Hunting for new, unique antique collectibles is extremely exciting, especially if you’re looking to complete a whole collection of some object. While antique finds give the most thrilling satisfaction, even some vintage items make a valuable addition to your collectible trophies. Among all things, vintage and antique coffee grinders are an interesting things to explore and learn more about. That being said if you’re visiting a flea market or an antique store that showcases old products for coffee-making, an antique coffee maker must be one of them.
But, just like today, there are a lot of coffee grinders out on the market, as well as coffee makers, the same way there were a lot of manufacturers that were making coffee grinders 100, 200, and more years ago. Coffee is a product that has been marketed for centuries and as such, many techniques and products are allowed to grind it.
When dating an antique coffee grinder, there are a lot of things to consider. It’s no secret that it can also be fairly easy to be tricked into buying a coffee maker that is not as old, on the market.
Many people who weren’t educated much about the history of coffee grinders, different styles, and manufacturers also fell victim to buying a coffee grinder they thought was antique but wasn’t even vintage.
Having a professional appraiser or antiques expert by your side could always prove useful when shopping for coffee grinders for your collectors. But, what could be even better is knowing how to make an informed decision and inspect the coffee grinders and other antique items on your own.
Instead of making an uneducated guess, you’d be able to examine different antique and vintage coffee grinders on your own and decide whether some of them are more worthy than others. That’s exactly what this article is going to teach you.
We compiled a useful list and a guide of what you must do to successfully date an antique coffee grinder when in an antique store or a flea market sale. Continue reading this guide and you’ll make no mistake when estimating the value of these items.
What is an Antique Coffee Grinder?
A coffee grinder is a small device that would allow you to grind whole coffee beans into a size that is suitable for brewing coffee. It consists of a small mill drawer where you’d place the coffee beans and a crank that needs to be turned for the device to grind coffee beans into coffee grounds.
Some people also refer to coffee grinders as coffee mills given that it does essentially the same thing as a mill. Interestingly, despite the development of technology to make coffee pretty much effortlessly, many households still keep their coffee mills and grinders as a heritage and use them to grind coffee beans.
That’s why, you can still find a lot of them at local garage sales and flea markets. Interestingly, many auction sites such as eBay also sell vintage and antique coffee grinders.
Still, if you buy online, or visit a local antique store, you will have more chance to find an older coffee grinder that was used more than 100 years ago.
Vintage and antique coffee grinders are still popular collectibles, even though many households still own them. Some people own coffee shops and want to store it there for a display, or inside a restaurant. Nevertheless, some people seriously collect them and want to gather as many unique designs as possible.
Keep in mind that there are a lot of coffee mills out there, and it’s important to know how to differentiate them when shopping. Some of the most used coffee grinders out there are:
- Wall-mounted coffee grinder
- Handheld coffee grinder
- Countertop coffee grinder
- Coffee grinder in a box
- Floor coffee grinder
- Wheel coffee grinder
Even though that’s a lot of antique coffee grinder types to make a difference of, it’s worth mentioning that coffee grinders made on different continents also look different. For example, manufacturers from Europe made different coffee grinders than those made in the American continent, as well as Asia.
If you’ve read this far, it’s good to know that coffee grinders are extremely valuable on the market, especially if you’re trying to sell one to a collector that is ready to give a lot for the one that is in mint condition.
Continue reading to learn how to successfully date an antique coffee grinder. And remember, age is not everything. Even if your coffee grinder is more than 100 or even 200 years old and in mint condition, there is just so much that will affect its price.
If you’re enthusiastic about going to a flea market or an antique store to purchase a coffee grinder for your house, then this guide will also prove extremely helpful and valuable. Without further ado, let’s look into how antique coffee grinders are dated and identified.
Examining the Design of an Antique Coffee Grinder
Naturally, the first thing you’ll want to do when you come in contact with an antique coffee grinder is inspect its exterior and see whether there’s something that can help you date it. Continue reading to learn what to focus on.
The first thing you will need to recognize when playing around with antique coffee grinders is what style they were designed with. Even though this might not directly tell you how old this coffee grinder is, it could tell you where it was likely manufactured, and then searching for other markings can be more helpful in finally identifying and dating your coffee grinder.
Different design styles can tell you whether the coffee grinder you’re holding in your hand was made in The USA or Europe. For example, if the grinder is recognizable for its ornate, intricate details, it’s more likely that it originated from Europe, particularly from the Victorian Era.
Recently coffee grinders have the Art Deco touch, so you will find that those are more vintage than antique. The marking “Made in Europe” or “Made in the U.S.” could help determine the actual origin, but more about that later.
There are more intricate details that could help your date your coffee grinder. For example, coffee mills that go back to the 18th century have hand-carved details. More importantly, most of the construction is made out of wood, which also hints that the grinder was older.
Coffee grinders with rough textures and carvings were likely handmade and were used in the villages. Coffee makers with brass decoration or even cast iron originate from the 19th century and were made in England or the U.S.
More recent grinders with hand-painted decorations and porcelain covers were made in the late 19th century and sometimes into the early 1900s. Such designs could often be seen in Central Europe, particularly the Netherlands and Germany.
Some coffee grinders produced by Peugeot had cast iron hoppers with a distinctive bulbous that was designed in mid 19th century.
The oldest coffee grinders were mostly made of wood or a combination of wood, iron, and brass. As the ages passed, some more sophisticated models in the royal and noble families used coffee mills made out of porcelain. Some other recent models were made of different variations of glass.
