Collecting Pyrex │ The Joy of Vintage Kitchen Ware

A set of four Pyrex Homestead Bowls
If there was ever a love affair with vintage dishes, it would be mine and it would involve a collection that has gotten out of hand.

Okay, I don't think it's gotten out of hand... but a lot of folks do.

They have good reason to think this. I own a couple hundred bowls and dishes made from the 1940s to the 1980s, manufactured by Pyrex.

And the collection hasn't stopped.

Before you think I'm crazy, which is valid, let me first tell you that many people collect Pyrex. This is because this dinnerware is roughly 80 years old at the oldest and 40 years at the newest.

They do not make their Pyrex like this anymore either. Modern Pyrex is quality and I use much of their bakeware/cookware glass in my kitchen. But it's a different kind of glass from the vintage stuff - and in my opinion, vintage Pyrex is king. Vintage is almost always better quality.

A collection is a curation; a way to show your love for a specific item. Many people collect other things too like stamps, vintage toy cars, gasoline-related merchandise, or oil cans. They collect dolls, coins, Pez dispensers, pens, rocking chairs, hats, denim ... you name it.

But guess what I have going for my collection that most collections don't have?

My collection is utilitarian. I use Pyrex every day because I cook every day. I use it, display it, serve food in it, and take care of it. My vintage collection is usable and functional. Most collectors can't claim this. 

Quite frankly, most collectors won't do this. Keeping their collection as mint as possible is their goal.

Before my Pyrex collectors in arms get upset that I'm using the items, let's be clear: I only handwash the items. And for those who are on a "lead" kick, let's clarify that too. Yes, they used to put lead in the paint of Pyrex. They used lead in paint in all areas of our houses, dinnerware, and cosmetics too, back in the day. 

They didn't know the ramifications then. How could they?

But, I'm also going to point out that the lead in Pyrex is on the outside of the bowls, not the inside. Last time I checked, I wasn't licking the outside of the bowls before eating what was on the inside. Let's be logical, people.

Some people also state that lead leaches into the material, so we're not safe from it. I've tested all my Pyrex. There is no leaching I can detect. 

A closet full of Pyrex Bowls and Dishes
My Collection
When people ask me on my Pyrex TikTok account if I'm concerned about the lead, I tell them no. I tell them, "I'm more concerned about the lead in our soils that our foods are grown in than the lead in vintage Pyrex."

Because goodness, if we now know about how horrible excess lead is for us, then how is it still ending up in our soils, imported items, or cosmetics?

Talk about insanity. Please don't listen to the folks who hype up false ideas and claims. Lead poisoning is a serious thing. But in my family of grown children, it isn't an issue. 

Also, I'm not keen on listening to people yell at me about lead on the outside of a bowl (that doesn't touch my lips) as these same people go eat vegetables that have more lead in them than any of my Pyrex. Alright.

Now, let's talk about the collection. I grew up collecting Fire-King. Fire-King was a competitor of Pyrex, distributed by the Anchor Hocking Company. I still love Fire-King. But, here's why I began collecting Pyrex.

My mom had two patterns she used in our kitchen since I was born: Spring Blossoms (the first pattern) and Homestead. I purchased a Homestead bowl before I began my thrifting quest. So that pattern started it all. The love for Pyrex has been in me since birth.

Then, as a vintage clothes seller, for the last almost decade and a half, I've scoured thrift stores, garage sales, and estate sales for vintage clothing for my Etsy shop.

I love, wear, sell, and am in love with vintage clothing. It's an integral part of my life, and I'll never not love it. But after so many years of selling everything I found, it got a little... demoralizing. I wanted to search for something that I could keep and love too.

In essence, I was being selfish: What about me?

I regularly passed up buying Pyrex because I wasn't interested in selling it. But, I was interested in accumulating it. And realized, hey, this is an inexpensive hobby I can be a part of! 

I can hunt for vintage clothing and hunt for my Pyrex.

Not to mention, as much as I loved Pyrex, there was no way I planned on paying retail prices - antique store prices - for them. I remember asking myself, "Is it possible to amass a collection of Pyrex on the cheap?"

Could I find pieces - even the rare ones- in thrift stores? 

I'm here to tell you it is possible, and everyone can do this. There is enough Pyrex to go around. 

Big question: Do thrift stores jack up prices because they know it's collectible?

Yes and no. This happens as often as it doesn't. I can't tell you how many times pieces get missed by thrift store sorters. Not only do they miss it, some thrift stores don't care about price gouging. Which is rare, but very nice.

Yet, some thrift stores have crazy prices and know exactly what they have. So, it's a matter of thrifting or going to estate sales regularly to find the random pieces that others miss. It happens. They're out there. No complaining that you can't find what I find. They are out there.

I hear a lot of whining about not finding Pyrex on my TikTok. "My thrift stores aren't as good as yours," or "You always find the best pieces."

My thrift stores are no better and no worse than yours. Some are great, some are horrible. If you want to find the Pyrex, I suggest you follow the rules I wrote about in hunting vintage items: you have to thrift as often as you can, you have to do this daily, and you have to believe you'll find what you're looking for.

Images of Pyrex Bowls
Most importantly, you have to be patient.

Very simple rules, but very effective. I have several hundred pieces all from thrifting. 98% of my collection is thrifted (2% has been given to me or I picked up a piece I knew I needed to complete a set from an antique store or eBay).

This means I have about 9 items that weren't thrifted. Amazing, but as I've said, not impossible. Anything is possible if you put your mind to it. Anything. You just have to be willing to do the work.

I have plans to continue finding my Pyrex collection piece by piece over the coming years. I've been seriously collecting for three years. And one day, when I have enough, or when the love for searching for Pyrex pieces I don't have wanes (that may never happen), then I'll sell most of it, perhaps keeping a few sets I love.

Facebook Marketplace is an easy enough venue to sell them, and I don't have to worry about shipping the items. Shipping heavy Pyrex is cost-prohibitive (and fragile) and something other than what I want to deal with.

Collect what you enjoy. You can have a collection and still be a minimalist, mind you. I am a full-blown minimalist. Pyrex is my only collection, so it feels like a responsible collection. I really don't care what anyone else says, or if they call me a hoarder. 

I'm not hoarding, I'm collecting. A hoarder collects literal trash. I call myself a curator with the intent to preserve history. 

That's responsible collecting.

I love Pyrex because it's beautiful, usable, dependable, crack-resistant, and colorful. It's used to feed, serve, display, and satisfy people. It's a utilitarian collection that brings pleasure to look at. In my vintage-living world, that's a win/win.

The book Pyrex Passion on a counter
My tattered copy of Pyrex Passion
Also, my collection fits in a closet. It's a big closet, but nonetheless, it all has to fit in a closet. That's the minimalism rule I gave myself. If I'm going to collect these utilitarian objects, then I need some strict parameters. Keeping it secluded in one closet is rule number one. 

Rule number two is obviously not to forget rule number one.

I will have to get creative in my storage now since I'm running out of room, but alas, such are the issues when you collect something you love.

Pyrex, made by Corning, is still making Pyrex and Corelle dishes and baking ware. The company is going strong and is an important part of American kitchenware.

By the way, if you're interested in Pyrex and would like to see a compilation of all of the patterns they created through the early '80s, check out the book Pyrex Passion. It's the bible of Pyrex and I've referenced it hundreds of times. I can't live without it. Or visit this Pyrex website that the Corning Museum of Glass created. 

There is nothing wrong with collecting something you value and cherish. For me, I get to collect something I can use. And use it I do.

Do you love vintage Pyrex like I do? Let me know in the comments below.


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