Since I’ve been collecting Pyrex, several of my friends have decided to give it a go too. I’d love to say that that is because I’m a natural leader or because I have an innate ability to forecast trends but I’m afraid to say it’s neither of those things, it’s simply because we’re all now getting to an age where we actually enjoy cooking almost as much as eating or are equipping our own kitchens for the first time and vintage Pyrex is of course a modern design classic. Anyway, as I’ve been collecting a little longer than they have, they tend to ask me questions and the same ones crop up all the time, so I thought I’d answer them on my blog.
The first question is often “What sort of Pyrex should I collect?”. This strikes me as a rather odd question, in that if you’ve decided to collect it, you must have seen some pieces which you particularly like, so that would surely be your starting point! I think some people feel that as Pyrex collecting is becoming more popular, that there are specific things which they ‘should’ look out for. I think that’s the wrong way to go about it, as it would certainly drain the joy from hunting for your next piece. Obviously some items are harder to procure than others because they had a limited release, were a short-lived promotional pattern or because they are from a different country but it’s always better to stick to what you like. As well as building your collection on the basis of the designs you prefer, your budget will also play a part. Prices of vintage Pyrex vary enormously but one of the plus points of collecting something that in it’s heyday was extremely popular (and let’s not forget virtually indestructible!) is that there is something to suit every pocket. I personally don’t collect Pyrex tea sets or dinner sets as I prefer the casserole dishes and mixing bowls, so concentrate on them but I have one friend who particularly likes the tea sets and also collects the coffee jugs. You can gradually build up a tea or dinner set over time quite cheaply. If you plan to use your vintage Pyrex (and there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t, as long as you don’t commit the cardinal sin of putting it in the dishwasher), then you could collect pieces which fit with your style of cooking. If you would rather retire them from active duty and simply display them, you might like to collect around a specific colour scheme or pattern. The variety of styles, colours and patterns is huge and it would be virtually impossible to collect an example of every piece ever produced, so it would probably save your bank balance, not to mention your sanity, if you specialised in some way!
Another FAQ is where should I look for new pieces? You may have heard the expression “hunting for Pyrex in the wild” – this simply means finding it at a charity shop, a car boot or yard sale or as part of a house clearance, as opposed to in a specialist shop (I know, I know, the delightful images the phrase conjures up of little Pyrex dishes frolicking in a meadow somewhere would be a much nicer explanation!). It is possible still to find pieces like that, although the renewed interest in vintage Pyrex does mean it’s not as easy as it used to be. Having said that, half the fun of collecting is tracking an elusive item down and whether you find it tucked away in the corner of your aunt’s kitchen cupboard or on Etsy, the buzz is the same. Asking around your family and friends will often turn up nice vintage pieces as most kitchens in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s had several pieces of patterned Pyrex at least and that can be a nice way to start your collection and perhaps give you a theme or pattern to concentrate on. When my collection was complete (well…not complete as I haven’t really begun to scratch the surface of worldwide Pyrex yet but I’ve nothing, well, virtually nothing, that I’m searching for personally right now!), I found I couldn’t give up the chase, so started my Etsy shop and such shops are another happy hunting ground for collectors.
The last general question about collecting that I’m often asked is what should I look out for in terms of condition? When I first started collecting, I was determined that I would never buy a chipped or cracked piece or one with ‘flea bites’ (am I the only person who really detests that expression?!) and I’ve stuck to that, although I do have pieces with small scratches or patches of colour loss, almost inevitable with kitchen equipment half a century old. That said, I can foresee occasions where I would be prepared to overlook a very tiny chip (I refuse to say it!), as long as the chip was smooth and barely noticeable and it was a piece I really wanted. To some extent it depends what you are going to do with your Pyrex; if you’re going to use it, you probably wouldn’t want a piece with cracks or chips but if just for display purposes, as long as it’s not really visible, it wouldn’t matter as much.
The world of Pyrex is one of infinite variety and can be confusing when you first start to collect, over my next few posts, hopefully I’ll be able to answer some of the more specific questions collectors have but don’t like to ask as everyone else already seems to know!