It all depends on the model but material is some of the best exterior indicators that could help you date your coffee grinder.
Even though size should be an irrelevant detail when it comes to most collectibles, for valuable coffee grinders that could bring a lot of money, size is quite important. We mentioned different types of coffee grinders, and as such their size may also vary.
The sizes go from 0 to 4, while there are other sizes that the coffee grinders can be measured with. The size also varied on whether the coffee grinder is used for commercial or industrial purposes. The grind could also be of different sizes because they had to accommodate different coffee bean sizes.
If the style and size matter, probably the weight does too. The materials and overall construction, as well as the type of the coffee grinder also influence what the weight might be.
Weight is quite an important factor too because it helps decide whether the coffee grinder was used for industrial or commercial purposes, as well as whether it’s a handheld grinder or it’s used for traveling and other purposes.
The oldest coffee grinders may show some wear and tear, even if they’re in mint condition. Needless to say, those that are in the best condition will be the most valuable ones on the market.
The best feel of condition you’ll get is if you run your finger across the burrs and feel their “age” with the finger. If they feel dull or miss some parts, the condition may not be that great, but it can also hint at the age of the grinders.
If the coffee grinder was made out of metal, then it’s helpful to see whether there is rust to hint at it being submerged underwater. Internal parts should also be inspected for signs of rusting.
If the device has only a bit of rust, that’s good, but strong rust damage can be much harder to fix, and it also hints that the coffee grinder is really old.
If the coffee grinder is made out of wood, then it’s really easy to crack, especially due to humidity and temperature changes that it withstood over at least 100 years of its existence.
Porcelain coffee grinders can withstand temperature and humidity changes, but after 100 to 150 years, some smaller cracks could be visible, especially in the area of artwork decoration on them.
Vintage coffee grinders made of plastic can be damaged due to transport damage or them dropping under too much force from great highs.
Keep in mind that minor cracks likely won’t be noticed and won’t affect the price. But if there are larger cracks, it’s best to get a professional for evaluation and the possibility to fix the issues.
Examining the Interior of Coffee Grinder and Its Functionality
Now that you examined the exterior of your coffee grinder, it’s time to look at the construction and mechanisms used to help it work.
Checking the construction of your coffee grinder is extremely important because it can shed some light on the origin and date when it was manufactured. We already learned that the coffee grinders made out of wood are the oldest, and they have the simplest distinguishable construction that is not as sturdy and can easily tell you when it was made.
However, some coffee grinders had dovetailed joints, which is highly indicative that it was made at least 150 years ago. Newer collectibles used screws that are put tightly to hold the coffee grinder together.
Different grinder styles also hint at different mechanism styles. Knowing which mechanism it uses can help identify when the antique coffee grinder was made. For example, if a coffee grinder has a mortar and pestle, it was made in Turkey, particularly in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Similarly, if the coffee grinder uses a single or a double side-wheel crank, it was probably made in the 19th century, particularly, in the middle of it. They also have an iron pedestal so that they can be sturdy and durable for multiple grinding processes.
The most difficult mechanisms to date are those of box coffee grinders because they were around for a very long time. They have a top-crank lap design where the ground coffee falls into a drawer for coffee. If you have such a coffee grinder, looking at other details, some of which we’ll mention more below will be more helpful.
Identifying Coffee Grinder Based on Manufacturing Information
If the coffee grinder wasn’t handmade on private property, it will likely contain some manufacturer’s information like a stamp, logo, serial number, and other properties.
Some coffee grinder manufacturers will leave a date of manufacturing on the bottom or the side of the coffee grinder. Sometimes, there won’t be a complete date, but rather a year, which is more than enough to help you date your antique coffee maker.
The serial number or the ID number is unique to all the models within the series. If you find a serial number of your coffee grinder, you may be able to search by it in an antique store or some other catalog that featured commercially available antique coffee grinders for the last 100 to 200 years.
Serial numbers can also shed light on when the model you own was sold, as well as when it was manufactured.
Given that newer antique coffee grinders had unique designs to themselves, manufacturers needed to file for a patent design before featuring the full product.
Some coffee grinders still have the patent number stamped to their design, along with the date or serial number. It’s worth mentioning that not all coffee grinders have this number stamped, but those that do could help you date when it was manufactured.
Maker’s mark could help identify when the coffee maker was made, as well as who made it. Even though Maker’s marks could likely be found in European countries, it’s worth noting that the “Made in U.S.” stamp also existed and helped people find coffee grinders made in the USA.
Coffee grinders made of porcelain usually had an intricate designs or artwork that could distinguish newer coffee makers from the competition. Usually, the designs and artworks added to the design could shed light when the coffee grinders were made. Some coffee mills in Europe were made of white glass with different preferences in spelling coffee (Kaffee.)
Get Help in Dating Antique Coffee Grinder
There are a lot of antique coffee grinders since it’s a device that existed for hundreds of years. That said, some models may be more difficult to date and identify than others. There are a few things that you can do.
- Contact a local antique appraiser or search for one nearby online.
- Visit different forums and blogs that talk about antique coffee grinders, r/Coffee is a good place to start. Even though this subreddit is mostly about coffee itself, a lot of people ask for advice about their antique coffee mills and similar devices.
- Go to auctions and discuss with like-minded collectors and coffee enthusiasts or search for different coffee grinders on eBay to compare with yours. There you can meet the sellers who could help you identify your coffee grinder. You never know, you may find a model identical to yours.