Have you recently discovered an antique butter churn in your garage and want to know how much it could be worth? Do you have a keen interest in antiques and are curious about the differences between antique wooden butter churns and stoneware butter churns?
Antiques are fascinating items and provide us with tangible links to the past. They are an insight into how people lived and can be a very lucrative investment depending on the type of antique you have.
This article aims to educate you about the history and the different types of antique butter churns, how much an old butter churn is worth, and list different places where you can buy and sell antique butter churns.
History of Butter Churns
According to Churncraft, butter churns were first invented during the Middle Ages, though there is some evidence to suggest they existed as far back as 6AD. Butter churns were invented to literally churn butter.
The milk used to make the butter during this period came from goats, as cows weren’t domesticated enough to be milked.
Middle Ages butter churns were very simple; a sack made from leather would be filled with milk and tied to some rope and the other end would be tied to a wooden tripod. The butter maker would then swing the bag back and forth until the contents solidified.
Nomadic people living during the same era would take an even simpler approach. They tied the bag of milk to the saddle of an animal such as a horse or donkey and the act of walking would be enough to churn butter.
The butter churn developed to be more efficient between the Middle Ages and the Industrial Revolution, as three main types of churns were invented: the dash, the barrel, and the paddle. More about the types of butter churns will be listed below.
The 18th and 19th centuries saw the butter churn begin to become more popular as household items and millions were produced to cater to the demand. Women would make homemade butter and sell it to their friends and neighbors.
This commercialization of the butter churn helped the dairy industry take off in Europe and the produce was widely available in most countries by the end of the Industrial Revolution. Ireland especially became one of the biggest exporters, mostly doing business with England.
In America, New York was the ‘dairy capital’ during the same era. The first commercial dairy farm was established in Goshen, Orange County, during the 1830s, and the butter they produced became a household staple for many Americans.
The Never Sink Museum states that there was even a bank note produced by the National Bank of Orange County at the time that commemorated the famous Goshen Butter, and the note was colored yellow to pay tribute to it.
Their popularity only lasted until the end of the century, when many butter businesses began to collapse thanks to the impact of the newly developed railroads. This affected the butter industry hugely.
The trains reduced the travel time so much that milk farmers in the country found that they could now send fresh milk directly to the cities without it spoiling. Many decided to turn their attention to the milk trade rather than supplying the butter trade.
This meant that the butter companies didn’t have enough of a supply to create the amount of product they needed. Demand for fresh country milk rose, their margin for profit shrunk, and eventually, most butter companies went bankrupt.
Nowadays, butter remains a popular household staple worldwide, and though antique butter churns are now defunct, they still carry a rich history and a lot of charm.
Types of Antique Butter Churns
As stated above, there are three main types of antique butter churns that have survived to modern day:
Dash Butter Churn
The dash butter churn was invented first and involved a long wooden stick called a dasher that was moved vigorously up and down to mix the milk inside the container. They were in use from the Middle Ages right up until the beginning of the Victorian era.
These are the most recognized butter churns as they have been depicted in manuscripts dating back to the Medieval period as well as part of images where Baby Krishna steals butter.
They have been made in a range of materials, including wooden barrels, simple carved logs, ceramic, and intricately decorated earthenware glass. Dash churns are still in use in some parts of the world, but in America, they are only found in antique stores and museums.
The dash churn was eventually made redundant in most places due to the invention of the hand-cranked churns during the Victorian era.
Barrel Butter Churn
Barrel butter churns are rather self-explanatory in that they are made from oak that has been crafted into a barrel shape and placed upon stands. They are one of the hand crank butter churns and have either a wooden handle or a metal handle and metal bands.
This wooden butter churn was first used in the 18th century on dairy farms and another name for them were box churns. They have a single iron band, or two iron bands wrapped around them. It would take around 90 minutes to turn cream into butter using this churn.
They also feature wooden panels inside, and a lid with a hole in the top so the churner could see how the process was going without needing to stop and look. The handle is attached to a stick or pole with a small wooden paddle on the end that churns the cream.
The churn tended to be smaller, big enough to fit comfortably on a table but too small to be used for large scale production. They were most likely to be used within small dairy farms or for large households that also provided for their neighbors.
