griswold is more sought after than Wagner
2. Wagner pans are similar quality to Griswold (I suppose ReSell the Griswolds, keep the Wagners?)
3. Heat Rings on the underside of a Griswold pan date the piece to the 1920s or before
4. Griswold pans without an ERIE marking were made in a separate factory and are of much lower value
5. Some later pans were marked with both Griswold and Wagner names when the companies merged. These are of limited value.