Sunday, July 16, 2006

Antiquing in Placerville

I browse the antique stores along Placerville's Main Street four or five times each year. Although I rarely purchase anything, I find the time spend walking the booths to be enjoyable. And I do make an occasional purchase.

This afternoon (it's a hot one -- I'm typing this in 100-degree heat on battery power on my laptop in a power outage) I made one of those rare purchases. After walking through Empire Antiques, a large co-op in front of the Bell Tower, I though I'd peruse one or two more stores before heading off to lunch.

The 12-inch diameter Dutch oven will hold seven quarts filled to the brim. In five quarts of usable volume, you can cook approximately 20-25 servings of stew (1-cup portions) or 40-50 servings of beans (1/2-cup portions).

Right now I can only think of two reasons that explain my reluctance to open my wallet in these stores. First, antiques can be costly. Though that won't stop me from buying a piece that strikes my fancy, it's the realization that I don't have unlimited funds.

More important -- remember I can easily break my first rule when I see something that catches my eye -- is the realization that I don't need to fill my house with expensive artifacts from ages past.

I often apply this three-fold test when making purchases:
  1. Is it cast iron? A piece of cast iron cookware that's in good condition will catch my eye as I walk the isles. Heavy rust or poor condition (cracked or chipped) will turn me away. Any piece that I purchase must be ready for the stove or fire.
  2. Is it a piece of food service equipment? I like old military food service utensils, especially those stamped with "USN" or "USA" on the handle. Again, they must be usable. (My chuckbox is full of such spoons and ladles.)
  3. Does it catch my eye enough to use as an interesting piece for the house? This is a new area for me. I haven't made any purchases yet. This rule is crucial in case my wife sees something that strikes her fancy!

The markings on the bottom of the oven seem to be characteristic of Lodge. However, I'm not an expert on old cast iron. Any thoughts? I purchase cast iron Dutch ovens and skillets as cookware, not collection pieces.

So I walked up Main Street and wandered into Placerville Antiques & Collectables at 448 Main Street. I can't ever remember making a purchase in this store. But it's had one of the richest collections of cast iron cookware in past years.

Today, tucked away in the back corner, was a Lodge #10 home-style Dutch oven. It's not really that old and may only date to the 1980s. The pot is in great condition, ready to be re-seasoned and put to use and a bean or stew pot. The little rust on the lid will easily buff out.

The $35 purchase price seems fair enough. (BTW, power just returned!) A Lodge #10 (model 10DO2A) currently lists for $59.95 on their website. You can find discounted Lodge cast iron from many Internet dealers. Considering its near prime condition, cost of shipping, etc., I say it's a good purchase.

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