Vintage stove - too good to be true? (Long)

stonejmJune 17, 2014

We're about to start major renovations (2 baths and a kitchen, plus some other minor changes and then painting most of the interior) on our 1250 sq. ft. 1925 house. Trying to stay as "vintage" as possible. I'll cut to the chase. We want a vintage stove, have leaned toward 1940s and 1950s period, learned quickly that a fully restored stove would cost anywhere from $4 - 10K and up. After a lot of looking, mostly on Craigs List and Ebay, though also some local restorers, I've found something that may be too good to be true. I have the opportunity to buy a fully restored Wedgewood gas stove from 1950 for $400! It's at a 4 hour distance from us, so not so easy to run over and look at. Pictures, of both outside and inside, are amazing. It is absolutely sparklingly gorgeous!!! The seller says they bought it in restored condition several years ago but couldn't use it because they didn't have gas lines in their house, and don't have any documentation about it, and that's why they're selling it for such a low price; also, they're moving so need to sell soon. He said it's fine for us to bring someone with us to inspect it if we'd like. He says it's been kept wrapped in plastic in a dry, protected location.

I'm somewhat of a risk-taker, so I'm writing here in hopes of hearing your opinions. I'm a bit wary in this case, though, because, again, stoves like this are sold by restorers for $9,000, and I've seen stuff on ebay that look disgusting and are being offered for much more than $400 (though some are much more appropriate to the condition of the piece). But I really want it!!! I'm thinking, how bad can it be? At that price, if it needs a new thermostat or something, this brand has parts available all over the web, and if it needed repairs, it would still be worth it. Obviously, I'd have it carefully inspected before trying to use it. And it has to be up to code in our state. I'm inclined to have it crated and shipped to us--really no time to go look at it.

One more thing--it's big, as in 40" wide, though it's 36" high and 26" deep; 2 ovens, 2 broilers, a griddle and 4 burners. We have a small kitchen (approx. 11x13 ft.), but definitely a place for it. I discussed it with our contractor, and he thinks we could make it work, though he said I should ask for documentation, which I did, and got the info I explained above.

Anyway, any thoughts about whether or not I should buy it? Thanks for reading my long post! I didn't know whether to post in Kitchens, Old House, Appliances, Small Houses, Antiques and Collectibles, or here. But here I am.

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I just realized that I DID post on the small house forum, when I thought I was on the remodel forum. Anyway, it must be my house dimensions were on my mind ;). Sorry - it's late!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 1:48AM
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If I wanted that stove I'd sure go take a look at it, plus if possible bring a person with some knowledge of natural gas fittings and hookup. You could ask more questions face to face. A four hour drive does sound daunting tho.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 11:05AM
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I would buy it sight unseen. Just let them ship it. So what if it doesn't work. You will have the option of either having it repaired (probably for way less that $4K) or immediately post it for sale.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 8:56AM
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lov_mkitchenIOWA zone 6b

I would be SO tempted to take finallyhome's advice and just get it shipped to you. Or driving up there with a pick up and bringing it home. Cross the "does it work" question after you get it home. But that price does sound too good to be true. On the other hand, what's the market for a vintage stove? There aren't many of us looking for one and even fewer with the $$$$$ to buy one. Maybe the seller just wants it sold.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2014 at 8:06AM
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No, it's not too good to be true. Old ranges vary astronomically in value depending on where you are. In FL where I am, anything gas in working condition from that era is well over 1K, but over in the kitchen forum fori posted a spectacular mid-fifties gas range from the San Francisco craigslist not long ago--mint condition, multiple ovens, cleanest you ever saw, and they couldn't get $400 for it.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2014 at 8:18PM
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Just a thought re: SF CL stove. There was an article on that there is a law in NY (I believe) that doesn't let those old stoves be installed unless a certain safety feature could be added. It couldn't on that model. CA (being CA) probably has a similar law, maybe that's why they couldn't get anything for it.
Stonejm, you might want to check that out.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2014 at 10:38PM
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We are in California, and as far as I know there are actually no restrictions on installing vintage ranges. (Definitely never came up in any of our inspections--we have one!) Ours (1954 O'Keefe and Merritt) does have a safety valve, but no one ever asked or checked for one. The reason they're tough to sell in the Bay Area is just that they're all over the place, and a PITA to move. Either way, though, I'm pretty sure a 1950 stove should have been built with a safety valve anyway (but you can have them retrofitted if not).

The main thing I would check is that it's actually restored and not just rehabbed (but for that price, it doesn't really matter). I do see them advertised as "restored" in the Bay Area frequently when people really mean "clean and in mint condition" (which does not have the same price tag as actual restoration--that involves replacing or recalibrating thermostat, rechroming or re-enameling as needed, checking safety, repairing rust and corrosion and replacing parts as needed, replacing glass or doors if needed, etc.)

Wedgewoods are super easy to work with, though--they're very mechanical--so even if something is wrong with it, you could likely fix it relatively easily and for far less than a restored stove would run you. If by chance you're in California (where they were made) there are still many stove repair shops that specialize in them. I had one in a rental once and they're terrific stoves (as are the O'Keefe and Merritts). I'd definitely go check it out, assuming your state has no restrictions on their installation!

    Bookmark   June 24, 2014 at 12:55AM
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Guess what??? I bought the stove, had it shipped to us. It's sitting in our garage, still all wrapped up in packing material (so I haven't actually seen it yet), waiting to be "unveiled." But here comes the bad news: just as we're about to start the kitchen remodel, I'm calling around for someone to inspect it. I discover (or rather our contractor had said something to this effect, but I assumed it could somehow be taken care of) that in Massachusetts, where I live, there's a law requiring electronic ignition. A standing pilot (the kind always lit that you light with a match) is illegal in my state!!! I was foolish not to check this out more thoroughly before buying the stove, but thought it was an issue of "parts," which I saw available in many places. A local stove restorer said something to the effect that use of propane might be possible, but he was rushed and I'm not 100% sure about that. Anyone in Massachusetts out there who's dealt with this problem? Thanks! :(

    Bookmark   September 8, 2014 at 8:32PM
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Congratulations on buying the stove. My mother's 1950 stove (a Kenmore that is similar to my Wedgewood) is *not* electronic ignition. Of course, it came with the house when my parents bought in 1962 - so it would be a grandfathered stove. She has home insurance so obviously the insurance company hasn't had a hissy fit in the 52 years she's been using it.

FYI, my Wedgewood is running on propane as I live in rural CA. When we bought the house, the stove came with it. Scary to know, the previous owner just had it cobbled together but not really restored. We could smell the propane when we walked into the house after passing papers. There was no regulator from the wall pipe into the stove and the pilots didn't work. The gas pressure was about 3 times what it was supposed to be for propane and all the burners needed adjustments. I had to pay four hours of travel time just to get a qualified stove repair/restorer to come over. Then it was twice that for the time and parts. Well worth it to me -- I love that stove. If we ever move, it goes with me!

    Bookmark   September 15, 2014 at 1:01AM
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You'd probably get better help in the kitchen or old house forums.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2014 at 5:22PM
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From what I understand it's just a part that needs to be installed. Not a big deal. Contact Jack Santoro at, he can help you.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2014 at 7:22PM
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