Discover Vintage America – January 2012

Humble rolling pins can be decorative collectibles

Chances are you have a rolling pin with a nostalgic family history. For most of us there are fond memories of a mother or aunt rolling out pie or cookie dough with a wooden rolling pin, handed down in the family. If you are lucky, it may have been handmade and several hundred years old and in auction terms “primitive Americana” and collectible.

Like other vintage and antique kitchen objects, the rolling pin is seriously collected. Rolling pins are often decorative and made of many materials from glass to copper and ceramics to marble, some reflecting their country of origin. They even come in many sizes ranging from nine to 18 inches long.

Historically, they were first made of wood by the Etruscans in the 9th century. In 18th century England, some of the most beautiful examples were made of glass in Nailsea and other glass blowing centers. The early ones were dark green with splashes of white. By the 1830s swirls of various colors were used. Sailors often bought them as wedding gifts.

Ceramic rolling pins of English Cornish ware, with its wide, blue horizontal stripes and German Meissen’s onion pattern became popular in the 19th century. However, the onion pattern has been in use since the mid-18th century. The Dutch made decorative Delft faience rolling pins in blue and white with windmills and floral motifs.

In America, wood rolling pins were commercially made in the mid-19th century, replacing those made by hand of pine. However, at that time, pine became scarce and cherry and maple were used by manufacturers.

Collectors search for the handmade wooden rolling pins that were often decorated with vera-colored woods or inlaid with ivory or bone. Sometimes the usual wood handles were replaced with wood.

By the late 19th century, clear glass rolling pins that held crushed ice or ice water were patented. This would cool the butter and other shortening and make it easier to roll out the dough.

Milk glass rolling pins with decorated sayings, such as “to a friend” were popular gifts around the turn of the century. Collectors often specialize in them. They are still around since they were treasured items.

In the early 20th century, some unusual rolling pins were also made of tin and wood. The tin covered the wood drum and they were sold with a wood pastry board. They may not be very attractive but they sell for several hundred dollars.

CLUES: Reproductions of the looped Nailsea rolling pins have been around a long time. Marble rolling pins may be old or new, the handles can be a clue. Know your dealer or do your research before spending too much.

Do you need more information on an antique or collectible item? For a personal reply, send a photo, history, size, signatures and $25 to Anne Gilbert, P.O. BOX 740136, Boynton Beach, FL 33437-0136.