Antique stoves first appeared in the 1800s and were powered with wood or coal for heating or cooking. Technological advancements of the following centuries replaced iron cast stoves with modern gas or electricity-powered options, but some people are still interested in vintage stoves.
In this article, we’re going to cover everything about antique cast iron stoves and their value, starting with a short history lesson and ending with some of the best websites where you can purchase or sell one.
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The History of Iron Stove
For the most part of human existence, we used open fireplaces to prepare food and warm up. Such a method wasn’t practical, as it was difficult to start up and you couldn’t bring it inside without the risk of inhaling smoke or burning your place down.
In the Middle Ages, people started building brick & mortar hearths inside their homes with a chimney, which led the smoke outside. It was revolutionary, as now people could safely warm up their living place and prepare food over the fire in the metal cauldrons.
However, it had several drawbacks. First of all, it was rather expensive, and not everyone could afford it. Then, there was still the hazard of smoke, because some of the smoke would remain inside the house instead of going up the chimney.
Such brick & mortar hearths were slow they changed by the first modern ovens, which were made from bricks and tiles. It was first designed in 15th century France and was quickly improved by Germans, who started producing cast-iron ovens in the 16th century.
Soon after, François de Cuvilliés designed the first enclosed oven, which was called the Castrol stove. The selling point of this oven was that it kept the smoke inside, and minimized the risk of smoke inhalation.
In the 1800s, the first cast iron stove was created in Germany and brought to the Americas, where its design was improved throughout the centuries to what eventually evolved into the electric stoves most people use today.
Those stoves weighed between 200 and 600 pounds (90 to 270kg) and were mass-produced by dozens of manufacturers. Cast-iron stoves became wildly popular in the U.S and Europe but weren’t adopted widely in other parts of the world.
Now that you know the history of iron stoves, let’s talk about how you can identify what kind of stove you have collecting dust in the garage. Who knows, maybe you own a rare antique without even knowing?
How to Identify an Antique Cast Iron Stove?
Cast iron stoves are some of the easiest antiques to identify. It’s because there are many clear indicators of what kind of stove it is. In addition to that, there aren’t that many fakes, because it’s really expensive to manufacture such stoves, so it isn’t worth it for counterfeiters.
Here are general guidelines you should follow to identify what kind of stove it is:
Examine the Heat Source
Antique cast iron stoves use either coal, gas, electricity, or wood to generate heat. The ones using coal will have a vent at the top which allowed air to get to the bottom of the fire, and a metal grate at the base to stop from ash accumulating.
Electricity-powered stoves will have a cord or a port for them to be attached, and such stoves were manufactured the most recently out of all antique stoves.
Gas-powered stoves will have a valve that can be attached to a gas line. Finally, a wood stove will have a vent at the bottom to control the airflow reaching the fire burning inside.
Look for the Manufacturer’s Branding
Nearly all antique stoves, regardless of where they were made, have some sort of manufacturer’s mark displaying who made them and what kind of model it is. You’ll most likely find it embossed somewhere onto the base of the stove or its door.
If you can’t find it there, it might be attached by a wire to the firebox, so try looking at the back of the stove, or even use a flashlight to shine at the bottom. Most manufacturers’ marks are very pronounced and easy to recognize.
Some of the most popular include brands like:
- Home Comfort
- Queen Atlantic
- Charter Oak Stove Company
Keep in mind that before looking for the branding, you must make sure that the stove isn’t connected to its power source and is completely cooled off from the previous use.
Check the Patent Number
This is the single most important step in identifying any cast iron stove. All of them are embossed with their patent number starting with “PAT”. The embossment location differs by the stove, but most likely you’ll find it somewhere on the side.
After you write down the patent number, conduct a patent search and you should quickly find everything regarding your stove, including the date it was made.
How Do I Find the Value of an Antique Stove?
Now that you have identified an antique cast iron stove, you can start investigating its value. Down the line, we will recommend some websites that can help you find out the exact value of your antique stove.
