Collecting, cleaning, displaying, researching, and appreciating TRIVETS and related go-withs!

Documenting trivets

Trivets vary in collectibility and value according to age, maker, scarcity and condition. These three Trivetology blog posts contain helpful information for assessing your trivets.

Antique Trivets: One size smaller; cast marks; differentiating antique trivets from reproductions.

Vintage Trivets: Pointers for identifying vintage trivets.

Contemporary Trivets: Post 1945 foundry information; clues in determining age.

Document the details

Returning from the 2011 PITCA Convention with some new acquisitions!

For every collector, documentation inevitably becomes an issue. If you wait too long, it’s all too easy to forget where, when or how something was acquired or the price paid.

Record the place of purchase, the date and price, and the provenance, if known. Provenance refers to the place of origin or earliest known history of something; it’s the history of ownership. This might include the name and location of the foundry; the artist’s signature; or the collection from which it was purchased.

It’s also helpful to photograph each trivet or stand, including reverse or side images if they offer additional information. A cell phone or small pocket camera works great; nothing more elaborate is needed.

Higher resolution images against a neutral backdrop are needed for print media. My husband Ed used a light tent when taking the images for my books; it illuminated the trivets without causing shadows or glare. Collectible Photography

Measurements and markings

Measure the length and width of the trivet. Then study the legs:

● Typically, trivets with three legs are older than those with four.

● Leg length of 1.5″ or more suggests a casting from 1880 or earlier.

● Leg length of 1.25″ was common 1880 – 1920.

● Even shorter leg lengths were common 1920 – 1950.

● Most trivets produced since 1950, sold for decorative wall display, have short feet of 5/8″ or less.

Turn the trivet over and look for numbers, letters, a company name or a signature. Check also for the presence of a casting mark. A sprue or wedge mark, if present, would be found on the reverse. If one or more gate marks are present, they would be found along the edge.

Identify the metal

Get in the habit of carrying a magnet with you when searching for trivets. Remember: ferrous (iron containing) metals are magnetic.

● Ferrous: Cast iron, wrought iron, steel, nickel.

● Non-ferrous: Brass, bronze, copper, silver, aluminum, tin.

A plating of nickel, brass or copper was sometimes applied over cast iron; it protected against and delayed the formation of rust. If there is a plating, what condition is it in? What percentage remains?


A mint in box trivet, nickel-plated over cast iron, circa 1900.

Condition, more than any other factor, often determines the value of a trivet or sad iron stand. Things to consider:

● Is it the original finish? Has the trivet been stripped or painted?

● Is the design intact without any missing parts or embellishments?

● Is there rust or pitting? Any cracks? Hairline cracks often are not full surface.

● Has age-related wear smoothed or eliminated the surface detail?

● Are the legs straight? Has the trivet surface been bent? These signs of age are seen more often in brass.

PS: Antique trivets are fragile, regardless of how sturdy they may appear. Brass bends easily and iron becomes brittle with age. Always use a sturdy box when shipping trivets! Legs can poke through a padded bag, and thin cardboard boxes just don’t offer enough support.

The shipment below was an eBay purchase. Although the seller lived less than 100 miles away, this bubble mailer provided little protection for the antique trivet within.

Further research

Does your trivet appear in a reference book or catalog? Here’s a list of the trivet books published in the USA in the last 50 years. All are out of print but available on the secondary market.

1. The Expanded A-Z Guide To Collecting Trivets, Margaret Lynn Rosack (that’s me), 2010
2. The A-Z Guide To Collecting Trivets, Rosack, 2004
3. A Collector’s Guide To Trivets & Stands, Rob Roy Kelly & James Ellwood, 1990
4. A Collector’s Guide To Pressing Irons & Trivets, Esther Berney, 1977
5. Trivets Books 1 and 2, Dick Hankenson, 1972

Other collectors are also a good source of information. These two Facebook groups are a great place to start!

 The Trivet Collectors Network

Pressing Iron & Trivet Collectors of America

Still need assistance with a trivet you’ve been unable to identify? Contact Me and I’ll do my best to help you.


This entry was posted on March 1, 2019 by in Collecting Basics, References for Collectors and tagged , , , , , , .