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  • Aaron Carruth

Alright Lubeck, How Much is She Worth?

Updated: Jul 30

I used my Google Machine to find the cake pan.

It’s much easier to research and appraise items that are labeled with their name and manufacturer. Swans Down boasts that they’ve been America’s favourite cake flour since 1894. The World's Fair did their part to back this claim, awarding Swans Down the best cake flour in 1904. They've continued making flour for more than a century now. According to their website, their methods haven't changed. They use soft winter wheat and sift it until it is twenty-seven times finer than all-purpose flour. In 1923, Swans Down paired with Katzinger Manufacturing to produce cake pans as promotional items. The next line deflated my hopes.


The pans were given to customers who purchased a box of flour.


That’s all it took. Buy a single box of flour, and you got a free cake pan. I’m guessing hundreds of thousands of these things are hiding in the basements and cupboards of America.


Translation: this pan probably isn’t worth the cost of a cake I could bake with it. I tried a quick eBay search. Forty-one matching items. I scanned the first ten. Each was identical to my pan – none selling for listed prices (remember, mostly meaningless) ranging from fifteen to fifty dollars. Not good.


Semi-interesting side note: I was misguided in my assessment regarding the pan’s age. I wrote that it might be fifty years old (maybe more), which wasn’t wrong per se, but the logic behind my estimate – America doesn’t manufacture its own bakeware anymore – was inaccurate. Katzinger Manufacturing, more recently known as EKCO (not to be confused with the hip-hop clothing line by Marc ECKO), had plants operating in Chicago as late as 1986. Since then, they’ve been bought and sold a few times, but new ownership has kept operations stateside. The company’s origins seem quite idyllic – very “American Dream”. Edward Katzinger, an eighteen-year-old Austrian immigrant, left a tinsmith job in New York to open a bakeware shop of his own. His son, the future chairman of the board, was born above the shop in 1894 – the same year Swans Down discovered their trademark technique for cake flour refinement.


The history geek in me appreciates these strange coincidences.


The company thrived in the bakeware production industry and grew significantly through acquisition. EKCO remained family owned and operated for nearly a century. The company sold in 1987, for one hundred and twenty million dollars. My cake pan might sell for ten; a sum decidedly less idyllic and certainly not something mistaken as the American Dream.


I was curious as to whether there was a market for any cake pans. Perhaps ones less readily distributed as mine. None of my searches gave me much. The net seemed far more interested with expensive cakes, rather than the pans that once formed them. I found new cakes commissioned for millions (which is sad, really). I was only half surprised to discover that J. Peterman wasn't the only person interested in collecting vintage confections. Slices of cake from Prince Andrew’s wedding (1986), recently sold at auction for thousands of dollars each. The cake is, of course, inedible.

Freakishly expensive cake you can't eat holds no appeal to me, but, this entire business is based upon people buying things they probably don’t need. Carry on.


------------------------------


The glasses (which I should mention, were spotted by my mother) might be a different story. Might be. I’ve never bought a set of drinking glasses in my life. Yard sales tend to offer an array of mismatched glass trash. And so, the majority of my experience in this field has been reserved for sarcastic personal assessments that border on the unnecessarily cruel. But, both Robert Deniro and my parents have encouraged me to trust my instincts. The glasses have a certain... appeal. Even if they aren’t antique, I’ve got a good feeling they're worth something. They’re the kind of item(s) that increase in value every time I look at them – like I’m in a constant state of negotiation with myself. It could be delusion. Naw. That’s just self-doubt creeping in. I need to trust my instincts.


Research proved quite useless, unless you subscribe to Bob Carruth’s “if you can’t find it on eBay, then you’ve got something” strategy (which I do, sort of). None of the glasses were signed or labeled, and every search I tried was dominated with eyewear by Ralph Lauren.


My mother sent me a link for the sale of eight polo glasses. According to the listing, the set was Amber handblown glass made in the 1920s.

I read over the details, save for one. My mother texted to see if I checked the link. Anyone who says they click on one hundred percent of the links their family members send them should a) stop lying or b) commit themselves.