However, before doing that, let’s review the main types of antique cast iron stoves and look at their value and when, by whom, and how they were made. You’ll see that throughout the years, iron stoves evolved and differed in things like vents, griddles, and ash doors.
- Five-Plate/Jamb/Box Stoves – The 1800s – $700+
Home heating didn’t see many improvements for hundreds or even thousands of years, but it all changed in the early 1800s when the first iron stoves were made in Germany.
They were called “Five-Plate or “Jamb” stoves and marked the beginning of new heating technology. The names come from the fact that it was simply a box made of jamming 5 iron plates together.
In 1756, Samuel Flower patented a ten-plate design, which exploded in popularity on the East Coast of the United States. Such stoves were made by several manufacturers, one of the most popular being Cornwall Furnace.
Today, they’re pretty difficult to come upon, and depending on the exact model and its condition, their prices start from about $700, but some could sell for several thousand dollars.
For example, one classic Victorian-Style jamb stove is being sold for $1,450, and it’s not even functional!
- Franklin/Pennsylvania Stoves – The 1800s – $150+
In 1742, one of the fiercest competitors for Jamb stoves was designed, the so-called “Franklin” or “Pennsylvania” stove. As you could guess, it was created by Benjamin Franklin.
He engineered a unique rectangular piece inside the stove that controlled the circulation of hot and cold air. The stove was free-standing on 4-legs, and also featured multiple holes at the bottom, furthermore impacting the airflows.
However, the stove was pretty dangerous to use, and there were many cases of it causing fires because of how intensely it burnt the wood inside.
That’s why in the 1770s, a man named Darren Rittenhouse improved on this design and added a chimney which minimized the possibility of a fire hazard. Just like jamb stoves, Franklin stoves are difficult to come upon, but can easily sell for thousands of dollars.
Some of the most known brands of Franklin stoves were Wilson and Rumford, and today their selling price starts at $150. However, some are much more valuable. For example, one Franklin stove is currently being sold for $2,200.
- Column Stoves – From 1830s – $2,000+
A new type of stove started surfacing in the early 1830s. It was called the “Column” stove because it featured two or four columns that stood at the basis of a horizontal pipe, through which circulated the hot air from burning fuel.
The vertical columns were usually decorated with intricate designs, and the stove had either one cooking lid or no lid at all, so it was primarily used for heating, instead of preparing food.
Some of the most known manufacturers of Column stoves were Green Island Stove Works and Geer & Cox. The price of such stoves ranges between $2,000 and $4,000, depending on the condition and model.
- Step-Top Stoves – The 1st Half of the 19th Century – $200+
These stoves started appearing in the 1920s and became extremely popular until the 1960s. Its design is reminiscent of a step, hence the name. Such stoves always featured burners, most often 4, but models with 2 or 6 were also frequent.
Some of the most notable manufacturers were Chattanooga Stove Company and J. Woodruff. While being some of the oldest iron stoves, their price isn’t impressive and you can get one for $200.
- Potbelly Stoves – The 1900s – $150 to $5,000+
These stoves have one of the most iconic designs, and you’ve definitely seen one before, whether in a movie or a museum. They appeared in the early 1900s and quickly spread all around the U.S and Europe.
Potbelly stoves feature a unique barrel-shaped body that has a circular oven inside. They were used to heat up large spaces, ranging from bigger houses to train stations.
- Cylinder Victorian Parlor Stoves – Late 1800s, early 1900s – $150 to $8,000
These stoves include some of the most valuable antique stoves. They were first developed in the late 1800s but exploded in popularity in the early 1900s, and quickly became the golden standard of home heating.
They are similar to pot-belly designs but were usually adorned with intricate designs fitting for homes of the Victorian era aristocracy. Smaller stoves were used to heat up bedrooms, while bigger models were found in ballrooms.
While you can find such stoves just for $150, most cost way more. For example, one from the late 1900s is being sold for almost $8,000. Some of the most known manufacturers were Cribben & Sexton, and J.B. Clute.
