Paula Collects: Vintage Pyrex

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Paula Collects: Vintage Pyrex

By Paula Deen Test Kitchen

Almost every garage sale has it. Our mother’s mother used it. And you rarely have to replace it unless Aunt Betty took yours home after the reunion picnic. Since the introduction of Pyrex in 1915, the glassware has baked, served, transported and stored its way into an estimated 80-percent of U.S. homes.

The Pyrex legacy began with a gift. A researcher at Corning Glass, Dr. Jesse T. Littleton, gave his wife a custom-cut casserole. The casserole was made from Nonex, a low-expansion glass intended to reduce breakage. Though a sturdy glass, Nonex contained lead, which made it unsuitable for cooking. Corning revised the formula to make a product from a lead-free tempered soda lime glass composite. The circular 9-inch pie plate was the first Pyrex piece to hit the market.

The clear, heat-resistant glass ovenware was an instant success, simplifying mealtime preparation and cleanup. The ability of Pyrex to withstand sudden changes in temperature put an end to the laborious process of using multiple pieces to bake, serve and store food. The American public embraced the product that promised to do more and do it better. Four years after introducing Pyrex, Corning sold over 4.5 million pieces.

Pyrex remains a staple in American kitchens, continually adapting to the consumer’s evolving needs. In 1930, Corning manufactured its Range Top Ware from Pyrex. Four years later, the company introduced a line of clear Flameware¬¬–stovetop pressed-glass cookware that included saucepans and skillets. By 1938, double boilers, teakettles and coffee percolators were added to the line, which Corning produced until 1979.

In 1948, the company began redesigning its Pyrex Ovenware and Flameware to create pieces in new sizes and colors. This effort launched the Pyroceram line¬–a white, ceramic-like material that could withstand even greater changes in temperature. The line also featured a decoration that became the product’s trademark: a small, blue cornflower.

From 1965 to 1970, Corning released a number of Pyrex pieces enhancing the product’s form and function. The up-scale Terra line looked dignified on dinning tables, and the Store ‘N’ See ware resolved the “what’s-in-there?” mystery of previously opaque containers. The company also designed the first smooth glass surface electric range made from Pyroceram and the wildly popular break-resistant dinnerware, Corelle Livingware.

As far as collecting goes, vintage Pyrex stays in fashion because it’s durable and affordable. Regardless of its age, a piece should withstand regular kitchen wear and tear as long as it is not chipped, cracked or scratched. Collectors favor pink and primary colors, but there aren’t any hard and fast rules to determine the worth of Pyrex. Collectors do tend to prize complete sets (original package is an added bonus), but a majority of individual pieces can be purchased for under $20.

Caring for Pyrex:

Pyrex is a durable glass suitable for use in the oven, microwave, freezer and dishwasher. But there are a few steps to follow to ensure the lifespan of your piece:

  • Never use on stove-top burner, under broiler, or in a toaster oven
  • Avoid serious changes in hot and cold temperatures (i.e. immersing a hot dish in cold water)
  • Always add a fraction of liquid before baking foods that release liquids while cooking
  • Don’t use or repair a piece if it is chipped, cracked or scratched

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Reader Comments:

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By BeatriceBryant26 on October 22, 2011

I just went through one of my kitchen closets, and had to make room, so I am selling some PYREX. You know the white glass bread or loaf pans, with the clear lids with long glass handles?  Well, I thought I had four,  I HAD SEVEN!  And I had at least 6 other rectangular pyrex bread or loaf pans in different sizes. I have enough to open a restaurant!  I also have a triple set of the blue cornflower Corningware set, including an electric percolator, and a range top percolator, and the PYREX 8 cup range top percolator!  I need to sell some of this fast!

By Sugarx2 on October 13, 2010

I have the blue snowflake bowls and use them everyday! I never realized they were a collectors item until my husband and I were rambling around in an antique store in rural Texas.  What the heck?!  Guess I better take care with them, seems they are worth a lot of money!  I got them for a shower present in 1973, so they are OLD as me!  lol

By Debbie Heath on October 12, 2010

I belong to a group flickr if anyone would like to check out this site there are some beautiful pyrex collections…it is truly amazing how many people love and collect vintage Pyrex…my collection can be found at flickr under pyrexlady52..check it out!!!!

By Linda on August 04, 2010

I, like Paula collect vintage pyrex and have many styles and colors.  I’m always looking for new colors and styles.  Right now I’m looking for the light blue snowflake bowls.  I have a couple of pieces and still need a few more.  LOVE IT!

By Vicki on August 02, 2010

I started collecting Pyrex after my mom passed away….she had two bowls from the Primary set and it was my mission to find the rest of the set…I can still see her making brownies in the big old yellow primary bowl…well I found the other two bowls to complete her set and a whole lot of other pieces that I just had to have….and I’m still collecting….I love your show and I so love that you use and love Pyrex like I do!!!!!

