Once a ubiquitous part of daily domestic life that sold for only a few dollars, today's antique butter churn values may surprise you. These household items are a testament to dairy history, and they come in many different styles. Some are worth hundreds of dollars, especially if they are in good condition. Learn how to spot a butter churn that's valuable.
What a Butter Churn Is and How It Works
Understanding how an old butter churn works can help you recognize them in antique stores and get sense of the various styles. At its most basic, a butter churn is a vessel that people used to use to make butter the old-fashioned way. To use it, someone would pour cream into the churn. Then by turning a handle, moving a wooden paddle or dash up and down, or rolling the churn, they would keep the cream moving continuously. According to Scientific American, the agitation would cause the fat molecules in the cream to clump up, forming butter. Depending on the amount of cream and the type of butter churn, this process could take 20 minutes or more.
How Much Is an Old Butter Churn Worth?
Although most people no longer use them to churn butter, antique butter churns can be valuable as conversation pieces or accents in your home or shop. You can find them at antique stores, flea markets, and estate sales. They range in price from around $25 to over $500. An antique butter churn's value depends on a number of factors, so if you're considering buying or selling one, examine it for the following:
- Condition - Check for cracks or chips in the butter churn, as well as missing pieces and other signs of damage. Churns in excellent condition fetch the highest prices.
- Age - Examine the churn for clues about its age, since older churns are sometimes more valuable. One of the best ways to date an antique butter churn is through a patent number, which is often on the bottom of the churn or on a metal part. You can look up a patent number at the US Patent and Trademark Office and get a date it was issued.
- Manufacturer - Many antique butter churns have a manufacturer's stamp or mark on them. Some stoneware or pottery manufacturers, such as Red Wing, can be quite valuable.
- Materials and type - The materials used in a churn and the type of churn can affect the value as well. Is it made of glass, stoneware, wood, or something else?
Antique Butter Churn Values by Type
Because there are so many different types of butter churns, it's important to differentiate them when talking about value. Here are some of the most common types of churns and what they are worth.
Dazey Butter Churns
Dazey churns were made of clear glass with a metal top. On the top was a crank you could turn to make the butter, and the glass jar let you watch the progress. Because there were many of these antique glass butter churns, value depends on the size and on special rare features. These churns ranged from small, pint-sized jars that you could hold in your hand to much larger vessels that would sit on the table or floor. Larger churns tend to be more valuable. Most examples sell for under $25, but rare versions with a horseshoe on them can sell for many times that price. Condition is important too. A complete and usable six-quart Dazey butter churn sold for $125 on eBay in 2020.
Antique Wooden Butter Churns on Legs
Some antique wooden butter churns stood on legs, and these can be among the most valuable. There were several designs of churns with legs. Some had a vessel suspended on the legs, and you could rock it back and forth to agitate the cream. Others had a crank on the side, which you would turn to stir the cream. Either way, finding these in good condition is not easy. If they are intact and usable, these churns can fetch hundreds of dollars. For example, a four-gallon bentwood churn on legs sold for $350 on eBay.
Vintage Wooden Butter Churns With Dashes
Not all antique wooden butter churns had legs. Some were made like barrels with staves joined together to create a water-tight vessel for the butter. These can also be valuable, particularly if they have some of their original paint or other unique features. Like their legged counterparts, these vintage wooden butter churns are difficult to find in good condition. If you find one it good shape, it could be worth hundreds. For example, a 19th century butter churn made of wood sold for $475; it still had remnants of its original blue paint.
Antique Stoneware Butter Churns
Although they are among the most common, antique stoneware butter churns' value can be very high. These churns were made of pottery or stoneware and used a wooden dash to agitate the cream. Some were made by notable potteries like Red Wing or have a salt glaze and cobalt blue designs, which can make them especially coveted by collectors. Vintage stoneware churns in less-than-perfect condition or that are mass produced sell for under $100, but special examples by noted potteries sell for much more. A complete Red Wing churn is excellent condition sold for $695.
An Important Part of Dairy History
Whether you see an antique wooden butter churn for sale or are thinking of selling your Dazey churn, knowing the value of these antiques is essential. They are an important part of dairy history, and they can be much more valuable than you might initially think. If you enjoy dairy-related antiques, consider reading up on old milk cans and antique milk bottles. These look great displayed with an antique churn, especially in a vintage kitchen or ice cream shop.