Thirty years ago when I began collecting vintage toasters, the only way to find them was by slogging through swap meets, seeking out yard sales and attending the occasional estate sale.
Rarely would I look in antique shops because far too often the appliances for sale were not working and offered as “decorative” only, some even had the power cords cut off and the prices were astronomical. I don’t mind paying for an exceptional item but I won’t pay a premium price for a useless item.
I’m rather picky about the things I collect and I can’t understand collecting something that doesn’t work the way it is supposed to. Any appliance should be operational.
Then came the advent of the internet and a bit later eBay! Wow! Toasters, some old, some very old and some incredibly like new, even though they were manufactured in the 1920s, 1930s or 1940s. I was able to purchase a few early toasters that had never been used, some boxes had never been opened.
I did go a little overboard for a time but then began to limit my purchases to those toasters that were especially interesting or were in some way different or even “quirky” compared to the standard models.
JitterBuzz, has a very extensive site devoted to collectible appliances. I’ve included a link to the website on the Coffee Brewer page but here is the link for the page about:
Toaster trivia for collectors:
There are also some very helpful sites with information about repairing small appliances.
This one at How Stuff Works has a lot of very helpful information.
Ever hear of the Toast-O-Lator? It’s an automatic toaster that takes one slice of bread, inserted into one end, carries it on a toothy conveyor slowly past the heat elements and pushed it out the other end. It takes a long time to toast just ONE slice of bread.
A 1930s Sunbeam, the Art Deco styled T-9, and the first truly “automatic” toaster, the iconic Sunbeam T-20, drop in the bread, it lowers by itself and gently rises when done.
Following are links to web sites that show pictures with identification and manufacturers of vintage electric toasters and other small appliances.
The latter offers repair service and parts (replacement cords, etc.) for many vintage appliances.
The following site is dedicated to one line of Sunbeam toasters.
Sunbeam Radiant Control Toaster
And here is the Toaster Gallery
There is also a Yahoo Group dedicated to collecting toasters:
Following is a web site of a vendor,
Antique Art Deco Toasters Etc.
And now, some more photos of my favorite toasters.
This is the “crown jewel” of my collection.
GE Hotpoint “GAZELLE” Toaster
This toaster was manufactured in by the Hotpoint division of General Electric.
It is considered by many, including me, to be the most beautiful electric toaster ever made.
It is a small toaster, single slice and is a “tilt-out” with a timer that is non-electric – it clicks just like a regular kitchen timer.
The image of the gazelle, against the textured background, is so patently Art Deco that one doesn’t have to look up the date to know when it was designed.
You can see a photo with a brief note about the toaster at Jitterbuzz.com Scroll down about 1/3 of the page.
The Cyber Toaster Museum has a photo and a brief mention of the Gazelle toasterHERE!
This Sunbeam toaster, Model T 1 C, made in the 1930s, with the distinct Art Deco design with the decoration on each end a stylized representation of the Empire State Building.
Sunbeam T 1-C // Damaged
Just to show how even a tiny bit of damage can drastically affect value.
This one looks like it is in excellent condition, nice chrome, everything looks good.
BUT, there is damage to the bakelite lever that pushes the bread down. It is not at first obvious but to a collector, it is serious damage.
The problem in restoring these is that far too often the bakelite parts are damaged and there is no substitute unless one can find a “junker” from which to salvage a part. Much too often the bakelite is so fragile that removing it from one toaster will damage it.
The Sunbeam Radiant Control Toaster T-20 B.
My grandmother had the first model of this Sunbeam toaster, the T-20 A, introduced in 1949, and this model was in continuous production, always evolving but retaining the basic shape and method of operating, until 1997. It was different in several ways, obviously the slots were crosswise rather than the usual lengthwise configuration. And the self-lowering action was fascinating and still is.
A closeup of the control switch. Couldn’t be any simpler.
The bottom plate.
Closeup of the ID plate.
The Toaster Museum has an article about this toaster here. There is a detailed timeline with dates of manufacture of the various models. T20 thru VT40 in June 1962.
Sunbeam A-TC “Thinline”
This is the next version of the Self-Lowering Sunbeam toaster and it states so right on the front control panel.
This Sunbeam has a long slot but it is divided so will only accept a “regular” slice of bread and the sensor in only in one section and that is marked “One Slice” so the toaster will operate correctly.
This toaster is surprisingly heavy, as were all Sunbeam toasters, particularly when compared to other toasters from the same time period.
My oldest Sunbeam, the Number 4.
This Sunbeam toaster was patented March 9, 1922 and it went into production that year. This one needs a bit of cleaning. I have put a piece of bread, the heel, so you can see which side is up, to show how the toaster works.
Previous flatbed toasters were simply a flat grid over the heating coils and one either had to risk burning fingers to turn the toast or risk electrocution by the use of a fork.
This “mechanism” was very cleverly made so that the handles did not get hot and the bread could easily be turned over to toast on both sides.