By Linda on August 02, 2010

I too collect corningware. I started out collecting the cornflower blue pattern back when I worked at DrugFair after school!!I was building up my Hope Chest. I also collect Fire King.Your cookbooks from your sons are my most prized treasure!!I have given a copy to my daughters and they have become quite the cooks!! Thank you and bless you!

By Sharon Wolfe on July 21, 2010

I was born and raised 2 blocks from the Pressware plant that produced Pyrex. Shift changes were 8am 4pm and 12 am. A steady stream of cars drove by with the shift changes. I now own a small family restaurant in downtown Corning and have 6 20foot shelves with my collection of Pyrex and food tins. I get many comments from people who come in of how it reminds them of their childhood.

By Donna Robbins on July 20, 2010

I love the vintage Pyrex bowls, too!  I have been collecting them for a long time and now have fun giving them as a shower gift or a house-warming gift for my nieces and nephews when they strike out on their own!  When they all have the graduated bowl set, I try to see that everyone gets a Berry bowl—-they are wonderful!  I have large and small, red and yellow square berry bowls, some of them with lids.  What fun I have looking for them!

By Donna Wagenseller on July 20, 2010

I,too have a very large collection of vintage pyrex bowls, casserole and refrigerator sets but I love shopping the yard sales and antique store for more.  I think it has become an addiction!!!  Love Paula and the fact that she collects it too.

By Linda Hawks on July 20, 2010

I went crazy a few years ago and ended up with four full sets of the Pyrex nested bowl in primary colors, and about 10 sets of refrigerator rectangular sets. Now I find out that the TUPPERWARE ROCK N SERVE set that I have used instead for a few years has PBA in it, and may be responsible for my low estrogen problems! So I am pulling out all that PYREX again!!!  I am glad I didn’t sell it off in my garage sales!!!

By Sugarx2 on July 17, 2010

I have a large collection of vintage pyrex in many varieties and patterns.  I find them at garage sales and 2nd hand shops.  I use them every day and never put them in the dish washer.  My mom has a nesting set starting with the big yellow she received in 1957 as a wedding gift. I love pyrex and often visit the pyrex collectors website…thanks paula love your collection.

By nancy assmann on July 16, 2010

I sure enjoyed all the comments on the pyrex and Corningware bowls.  I have had many of the white with blue cornflowers pieces as well as the set of bowls.  I only have 1 pcs of the casserole dishes with the clear lid the rest have disappeared!!  Love your show! Dolores Berrios in South Rockwood, Michigan

By Dolores Berrios on July 15, 2010

I purchased a complete set of pyrex bowls at a yard sale for $3.00.  I am always looking for more to add to the ones I already have.

By Carol Blunt on July 14, 2010

Hi, Paula, I just love all of my collection of vintage pyrex dishes. My husband and I both love collecting them. We have several. I also love collecting the Splash bowls and grease bowls.  I have been told so many times I look like you, even people that do not know me.You are coming to our State Fair this month in Delaware, but I do not have the tickets to see you.  Would love to meet you!! we watch your shows all the time and I buy all of your book, or several anyway. I use to get Sunday Mornings to just watch your show at 7:00 when you first got started in TV.  Love ya Paula!!

By DEBORAH DOBLY on July 14, 2010

My Mom has a whole set of these bowls and the refrigerator bowl set as well.  She had a pie plate but took it to a relative’s house for a family dinner and never got it back! She said the last time she saw it they were using it for a cat food plate out in the yard.  Sad….

By Terri Proffitt on July 14, 2010

I loved reading everyone’s comments about Pyrex and Corning ware.  Mine have been going through the dishwasher since the 1970’s and I’ve never had a problem.
My Pyrex and Corning pieces are the basics of my kitchen supplies. Love ‘em.

By Regina in Maryland on July 14, 2010

I collect vintage pyrex and love it.  Funny thing is that I don’t cook much.  I just love the way the old pyrex looks.  I buy it off ebay and at antique stores.  I am running out of room.  I am so glad to hear that someone else is a collector.

By Carrie Slick on July 13, 2010

I am married 40 years and I have had Pyrex and corningware with blue cornflower in my kitchen since I was a young bride. I love it and still use it today. I have the Big yellow mixing bowl and the blue, gold, small bowls. I will pass them down to my daughters. Just hope they will like them as much as I do.

By Barbara Jimenez on July 13, 2010

Recieved my cornflower blue and white set of bowls for my wedding shower in 1973.  Got rid of he husband years ago, but still have the bowls!

By Jana on July 13, 2010

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