Of all the potential treasures found when clearing an estate, vintage kitchen ware has the ability to make me swoon. Cathrineholm Scandinavian designs are my absolute favorite, but they are much harder to find (and much more expensive!) than my second favorite – Pyrex Original Opalware.
The day I came across my first full set of late 1940’s Primary Colors mixing bowls I felt like it was Christmas morning! And, I’m not alone: there are tens of thousands of Pyrex collectors across the globe, and they undoubtedly feel the same way about Pyrex’s original patterns.
The patterns have become so sought after that World Kitchen (the company behind Pyrex today) jumped on the bandwagon and released a line of vintage-inspired bowls called “Vintage Charm™ Inspired by Pyrex®” to celebrate Pyrex’s 100 year anniversary. The quality is nowhere near the original opalware, but they are darn cute. One can only hope that this release doesn’t decimate the vintage Pyrex market, like we saw happen with Fiestaware.
What is a Pyrex original and why is it collectible?
Pyrex original opalware kitchen ware entered the market in 1945 with the iconic Primary mixing bowls and ended in the 1980’s with Autumn Harvest being one of the last patterns. Collecting a product that spans 35 years, has over 150 patterns, and offers dozens of product lines requires some homework. That’s why we’ve rounded up these 5 Best Sources for Collectors of Pyrex Original Patterns.
- Pyrex Love: Although the site is no longer updated (their Facebook Page is), this is still the best source for identifying Pyrex patterns. It’s easy to use and very extensive. You can also join the Pyrex Love Flickr Group to share photos and get information from other collectors.
- The Pyrex Collector: Another very extensive and useful Pyrex resource website. This one also includes a collector’s forum for Pyrex discussions – very helpful when you’re stuck.
- That Retro Piece: Not all Pyrex was made in the US. This site provides pattern reference for kitchen ware from Agee Crown Pyrex (Australia) and JAJ Pyrex/Pyrex England (UK).
- Hot For Pyrex: if you’re looking for beautiful photos and inspirational images for what to collect next, make sure to check out the extensive catalogue at Hot For Pyrex.
- Pyrex Passion: This site includes a very user-friendly pattern reference and a blog that includes a series of very helpful “Mystery Solved” articles that explain some of the nuances with pattern and color sets.
How do I know what I have?
Use these five sites to identify your Pyrex pieces. You’ll most likely need to rely on all three of these clues to figure out what item you have:
1. The Backstamp:
ALL Pyrex is labeled with the Pyrex backstamp. This stamp changed over the years, which can be helpful when determining the approximate age of the piece, and to ensure that everything in a set is from the same manufacturing period. This example is from the 197o’s.
2. The Color:
That one-off yellow dish you find isn’t always the right yellow for your set. It’s important to know that the solid color used for a pattern set didn’t always remain consistent, and that different pattern sets had similar solid colors. Subtle color differences will determine if a yellow refrigerator dish belongs with the Verde (left) or the Daisy (right) set.
3. The Pattern:
The reason Pyrex original kitchen ware is so desirable it usually found in the pattern itself. Everyone had their favorite (there are over 150 patterns) and there are many rare promotional items that help keep collecting exciting. Sometimes it’s easy to find the pattern and sometimes it can’t be found anywhere. For example, I’ve never been able to tie these “DW Fish” restaurant plates to an official pattern name.
With so many colors, patterns, and memories, it’s easy to understand why collecting Pyrex original patterns is so much fun and why there are so many great resources dedicated to helping collectors.
Article Cover Image: Inkon Koh, Flickr CC