There are actually three grids. One is stationary above the heating elements. The other two are on a pivoting bar that allows them to open to receive a slice of bread, hold it in position to toast on one side and then by grasping the handles of both movable grids, swing the pivoting bar from the back of the toaster to the front thus inverting the two grids which are holding the bread so it can be toasted on the other side.
Note that the pivoting bar is now on the front side of the toaster.
Toastswell Model 222
This Toastswell toaster, made by the Utility Electric Co. of St. Louis, MO was manufactured in 1941. The company stopped production in 1942 and resumed production in 1946 under the name Toastwell Co. in the same manufacturing plant.
It has two “control” knobs, one for dark and light and a knob that can be set so the toast either pops up or is retained in the toaster to keep warm, a function exclusive to this toaster at the time. When the company resumed production following WWII, the model was 222-A or 222-46 and had ONLY the one knob for dark/light. At the same time the company introduced a 4-slice pop-up toaster – another early innovation from this company.
It has a shape reminiscent of the Airstream trailer (some people describe it as shaped like a “loaf of bread”) and an abstract incised design on the side that harks back to the Art Deco designs of the previous decade that was still popular at the beginning of the 1940s.
The company produced quality electrics that were more expensive than comparable appliances of the time. It is heavy and built to last. It has its original cord and works quite well.I also have one of the post-war 222-46 models but have not pictured it here.
Son-Chief Magic Maid toaster
Another toaster with the rounded design reminiscent of the airstream trailer.
This little “flopper” toaster, manufactured by GE Hotpoint in the late ’30s, has a unique design of a spider web. Why anyone would want a spider web on a kitchen appliance is beyond me, but it is a popular collectible.
Click Here to see the photo in the Toaster Museum – at the bottom of the page.
Just above it is the “Gazelle” toaster, which I have shown near the top of this page.
This “flopper” or “flip-flop” toaster was manufactured under the Universal brand by Landers, Frary and Clark in the 1930s and was a popular design, inexpensive and easy to operate.
The toast was placed in each side and when the doors were opened, the toast slid down into the door with the untoasted side exposed so the door could be closed and the other side of the bread toasted. This design had been perfected in the early ’20s and remained a standard until the slotted designs became popular.
This one has been gently used and is in very good condition.
The openings on the top were not just a design element but would also allow already toasted slices to be stacked on top to be warmed by the elements. The large plug had an on-off switch and the toaster elements stayed hot until it was turned off.
This is another flopper toaster, made by the Dominion Electric Co.
Another flipper toaster made by Knapp-Monarch. This one has seen a lot of use and is not very pretty but the inside coils are full intact and functional. This toaster did not protect the coils well (obvious in the photo) and they were often damaged. I’ve kept this one in case I ever find a nicer one that needs the coils. It does work and the original cord is in excellent condition.
This is another flopper toaster, originally very inexpensive, even this “Deluxe Chrome” model. The original price was $1.95.
Superstar Aristocrat Toaster
Here is another flopper toaster from the late 1930s/1940 in its original box and completely unused. The cord is also like new.
There is a brief mention of this toaster at Toaster Central.com
The Samson Tri-Matic THREE slot toaster
Here’s a toaster for a family of three, for some reason this company decided that two was not enough and four was too many, I guess. Can’t thing of any other reason for this design.
It is heavy, and an interesting variable in the extraordinary maze of toaster designs that appeared in the 1930s. I think it is amazing that during the Great Depression all this innovation and development was going forward. Too bad there isn’t more of it nowadays here in this country.
You can see a photo at the Cyber Toaster Museum HERE
Penn-Air “Pop-Down” Toaster
This is an interesting toaster that works backwards to the “normal” pop-up toaster.
It operates backwards because you have to push the lever down, which closes the bottom of the toasting chamber, then drop in the bread which toasts to the point selected on the Light/Dark control. When it has toasted, the bread drops down on each side.
The body of the toaster is all aluminum.
TOASTMASTER TOASTERS – Waters-Genter Company/McGraw Electric Company
The Waters Genter Co., a division of McGraw Electric, began producing the first Toastmaster that had automatic pop-up function and was made for consumers. Earlier they produced a commercial toaster for restaurants.
The Toastmaster Model 1-A-1 was a single-slice toaster first sold in 1926.
In 1934 Toastmaster introduced the single-slice
And in 1936 Toastmaster incorporated pneumatic shock absorbers and the tension could be adjusted to keep the bread from being ejected from the toaster.
This is the instruction card that accompanied the toaster.
And here is a beautiful example of the toaster that was Toastmaster’s mainstay for several years.
Art Deco through and through!
The Toastmaster 1 B 5
The Toastmaster 1 B 8
This was the next evolution of the Toastmaster, top-of-the-line toaster. The shape, reminiscent of some of the automobiles of the day, was very popular and the surface design varied between the iconic “streamline” incised lines and one with a “daisy” motif. The smaller “Junior” model of this time, with a “tulip” design, can be seen below with the Hospitality Tray.
All of the Toastmaster toasters are heavy, well made, with thick chrome and quality bakelite furnishings. They were built to last and they certainly have.