English Heritage have an amazing video that shows an accurate depiction of how Victorian women would make butter using a barrel butter churn. You can find it here.
Paddle Butter Churn
Paddle butter churns became popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They could be made of iron-banded wood or of glass jars with a metal handle and metal paddle. Some also may have a wood handle. Again, they have a hand crank mechanism to churn the cream.
A well-known brand that produced a glass churn was called Dazey, established in 1903. Dazey churns are usually made of a glass jar with a wooden paddle and a metal handle that pokes out from the top of the jar through the lid.
They could be made in different sizes to accommodate the quantity of butter needed, so a domestic churn would fit well in a farmhouse and a larger churn would have been most ideal for a small dairy business.
How to Identify an Antique Butter Churn
Identifying a genuine antique butter churn can be done with several methods. Many simply involve looking closely at the detail of the piece, whilst others involve taking it to an expert.
Look for a Manufacturer’s Mark
Butter churns made by a specific manufacturer tend to be worth more than unbranded churns. A manufacturer’s mark can usually be found either stamped on the base of the churn or on the underside of the lid.
A mark can tell you who made it, when it was made, and what country it was made in. This can help you identify the type of butter churn it is most likely to be and help you estimate how much it could be worth.
Popular antique butter churn manufacturers include Dazey and Red Wing. Some butter churns also have serial numbers that prove authenticity that you can look up online via the US Patent and Trademark Office.
These can be found either on the bottom of the churn or on a metal handle, metal paddle, or any other metal part of the butter churn.
Work out the Materials That Were Used
The material that the butter churn is made of could tell you the era that it was made. For example, if it is made of wood and matches the characteristics of a barrel butter churn, then it is likely to have been made during the Victorian era.
If it is made of ceramic or stone and has been elaborately decorated, then it could be a dash churn made in the 1700s so long as every other factor fits in with the churns of the time.
You should watch out for reproduction pieces made to look antique. They can be very convincing and often fool the untrained eye, hence why this method isn’t the most effective when trying to date a butter churn.
Compare the Style to the Suspected Era
Again, the style of the churn can help you identify when it was made. You could compare your antique butter churn to the list of different types of churns above and compare the characteristics of each vs the ones yours has.
Suppose you believe your butter churn is from the early 1920s, but it has metal banding and wooden handles. In that case, it is more likely to be either a barrel churn from the Industrial Revolution era or a reproduction.
Some pieces may have also been upcycled and changed to make them look more attractive, using methods such as simply painting the churn a different color, fastening on extra iron rings, or adding decorations such as raised letters.
Study the Condition of the Piece
Antique butter churns are rarely in pristine condition, as their age generally means that some wear and tear is standard. However, these small blemishes can be a good thing, as they indicate that the butter churn is a genuine antique.
Antique butter churns that are in an excellent condition do exist but should be evaluated carefully to ensure that it is an antique and not a vintage butter churn. A general rule is that antiques are over a hundred years old. Anything made later than this is classed as vintage.
The condition of the butter churn also affects the value of the item. Genuine antique churns in excellent condition sell for more than those in fair or poor condition. Churns in good condition will sell for a lower price than ones in excellent condition but can still be valuable.
Take it to be Appraised
The best way to identify a genuine antique butter churn is to take it to a professional to get it appraised. There are several methods to choose from, some of which are free and others that will cost you some money.
Online appraisals are a popular way to get something evaluated. Many of these are free, but the accuracy of the appraisal cannot fully be guaranteed, especially if you use a blog or social media to carry it out. Try to use a reputable site such as Gannon’s Antiques and Art.
You could also take it to your local auction house, antique dealer, or occasionally, an antique collector. You will find trained professionals with years of experience who can accurately identify your butter churn and give you information on it as well as an estimated value.
A final appraisal method would be to get an insurance company to appraise it. Only use this route if you believe the butter churn may be worth a significant amount, otherwise, the company may refuse to do it as it wouldn’t be worth insuring.
How Much are Antique Butter Churns Worth?
So, now you have successfully identified your butter churn, how much is the butter churn worth? The value of an antique butter churn depends on many different factors according to Love to Know Antiques.
These include the condition and material the churn is made from, the age of the churn, whether it was made by a prestigious manufacturer, and the type of butter churn it is.
