Pyrex cookware is becoming hot item among collectors


November 14, 1993|By Lita Solis-Cohen and Sally Solis-Cohen | Lita Solis-Cohen and Sally Solis-Cohen,Contributing Writers Solis-Cohen Enterprises Inc. Peter R. Solis-Cohen contributed to this story.

Don't look now, but you might be a Pyrex collector and not know it. After reading this, open your kitchen cupboards and take stock. Pyrex has been around for nearly 80 years, so you may have vintage pieces from your mother or grandmother -- perhaps clear glass "Ovenware" pie plates, baking dishes or custard cups, mainstays of the line produced by Corning Glass Works of Corning, N.Y.

To learn about Pyrex you own or see at flea markets, you can consult the first American book on the subject: "Pyrex by Corning: A Collector's Guide," by Susan Tobier Rogove and Marcia Buan Steinhauer ($24.95 paperback, Antique Publications, 1993). What this book lacks in artful prose and organization it makes up in enthusiasm and illustrations, including dozens of old Corning advertisements and pages of excellent color photographs of vintage Pyrex from Corning's own collection. Think of this book as an appetizer -- not as a full meal -- and you'll get a good taste of the subject, although you may hunger for something meatier.

Ms. Rogove, an assistant vice president at Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center in Plainfield, N.J., has closets full of Pyrex, which she began buying at flea markets and yard sales after a friend asked her to keep an eye out for a green Pyrex bowl missing from a set of colored nesting bowls. "Pyrex was cheap and plentiful, and I got curious about its history after I found the green bowl," Ms. Rogove says, admitting she enjoys research as much as shopping. Because virtually nothing was written for collectors about Pyrex, she saw the need for a book to document the line.

She teamed up with Dr. Steinhauer, a professor of human services administration at Rider College in Lawrenceville, N.J., who was interested in interviewing Corning workers who made Pyrex to learn about the human side of its production and to show how its advertising reflected changing American lifestyles.

Starting in 1915

The book traces the evolution of Pyrex from clear, heat-resistant oven ware made from 1915 to 1965 (an arbitrary cut-off date), to stove-top "Flameware" dating from 1936 to 1979, and colored Pyrex "Kitchenware," produced from 1947 to the mid-1980s. Of course, Pyrex still is being made, and its popularity continues to grow since it can be used in microwave ovens.

The market for vintage Pyrex is heating up. Alio Ledo, of Kitschen, 15 Christopher St., New York, N.Y. 10013, (212) 727-0430, a shop stocked floor to ceiling with 1950s kitchenware arranged by color, sells sets of four Pyrex nesting bowls in yellow, green, red and blue for $38. Old pie plates are $12 each. "People buy them to use," he said. Vintage glassware dealer Fran Jay, 10 Church St., Lambertville, N.J. 08530, (609) 397-1571, is offering "well and tree" Pyrex platters for around $20 each, and patterned colored casseroles that fit into cradles, favorite bridal shower gifts in the 1950s, priced $20 to $25 each.

Jim Bishop and Darrin Cluff, of Pleasant Surprises Antiques, R.D. 4, Box 205, Washington, N.J. 07882, sell Pyrex and what they call "other '30s, '40s and '50s kitsch -- appliances, toasters, radios and lamps," on weekends at the SOHO Outdoor Market, Broadway and Grand Street, near Chinatown in New York.

Mr. Bishop and Mr. Cluff fill their large flea-market table with Pyrex teapots, percolators and double boilers in various sizes, as well as with colored bowls, refrigerator sets, and sauce pans and skillets with detachable handles. Today, Saturday and next Sunday they're exhibiting Pyrex for the first time at the Manhattan Triple Pier Expo, Pier 88 at 52nd Street and the Hudson River in New York, a popular antiques and collectibles show which advertises that "Collecting trends start here." (For show information call Stella Show Management, [201] 384-0010.) They'll offer brightly colored mixing bowls for $30 to $35 a set of four, and refrigerator sets (a large-size dish, a medium dish, and two small dishes, all with clear glass covers) for $30 to $35, as well.

"Putting the sets together is like a puzzle for me," says Mr. Bishop. "I find two big yellow bowls, then I have to look for the red, blue and green ones, and I find them one by one." Mr. Bishop also buys and sells parts of coffeepots and double boilers, and does a brisk business in lids and handles. He recently spotted a circa-1979 Flameware coffee pot in its original box at a hardware store in his hometown, priced $21.95. It's worth twice as much, he says. (Flameware percolators can be dated by their lid knobs -- thinner knobs are earlier -- but covers often get mixed up.)


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