How about this Toastmaster Hospitality Tray with the Toastmaster 1B7 “Junior” Toaster
A cute little toaster, on a tray with two jam pots, a bread tray and etc.
The toaster is a “manual” pop-up, non-automatic. When the lever is pushed down the bread is lowered and it begins heating but you have to estimate when to raise the toast when it is done.
And it even has a built-in toast cutter. Pretty nifty, eh?
That disappears into a slot when not in use.
Another Toastmaster 1 B 5
This one looks good at first glance but it suffered an injury in the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
Another toaster fell onto it, leaving an obvious dent right on the top. Now it is good only for parts.
This site Toastmaster History
has excellent references to the history of Max McGraw and the Waters-Genter Company, a division of McGraw Electric Co. and located in Minneapolis, Minnesota in the 1930s and early 1940s.
Yes, they also made toasters in Canada. Many show familiar names.
Here are three, two manufactured by Westinghouse, Canada.
Two are flopper toasters. Note the difference in size. The Westinghouse is the larger.
The smaller is the Tostess “Sturdy”, manufactured in Montreal, CA.
This Canadian Westinghouse has two slots and the “handles” on the sides are pushed down to elevate the toast so it can be removed from the toaster. No controls other than the On/Off switch on the power cord. This design did lot last long.
This Canadian GE Toaster has the longest cord on any toaster in my collection – 8 feet long. A far cry from the short cords on appliances of today. (They don’t trust us to contend with a long cord.)
It is a manual “lift” toaster with no timer and no control to stop the toasting automatically.
The level at the end is rotated to either side, which lowers the bread into the toaster and starts the toasting.
When it is returned to the center position it turns the power to the coils off and raises the toast.
It is quite heavy for its size and it is heavily chromed.
A “Mystery” Toaster – Sort Of!. Made by the Nelson Machine Co.
This toaster is somewhat of a mystery because there is no manufacturers NAME anywhere on it, nor is there one on the waffle iron/sandwich grill that I purchased with it. There is on the bottom of both appliances a capital “N” that has a lightning bolt crossing it diagonally and this was the logo of Nelson Machine Company. Also there are numbers on the bottoms of both.
This manufacturer made small electric appliances that were sold through Sears Roebuck, Woolworths and W. T. Grant “five and dime” stores, as well as other general and specialty sales stores.
The Toaster is identified as “Cat. 410A,” and the waffle iron as “Cat. 511.”
I have part of the original box which has the name: G & F Appliance, Rome, NY., which was probably the original seller.
Toasters of more recent manufacture
I have just a few newer toasters. Some have design elements that I think are interesting. Some were purchased because I needed a new toaster and wanted one with all the “bells & whistles” available on today’s appliances. Some just because they are pretty.
Most of these have been packed away and have to be rediscovered and again brought out into the light of day.
Meanwhile, here are two of the more recent purchases.
The Red Dualit Toaster
I bought this toaster because my old classic Dualit was not toasting evenly and I wanted a toaster that would handle long slices of bread (such as sourdough, etc.,) as well as four slices. It was available in several colors and I chose the red because I like red.
The Copper Jenn-Air Attrezzi Toaster
When I first saw this toaster I thought it was vastly overpriced and had no plans to buy it but when it became available at a very significant discount, I decided to get it. I have two other copper toasters and I like copper.
It is made by Jenn-Air and designed to reflect Italian design – thus the name “Attrezzi” that I think is a term for “tools,” or so I have been told.
This line was introduced in 2003 and included a stand mixer and a blender in addition to the toaster. One could get different “designer” bowls for the mixer and blender and different “designer” bases for the toaster to match the other appliances.
I did order one of the mixers to add to my collection but returned it because it arrived damaged and a replacement kept being backordered so eventually I canceled it and just as well. People I know who actually used the mixer and especially the blender, had significant problems with them.
Jenn-Air discontinued the line in early 2009. I don’t think it was much of a success. It is one thing to have good design but the working parts must actually work.
I have used the toaster very little. It works okay but I usually have bread slices (my homemade bread) that are too large for a standard toaster slot. My everyday toaster is a Breville with extra long slots. I also have a complaint that if bread is quite fresh, it takes two toasting sessions to toast it properly, even when the toaster is on the highest or “darkest” setting. My Breville toasts even extremely fresh bread, that has a high moisture content, on the #7 setting, it goes up to 9.
When Fiesta tableware was revived during the latter half of the 1990s, they also offered a few other items, including this toaster. There was an original Fiesta toaster, with a ceramic shell, produced in the late ’50s and early ’60s but they are quite rare.
These are plastic and while they have been discontinued, they can occasionally be found, some even new.
They were offered in the “original” Fiesta colors and well as some of the new colors introduced in the 1990s.
The metal is very shiny so it is difficult to see the printing on the face.
It looks a bit better in this photo.
A few months ago I decided to purchase this unusual toaster with glass sides.
The Magimix Vision Toaster. Fairly expensive for a two-slice toaster.
(Has a single, long slot.
You can see the progression of the toasting.
Do visit again soon, I’ll be posting more photos and more stories.