Condition and Materials
The condition of the antique butter churn doesn’t just cover the overall finish of the piece. It includes whether the butter churn has all of the original features, rather than having reproduction parts as replacements for those that have been lost or damaged.
For example, a butter churn in very good condition should have the original lid, the original paint that it was decorated with, and have minimal wear and tear. If a churn has any reproduction parts, the value of it decreases.
The type of material used to make the churn may also affect the condition of the item. For example, an antique wood butter churn is more likely to have some age-related wear and tear yet still be in relatively good shape.
Those made from material such as glass are less likely to be in good condition because the fragility and age of the butter churn makes it probable that the glass has been chipped, cracked, or smashed over time.
Stone butter churns can be more valuable depending upon the age and condition of the piece.
If the butter churn has been damaged or there are signs of attempts to mend it, this can also affect the value in a negative way. If it is in a very good condition with all the original features, then it is likely to be worth more.
The age of the churn can be determined once it has been identified using the aforementioned methods. Older churns in excellent condition will have a higher estimated value than those that are in poor condition.
Newer churns in excellent condition could be worth as much as the older churns if it has been made by a popular manufacturer. However, if they have no sign of a manufacturer’s mark, then they are worth less.
Manufacturer and Type of Churn
These factors have a big role in determining butter churn worth. Manufacturer’s marks or stamps are integral to identifying genuine churns from reproduction and are often sought after by antique collectors.
As mentioned above, one of the most well-known antique butter churn manufacturers is Dazey. Dazey churns have an estimated value of around $25-$125 depending on the other factors mentioned above, as well as the size and rarity of the butter churn.
Bigger churns in very good condition will sell for the higher amount, whereas smaller, handheld glass churns are more likely to sell for around the $25 estimate. You should also take into consideration the popularity of the churn amongst antique collectors.
If it is a highly sought-after butter churn, then you may be able to sell it for much more than the estimate. If not, then the butter churn worth immediately decreases as it becomes harder to sell.
The type of churn affects butter churn worth as some are more valuable than others, again depending on the factors listed above.
Some butter churns that have sold for high prices include:
- An antique wooden butter churn on legs sold on eBay for $350
- A Red Wing stoneware butter churn in excellent condition sold for just under $700
- A 19thcentury wooden butter churn with flecks of the original blue paint sold for $475.
Best Places to Sell an Antique Butter Churn
If you are looking to sell an antique butter churn, it is recommended that you get it appraised professionally first and get a certificate of authenticity from the appraiser. This will make your listing trustworthy and more likely to attract prospective buyers.
Next, you need to find a safe place you can sell your butter churn. Online marketplaces are very popular nowadays and many buy and sell antiques on platforms such as eBay or listings on social media marketplaces. Some antique blogs may also have options to list items.
You may decide to sell it privately to an antique collector if you personally know one. You could reach out via the internet and message prospective buyers if they have advertised that they are looking for what you are selling.
You could also approach your local antique shop or dealer to see if they would be interested in purchasing the butter churn. They will appraise it before making an offer, but it may be below market value as they will put it up for resale and want to make a profit.
Where to Buy Antique Butter Churns
There are several places you can buy an antique butter churn. One is at an antique shop or from an antique dealer. This is one of the most trustworthy vendors as they will have had the churn appraised and valued appropriately. Some can be found via their websites too.
Another place to buy a butter churn is at an auction house. Again, it will have been appraised and verified as genuine, but you may end up paying over the estimate if you end up in a bidding war with another potential buyer.
A popular online marketplace for antiques tends to be eBay. This isn’t as trustworthy as the above methods as you often cannot view the item before buying, you can’t be sure it is a genuine artifact, and you may end up overpaying again as it is a bidding site.
To ensure you are buying a genuine antique butter churn, avoid purchasing from social media marketplaces unless they have a certificate of authenticity because they are often being sold by people without any antique knowledge.
Unless you can view the butter churn, have seen the certificate, or can have it appraised, don’t give out any financial information or hand over money.
To conclude, in order to identify and value an antique butter churn, you should:
- Identify the type of butter churn it is
- Look at the materials used to make it
- Check for a manufacturer’s mark
- Study the condition of the piece
- Take it to be appraised
If you have any comments or questions about anything you have read today, please leave them below and we will get back to you as soon as possible.