Now that you’ve probably found what type of stove you own, you can start investigating how much it’s worth. As with most antiques, there are several key factors determining the value:
Cast iron stoves that don’t have damage like scratches, rust, and cracks, are way more valuable than the ones that weren’t well kept. Another important factor is functionality. Even if most people buy antique stoves for decoration, they still prefer working stoves.
Some antiques lose value with restoration, but not cast iron stoves. It requires supreme craftsmanship to restore such a piece, and it usually adds a lot to its value. In most cases, it’s even more profitable to pay money for restoration before selling it.
The third factor determining the value of a cast iron stove is its age. A useful rule of thumb is that the older the stove, the more valuable it’s going to be. However, if it’s an old stove it isn’t necessarily going to be valuable, and you have to consider other factors.
But it’s useful to know that if there are two stoves that are made by the same manufacturer, have the same condition, and are of the same model, the one made earlier is always going to be valued higher.
The final, and arguably the most important factor is the rarity of a stove. Rare stoves are harder to come by, and naturally, the lower the supply, the higher the price is going to be.
No one is going to pay a lot of money for an iron cast stove that can be found all over the place. That’s why only the rarest models are selling for a lot of money.
These things can be difficult to assess if you have no experience in antiques. Fortunately, can use one of many online websites that can help you assess the price. Here’s a list of some of the best ones:
This is an online appraisal website that offers to evaluate your antique, including cast iron stove, in under 48 hours. It has over 60 experts that previously worked in world-renowned auction houses like Christie’s.
All you have to do is to provide a detailed description, including its measurements and defects, and upload as many pictures as you can. The only downside is that it costs $28, which can be a waste of money if your stove isn’t going to sell for a lot.
This is another online appraisal website, this one offering both, paid and free evaluations of antiques, including iron stoves. The procedure is the same, just write a description and upload some pictures.
Despite being free, Mr. Expert offers appraisals in under 48 hours! The paid option includes a more in-depth analysis of your cast iron stove, and the price of it depends on the exact antique.
If you want to know how much your cast iron stove is worth, it’s also a good idea to visit some online marketplaces and check for how much other people are selling or buying similar stoves.
Where to Sell and Buy Antique Stove?
Whether you have a valuable antique iron stove collecting dust in your garage, or you’re interested in owning something cool, there are several websites that host thousands of postings just for that. Here are some of the best ones:
Currently, there are over 2,000 listings related to collectible stoves on the U.S website alone. eBay also has 5 international websites with different listings. So far in 2022, the most expensive stove was sold for $3,600! It was a pot-belly stove made by Amhurst.
Etsy is another great option if you want to buy or sell an antique iron stove online. Buyers from all around the world are visiting this webpage daily, and the platform itself offers everything you’d want for a smooth exchange.
This is a family business specializing in all things related to antique cast iron stoves. Good Time Stove company can restore and repair antique stoves, and even convert any stove to electric or gas. They also sell and buy rare stoves, so it’s worth checking them out.
Another company that is specializing in antique iron stoves. Besides selling some rare stoves, they also offer restorations and repairs. Evansville Antique Stove Company can do everything from cleaning, sandblasting, and wielding, to making new parts, painting, and even nickel plating.
If you’re not a fan of online websites, you can visit your local antique and look for an iron stove. Most bigger shops have at least one or two you can buy on the spot. It’s always nice to see the stove in person before you commit to buying it.
Online options are great, but sometimes the descriptions are vague, or even worse, untruthful, and you could end up wasting a lot of money buying a stove that isn’t worth as much as you’ve paid.
However, keep in mind that if you’re looking to sell your own cast iron stove to an antique shop, make sure you contact it before bringing it in person. It’s because not every antique shop accepts big objects like that, and they might have to call a 3rd party appraiser to evaluate your iron stove.
This option is for those who own old stoves that aren’t worth much. If that’s the case, you can sell it for scrap, and potentially earn more than you’d by selling it. Prices for scrap vary vastly depending on your location, so we can’t recommend anything specific.
However, we can recommend you to look up several scrap yards or metal recyclers in your area and see which one is going to pay you the most.