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Kitchen Tools as Collectibles

Those old kitchen implements you take for granted may be worth some money

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Heart Cookie Cutter

Old cookie cutters can range in value from a few dollars (like the one shown here) to well over $1,000 for the right example from the early 1800s.

- Pamela Y. Wiggins
Sometimes collectibles turn up in really odd places, like your kitchen cabinets and drawers for instance. In fact, some of that old "junk" can be worth quite a bit of cash if offered to the right buyer.

Which Kitchen Gadgets are Collectible?

If you've been collecting for any amount of time, it won't surprise you to learn that people buy potato mashers, people buy ice cream scoops, and even more people buy old tin cookie cutters. For some, however, simply buying them isn't enough. They want to display them, discuss them and amass hordes of whatever turns their crank. And that applies literally in the case of eggbeater collectors.

You're getting the gist of this by now. Kitchen gadgets, even olive forks and those little doodads used to make melon balls, have a place in the heart of a collector out there somewhere.

In other words, if your gizmo is used in the kitchen and made in a style that's not readily sold in retail stores today, it's likely considered collectible. If you happen to dig around and find some things that turn out to be appealing in a vintage way, it might pay to check them out a little further before tossing them in the thrift store bin.

What Makes a Kitchen Item Valuable?

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, as in rarely if ever used, that adds on even more collectible value. These items were sold 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.

What a handle is made of can also have an impact on how much an old kitchen item will sell for. Some folks look for thingamajigs with wooden handles painted red or green.

Potato mashers with green handles and metal implements go for about $10-15 apiece, but that’s more than what most people would think they’re worth. Even a metal tea strainer with a red handle can bring $5-10 in some cases.

Bakelite (a type of durable plastic popular in the 1930s) devotees scour flea markets and antique shops for various utensils with handles in the usual colors of red or butterscotch yellow. 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 end of day handles, or other unusual type of implement, would bring in a similar amount, while a salad serving set with yellow handles might fetch $20-25 or so.

Single items with Bakelite handles, like a meat fork or a fancy cake server, can easily bring $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.

Are Cookie Cutters Worth Anything?

Cookie cutter fans try to find the most unique shapes and extra large or small sizes when they’re hunting and gathering. And yes, you can find all these useful tools in dozens of styles, colors and handle varieties. But are any of them really worth a dime?

You bet. 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.

Or, they're oddly shaped, like Abraham Lincoln or a moose with extra large antlers. Find a vintage spaceman cutter from the ‘50s 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.

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. Older copper cookie cutters are usually more valuable than similarly-shaped aluminum examples as well.

Can You Decorate with Kitchen Implements

So you go ahead and accumulate 100 potato mashers, what now? Hang them on the wall or line them up on shelves around the top of your kitchen grouped according to the color of the handle or the shape of the mashing tool. See how many different combinations you can run across before you start hitting duplicates over and over again.

And what about all those cookie cutters in different shapes and sizes? Put them in a big glass jar on the counter so you can see the unique shapes. For a little festivity, you can also tie a thin ribbon on each cutter and make an instant ornament. Combined with child-size items like rolling pins, they look adorable on a small Christmas tree decorating a quaint kitchen corner.

Is it Safe to Use Old Kitchen Items

The short answer to this question: absolutely!

If you’re not willing to retire your culinary tools at this juncture, as long as they're not rusty and none of the paint on the handles flakes off into your food, that’s perfectly fine. Being quite durable, your favorite 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 truly do stir memories and their special nature quickly transcends beyond mere age or novelty into that of family heirloom.

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