Antique Ice Box Value & Identification Guide (2023)

My family and I had recently planned a break in Hawaii. We had our clothes packed and our drinks sealed, but alas! My new plastic ice box just broke and shattered like crazy. And that’s when I remembered my 100-year-old ice box in the shed. And thankfully, it was still working!

Now, these antique wooden boxes are pretty natural! Like, they have metal-lined walls and cork or seaweed insulators. So yes, they don’t have an expiry date! And today, they may cost even more than $1000 as per their age and brand. Let’s see how & by how much!

Key Takeaways

  • The early 1800s, 1830s, or 1840s iceboxes fetch the best value due to their natural insulation and Art Deco designs.
  • Antique ice boxes typically cost $500 – 3000, but those with Wood & Alloyed metal sections are the most precious.
  • Look for rare or branded models from Bending Hall, Baldwin, or Ranney for a high resale value.
  • You’ll get three types of antique ice boxes – Commercial, Portable, and Glass fronted. Of these, the commercial ones are large & precious.
  • Pick vintage ice boxes with a lacquered, brushed, or matte finish for a handmade make.

How Do You Identify an Authentic Antique Ice Box?

Vintage Ice Box

Well, antique ice boxes obviously have patinas, gaskets, and rusty lids. But these aren’t what antique lovers look for! In fact, it’s these unique, technical features that interest them more.

  • Simple box-like design with Oak, Ash, or Pine walls 
  • Hollow sections with hand-filled Cork, Sawdust, Straw, or Seaweed insulation
  • External drip pan or drainage pipe with a self-evaporating system for the melted water
  • Hand beaten Tin or Zinc sheet lining for the inner compartment
  • Might have an ice crusher or built-in thermometer at the sides

The Chilling History & Evolution of Vintage Ice Boxes

Can you guess the size of the first ice box? 20 inches? 50 inches? Well, the first ice box was 2-3M, almost as wide as a house. Yeah! Well, Arctic people (1700s) simply collected the natural ice and dumped it with straw in their rooms. But it just wasn’t feasible for everyone!

Then, in 1802, Thomas Moore had a doable idea! He made small stone or wood boxes and added some straw to cool down dairy products. Thus, America got a new milkman! And not just milk, but this box also shipped meat, dairy, and butter! But it was still very heavy!

But, in the 1900s, the millennials started using tin and zinc for the ice box walls and replaced the straw with cork and sawdust. Plus, most of them had wooden trays to hold the water. But this process got standardized, making the handmade ones more precious today!

3 Types of Vintage Ice Boxes & Prices (As per the Size & Use)

Let’s check the three main types of vintage ice boxes as per their use – dairy, commercial, and picnic, of course, with the base price!

1. Commercial Ice Boxes

True to its name, this icebox has long, 40-60 inch walls, racks, and ice block floors for commercial use. Most have tin or zinc walls, but the 1800s ones might use cork and weed too! Also, you might see water tanks, drains, and lights that hike the cost up to $4000.

2. Portable Ice Boxes

If your ice box is only 20-30” long, it might be a portable one worth $100 – 1500. Such iceboxes use hollow sections, often with handles and straps, for easy lifting. These might also have steel or aluminum lids, drain plugs, and spouts for the ice packs.

3. Glass Fronted Ice Box

These ice boxes are just like 40” wooden cabinets but with glass panels at the front. While these allow you to see what’s stored inside, they don’t hold the ice for long. So reserve them for your daily meat and dairy at just a low value of $30 – 500.

8 Easy Ways to Identify & Appraise Your Antique Ice Box Rightly

Now, let’s jump to the other factors, like age, material, brands, and much more, to know if your ice box is ANTIQUE or not!

1. Antique Ice Box Age & Dates

Experts say that the first ice box was from the 1700s, in Europe. But since those models used natural Arctic ice and straw, you won’t get these today! So, if you want the old, collectible ones, look for the handmade 1800s models!