Did you see the listing?


Ya.


And?????? [1]


[1] Both my wife and mother abuse punctuation. Bronwyn is fond of exclamation points. A sample text:


If you haven’t left the grocery store, please pick up some oregano!! Thanks! We love you!!! It’s still raining here!!!


My mother has less specific predilections, though she is no stranger to tripling regular punctuation for no apparent reason. Still, there were at least three too many question marks. Something was up.


I was on my way to work, and made the mistake of calling her.


“Hello?”


“Hey, mum, just thought it would be easier to chat, what’s up with the glasses?”


“I CAN’T HEAR YOU,” she yelled. The panic and volume of her voice belonged on the deck of the Andrea Gail.


I would've been concerned, except, I know my mother.


“Mum?” I said, a bit louder.


“YOU’RE GONNA HAVE TO SPEAK UP. MY PHONE IS CRAP!”


Well, mine isn’t. Ow. Apologize to my tinnitus.


I tilted my head to the sky with closed eyes. I focused on my breathing, careful not to sigh too heavily (though it's unlikely she would've heard me anyway).


“I’ll just text you.”


“HELLO???”


"I said, I'll just-" I hung up before I finished.


She texted a few seconds later, asking if I saw the price the polo cups sold for.


I hadn’t.

She texted the number.


800.


The glasses sold for eight hundred dollars? That couldn’t be true. I checked again. Holy crap.


I’m never making fun of yard sale glassware again.

I’m one hundred percent sure that our set isn’t worth anywhere near that. Ours aren’t amber. I have no idea if they’re handblown (but, I doubt it). The artwork and craftmanship is much different.

If I had to guess, I think we might get forty dollars for them. I didn’t really care at this point. I was still fixated on the sale. Eight hundred dollars? For eight glass cups?


WHAT IN THE HELL??!??!??!


------------------------------


I called my father for his analysis. He was watering the lawn in what sounded like gale force winds. I struggle to multi-task. My father… welp. I guess it’s genetic. The wind meant I could barely hear him.


Why can’t I have a normal conversation with my family?


An interruption meant we would have to restart everything, so I let him freestyle. Here’s what I gathered, in spite of the squall.


Your cake pan? Ten bucks – on a good day. There’s no colour to it. Typically, with decorative items, you want more colour. It’s plain. I know it wasn't intended for decoration. It was utilitarian. Not anymore. Who might buy it? A baker? I guess. Probably not.


And, we’re off and running! It’s okay. I was ready for that one.


Your glasses? Well, I told your mother, ten or twenty bucks. I don’t care too much about those other glasses (the eight hundred dollar ones). Every single week I see something I’ve never seen. I’ll buy them. Maybe they've got a look. Maybe I’m just curious. Doesn’t mean they’re worth anything.

Maybe you’ll sell them in the UK. We don’t have polo here in any real way – right? If you had golfers or hockey players, you’d get more in this market. Value is relative. You've got some Original Six glasses? How come those are worth money? Because people give a shit about hockey in this country.


Most glasses, a set of eight, are worth a dollar.


It would’ve been better if you had glasses with horses on them. Just horses. Because then, horse people might buy them.


//


Ohhhhhh. Okay, so it would’ve been better if we bought different glasses. For the horse people. [1]


Fair point.


I’ll remember that for the next sale.


Excuse me, miss? Yes. This... (*does a circular hand motion over a table of goods*) is all crap. Might I purchase something different? Something, you know, valuable? Like, the glasses that you have here – only different. Let’s have a look inside, shall we?


What could go wrong?

[1] Not pony people, though. What kinda abnormal animal is that?


------------------------------


For the record, I'm sticking with my assessment on the polo cups. I like'm and I think they'll do just fine. Whether they're worth anything or not, I obviously need to learn more about glass. Once winter hits, yard-saling will end and I’ll need to switch gears for the blog. I’ve decided that I'll dedicate some of my time to guides for specific antique subjects. Glassware will be one of the first topics I explore.

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