I get asked this all the time. Here’s the thing.
I’m not an appraiser — I’m not academically or professionally qualified to tell you what I think you should ask (or pay) for a particular piece of copper. If you’re looking for an authority to appraise your copper for you, I suggest you contact an auction house or antiques dealer, or talk to an insurance company that has appraisers on staff.
What I can do is tell you how I evaluate the value of a piece: I compare it to other pieces I see for sale online. In my experience, the online marketplaces (eBay and Etsy specifically) are the primary mechanism for resale of vintage and antique copper cookware, particularly for buyers in the United States. These are not the only marketplaces — there are many more, such as Goodwill, Craigslist, leboncoin, and any number of specialized auction and estate sale sites — but eBay and Etsy seem to reach the most people around the world and therefore in my experience have the most representative prices.
Assessing your piece
To assess the value of your pan, I need to compare it to other pieces for sale. Here is how I capture the minimum amount of data that I can use to compare one piece to others.
Step 1: Dimensions
I measure the body of the pan in centimeters. European cookware has been sized to the metric system since 1799.
- Round pans: Diameter and height
- Oval or rectangular pans: Width, depth, and height
Step 2: Copper thickness
I measure the thickness of the pan’s walls in millimeters. Copper thickness is a key factor in a piece’s value and fractions of inches are not precise enough. Believe it or not, half a millimeter makes a huge difference in value: a 3.2mm piece will be priced well above a 2.7mm piece of the same dimensions.
- If you need some help with this, here are some techniques to measure thickness.
Step 3: Stamps
I look all over the pan for stamps (words, numbers, letters, symbols) and make a note of them. Stamps are placed on the outside surface of the pan on the sidewalls (near the handle is the most common location, but scan the entire surface) or on the outside base, but can also be imprinted on the upper or lower surface of the handle.
- If you find markings on the pan, my Stamps section may help you figure out who made it and when. The work of some makers is considered more collectible and valuable.
Step 4: Comparable pieces
I search eBay and Etsy for vintage French copper cookware, study the pieces that most closely resemble the one I’m assessing, and make a note of the asking price. (Note that you don’t have to be a member of eBay or Etsy to search the listings, but you won’t be able to buy anything without an account.)
- You might start with the listings for the copper sellers that I buy from — part of why I recommend them is that I think their prices are fair for the quality they offer.
- If your piece is stamped by a known maker (Gaillard, Jacquotot, Legry, Mauviel, et cetera), search for that maker’s name to get a feel for any pricing differential.
Adjusting your pricing estimate
Let’s say you can’t find a good match for what you see for sale online right now. Perhaps your piece is larger or smaller, thicker or thinner, is in better or worse shape, or so forth. These are reasons to bump your asking price up or down a little relative to the examples you can find. I do have some suggestions about the specific qualities of your piece that, in my opinion, could nudge its value up or down relative to its peers.
Factors that could
Factors that could
(Why is a piece’s presence in the United States important? Based on what I hear from the online sellers with whom I have become friendly, the majority of their customers are in the United States. Shipping from Europe adds US$30 to US$100 or more to the purchase price and often weeks of time.)
That is my methodology. Once again, I am not an appraiser, and these are simply my opinions. But I do hope this helps you to get started with pricing your pieces.
And in case you’re wondering, the pan in the photo at the top of this article cleaned up nicely and now looks like this.