Everything You Need to Know About Buying Vintage Pyrex
If you’re even semi-serious about quality cooking materials or working in a kitchen with a bit of style (or both), you are likely very familiar with the appeal of vintage Pyrex. Mass-produced by Corning Glass Works from 1945 to 1986, these once-ubiquitous stalwarts of the kitchen are known for their durability, versatility, and (perhaps most importantly), impressive array of often colorful designs that perfectly reflect the aesthetic of their era.
It used to be that on a casual trip to a thrift store, garage sale, or estate sale, you could pick up a vintage Pyrex mixing bowl, casserole, butter dish, etc. for prices that ranged from dirt cheap to still within the realm of reason and affordability. But that’s rarely the case now. Aa an inveterate thrifter and Pyrex fan, in recent years I’ve noticed not just an increase in asking prices for vintage Pyrex, but also a stratospheric — in my mind, almost absurd — rise in the cost of pieces. This has, it seems, corresponded with me finding fewer bowls and servers in my thrift store visits. I needed to know: What gives? What happened?
To find out, I went to the people who know best: vintage Pyrex collectors (read: obsessives). Here’s what I learned.
It’s true, prices really have ballooned. “Absolutely. The game has changed pretty significantly in the last few years,” says Amanda Block of Pyrex Therapy, who notes that it’s the coasts — particularly the West Coast — that are seeing the most extreme price increases. A major factor in price increases, especially in coastal areas, are flippers or resellers, who are hip to the surge of interest in vintage Pyrex and are literally cashing in on it. Knowing that vintage Pyrex can fetch some high prices, resellers snag it off the shelves, jack the price up, and list it online.
The resellers aren’t the only ones looking to leverage the appeal and value of vintage Pyrex. Many thrift stores pull vintage Pyrex to sell online or in a special “boutique” section, the latter of which of course features premium prices to go along with the fancy behind-the-glass display.
Flippers and resellers aside, vintage Pyrex is not immune to capitalism’s forces of supply and demand. For starters, it’s not produced anymore, so there’s a finite amount of vintage Pyrex in the world. Throw in an increased interest from collectors, and the introduction of easy ways for people to liquidate their family’s own stash of vintage Pyrex for a nice price, and the $5 bowl spotted at the thrift store — aka OITW, or “out in the wild” — is much harder to come by, and much more expensive. “The accessibility of Facebook Marketplace has changed the amount of good vintage stuff going to thrift stores,” says Block. “Now anyone can take a picture of Grandma’s dishes and post it … it’s impacted how much is getting donated.”
So, yes, prices are up. But if you’re in the market for some vintage Pyrex — for yourself, for your Pyrex-loving friend, whomever — luckily, there are some simple guidelines that will help you be a savvy shopper who knows what’s worth a splurge, and what’s just plain over-priced.
Know what’s out there.
There’s no shortage of information on vintage Pyrex. Corning offers this helpful guide to Pyrex patterns and their years of production, so it’s easy to find out if something was produced for several, or many years, and what had a brief, even single-year release. This can help you determine how many are probably still out there.
Pink and turquoise are always going to command higher prices.
Fun and pretty to look at, these are also iconic hues of the 1950s, and Pyrex was creating patterns like Gooseberry, Butterprint, Pink Daisy, and Snowflake in these colors at that time. Some are more rare than others, but in general, a pink or turquoise Pyrex dish is always going to fetch more than one in a more muted tone. Browns and oranges (Autumn Harvest, Early American, Woodland), and patterns that still surface fairly frequently (Butterfly Gold, Spring Blossom, Verdé) can be easier to find and lower-priced. Individual bowls from the Primary Colors set (in green, red, blue, and yellow) also pop up often, as they were a kitchen staple from 1945 to 1968.
It is still possible to thrift vintage Pyrex.
There’s more competition for sure, but you can still find it. Our experts named Saver’s, Value Village, Volunteers of America, Salvation Army Thrift Stores, and Goodwill as good places to look.
Consider the condition (and if you can rehab a piece).
As with most vintage items, condition often plays a role in determining the value of a piece. The scourge of Pyrex lovers everywhere is DWD (“dishwasher damage,” or “dishwasher dead”). FYI: Don’t put your vintage Pyrex in the dishwasher; its shiny finish will be destroyed. DWD is hard to rehab, although you can rub some coconut oil on a piece to simulate its former sheen.
Other damage may look bad, but is actually quite reversible. Some well-loved Pyrex can have gray-ish marks on the inside or outside that may look like scratches. However, a good wash and a gentle scrub with dishwashing soap, silverware polish, Bar Keeper’s Friend (powder), or Peek Paste can often clean up a piece of Pyrex considerably.
Finally, while a serious collector may pass on a bowl or dish with tiny imperfections in the finish (try holding a piece up to the light to get a good look), that doesn’t mean it can’t be a perfectly lovely addition to your kitchen or collection.
Be a smart online shopper.
Don’t have time to scour garage sales and thrift stores? While these are the best spots to score bargains, you can find plenty of vintage Pyrex for sale online. Just shop smartly. You will see listings for Pyrex asking for hundreds, even thousands of dollars, and in some cases, these prices are “merited” in that they are true collectibles. (See: the Pink Tulip or Lucky in Love casserole dishes.) But use caution when considering a listing advertised as “rare” Pyrex. “If you’re new to collecting, ‘rare’ is a trigger word. People overuse it,” says Tosha Cooper of for.the.love.of.pyrex, adding you can find dozens and dozens of listings selling “rare” Pyrex, many of which may be misleading. She points out that there is a big difference between asking price, and sold price. To get a more realistic sense of going rates, she recommends doing a search for “vintage Pyrex” on sites and filtering results to view items that have sold, and for how much. (eBay, for example, enables users to do this.) Another eBay tip: Some sellers allow shoppers to “make an offer,” which can yield slight to significant savings.
The stratospheric asking prices for vintage Pyrex moved Memphis collector Sara Corum, aka the_pyrexprincess, to launch her series, “Don’t Pay That for That,” calling out what she sees as grossly inflated price tags online, and in stores. “I don’t know if people don’t know and are getting taken advantage of,” she says, concerned that a high price can give people the impression pieces are more valuable than they really are. “I hope it’s an eye-opening thing, not a critical thing,” she says of her well-intentioned social media PSAs.
One final word on shopping online: Don’t forget the cost of shipping, which can be considerable. (Pyrex is heavy, and will break if not packed with care.)
Tap into the collector network.
The Pyrex-collecting community is strong — and very nice! This group of people passionate about Pyrex is not only a vast resource for learning about all things Pyrex, but many collectors also sell pieces, which can include doubles, pieces they find and can’t leave on the thrift store shelf, etc. While we have not vetted every collector-seller out there, they seem to be a pretty ethical bunch. “I’m a big believer in ‘know your seller,’” says Block, who in addition to buying from fellow collectors tends to favor sellers on Etsy, or Mercari. “Those are the people who know what they are selling, and how to get it to you safely. They’re the ones who care about it. Nobody selling to collectors is trying to rip anybody off.” She suggests following #pyrex and #pyrexcollector on Instagram, or joining Pyrex-collecting Facebook groups to familiarize yourself with the enthusiastic community.
Remember: It’s all relative.
So, yes, inexpensive vintage Pyrex is harder to come by. That said, when nostalgia is involved (as it often is with Pyrex), “value” is highly subjective, says Block. “Some people think the Primary Color set is the most valuable because it’s the one they want.” Sometimes the real value depends on what you’re looking for for your collection.