Now, the easiest way to check that is to look at the stamped dates at the back! But if those are faded, study the clues below:

Old IceBox YearsAgeUnique FeaturesAverage Valuation
Early 1800s223 yearsLooks like an oval cedar tub with hollow walls and rabbit fur, straw, or seaweed insulation$1000 – 4000
1830s193 yearsSingle-compartment iceboxes with base trays, seaweed or cork insulators, and Art Deco designs$900 – 2500, as per the condition
1840s183 years50 lbs iceboxes with double door walls, sawdust insulators, and small ventilation holes$900 – 2000
1850s173 yearsSmall and single-shelved iceboxes with inbuilt mechanical and gas-driven tubes at the top$600 – 1700
1870s153 yearsMulti-shelved iceboxes with metal linings, decorative hardware, and drip pans$300 – 1500
1900s123 yearsStreamlined and modern designs with 3-4 doors, multiple adjustable shelves, water faucets, drip pans, and lights$300 – 1000 (branded ones cost up to $1500)
1950s73 yearsPortable, electric iceboxes with metal and tin exteriors, shelves, drawers, drainage holes, and water dispensers$200 – 800

Most REAL and old iceboxes have rusty pin-lever hinges, latches, and lids. So, lubricate them with some edible vegetable or coconut oil for more value.

2. Vintage Ice Box Materials

Collectors love the functional 1900s tin or zinc ice boxes for their insulation. But for good returns, the 1800s wood or metal boxes are best. Also, these have old grooved or sliding joints you won’t get nowadays. So, these fetch a high value, as shown in the table below:

Old Ice Box MaterialsUnique FeaturesRough Cost
Wood – Oak, Mahogany, Pine, CedarSolid wood, Polished or Painted boxes with pin joints, carvings, and moldings$200 – 2000
Alloyed or Hand Beaten Metals & SteelCrude, hand-beaten metal walls with uneven thickness, brushed appearance, and matte finish.$100 – 1200
Stainless Steel / AluminumSleek and shiny walls with white paint and anti-rust finish$50 – 900
TinGlossy, grayish walls with anti-dent and anti-leak seals$30 – 800
ZincSilvery-gray brushed finishes with 2-3mm walls$10 – 300
Plastic / SiliconeThick but lightweight walls with an inner metal lining and rubber gaskets$10 – 200

Get wood ice boxes with molded glass, rubber, or leather seals for an old make.

3. Old Ice Box Insulators

Old Ice Box Insulators

Not all iceboxes used straw and grass like the 1700s Arctic people. Some new 1900s ones also use refined fibers like flax and mineral wool.

So let’s check how these materials and their unique traits impact the icebox costs:

Vintage Icebox Insulating MaterialsTop TraitsAverage Value
StrawThick, blade-like insulation in a bundle form$500 – 3000, as per condition
Sawdust, SeaweedThin & Particle-like insulation that absorbs water but turns moldy with time$300 – 1000
CorkLight and clean insulation with natural air pockets that trap cold currents$100 – 1500
CharcoalBlack, Carbon-rich, and Non-toxic insulation$50 – 1500
Mineral Wool & Flax FiberStem or leaf-like, water-repellent insulation$10 – 500

Pick old iceboxes with built-in or freestanding defrost valves to maintain your box’s original insulation properly.

4. Antique Ice Box Finishes

You’ll get antique iceboxes in various finishes, including matte, painted, and shiny ones. Of these, the older ones were simply lacquered or brushed, while the new 1900s ones might be glossy.

And here are the average values as per the box finishes:

Old Icebox FinishesEstimated Price
Lacquered & Varnished$1000 – 2500
Matte & Brushed$100 – 1200
Metallic & Shiny$50 – 1000
Handpainted $50 – 2000, as per the condition

5. Antique Icebox Colors

It’s not that all the old iceboxes are bare wood or metal! In fact, in the 1850s, makers started using different paints and pigments that added a bold, colored finish to each. And here’s how to price different colored ice boxes:

Vintage Icebox ColorsAverage Cost
Dark Colors – Black & Gray$60 – 800
Transparent, White & Yellow$200 – 2000 (branded ones cost up to $4000)
Organic Colors – Beige & Brown$300 – 2000
Metallic Colors – Gold & Silver$500 – 2500
Cool Colors – Blue & Green$60 – 400
Red & Orange$20 – 300

Look for dual-colored or glittery gold or silver-streaked iceboxes, which cost more by 2 – 3%.

6. Vintage Icebox Brands

Branded iceboxes like those from D. Eddy and Coca-Cola obviously fetch better prices than others. That’s because these have unique copper linings and drains that you won’t get elsewhere.

So don’t forget to check the stamped logos, signs, and brand names on the lids, especially on the top, side covers, or undersides.

Check out some popular ice box brands and their values below:

Old Ice Box BrandsUnique FeaturesEstimated Price
D. Eddy & Son of BostonPlain, small, and functional designs with top shelves and bottom cabinets$500 – 2000, as per the age
Bending HallOakwood boxes with spring lever latch and two compartments$1000 – 2500
McCrayIndustrial or Residential Ice Boxes with Porcelain lining and glass fronts$800 – 2000
BaldwinSeasoned Oak boxes with extra drawers and shelves$800 – 1700
RanneyCurved, Cubical boxes with extra shelves, drains, and ice block compartments$900 – 2000
White Frost RefrigeratorsCylindrical, Steel iceboxes with 2-3 revolving shelves$120 – 1000

Avoid getting broken, deformed, or moldy iceboxes, as these lose their value by 5 – 15%.

7. Rare & Old Iceboxes

Now, most iceboxes look the same, with 2-3 doors, lids, and drain holes. But some custom-made ones have 14 – 16 doors, gold-plated hardware, and gas lines too! So, these obviously value more than others, even up to $10,000. Let’s study such rare models below:

Old & Rare IceboxesLast Resale Price
Custom 7-Door Box with Curved Ice Cream Display$18,500
14-Door Icebox with beer Chests$10,000
1955 Frigidaire Imperial Refrigerator $4500
Seeger Icebox$4500
Custom Bohn Icebox$3000

8. Old Ice Box Hardware

If you want an old and authentic icebox, get the ones with leather or rubber gasket hinges. Even the fasteners would be flexible, often with twisted wire screws and nails. On the other hand, if you see shiny metallic hinges, it might be a new 1900s model worth $300 – 1000.

How Old is an Antique Icebox?

The first icebox dates back to the 1700s, roughly 300 years from now. But, the collectible ones are from the 1800s – 1900s, i.e, they are 100 – 200 years old.

What Were Old Ice Boxes Lined With?

Old iceboxes often had a zinc or tin lining with other insulating materials like cork, sawdust, natural fiber, and straw at the center.

Do Antique Iceboxes Still Work?

Yes, antique iceboxes work if there’s proper insulation and tin lining. So replace the straw or cork in their sections, and grease the hinges for a better seal.

How Long Would Ice Last in a Vintage Icebox?

Most vintage iceboxes could hold ice for 5-6 hours, depending on its size and insulation. But, some branded ones could hold it up for a day due to their superior circulators and lining.

Identifying a REAL icebox is pretty easy! All you need to do is check its age, materials, and finishes and see if it’s branded or not! Also, test if the insulation’s changed, as such models lose their value drastically. If not, refer to the tables and know the exact value!

Want to know more about such old kitchen furniture items? Check out our guide on ‘Old Hoosier Cabinets,’ ‘Bassett Furniture,’ and ‘Old Wood Stoves’ now!

Judith Miller
Judith Miller

Judith is an antique expert with nearly 20 years of experience in the field of antique identification and valuation. She has reviewed over 30 thousand vintage items and has worked with numerous antique shops. She enjoys seeing new places, attending antique shows and events, and sharing her knowledge with people! Know more about me

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