Vintage Bowls

We were watching one of my wife’s favorite cooking shows when she noticed a set of colored bowls the woman on the television was using.

“My mother used to have a set of bowls just like that!” she said. “I always loved those bowls. I wonder whatever happened to them? I wonder if she still has them? I’d love to have a set of those. They bring back so may memories!”

Before she had finished the last two sentences, I was already on eBay on the iPad, quietly searching for the set of four. I found the next-to-the-smallest, the red one, first.

I had to do a double take. It had to be that the person who listed this bowl for sale must’ve accidentally put an extra zero on the asking price.

The next bowl I found was the largest one, the yellow one, by a different seller. After looking at the price, I was now sure that the extra zeroes weren’t an accident.

Holy smokes. Why are these bowls so expensive? I thought.

And then it hit me. For the same reason that my wife wanted these bowls, so did millions of other women. They wanted to buy back part of their youth. The part that connected them to their mothers. The part that connected them to youthful happiness. The part that connected them to simpler and more pleasing times.

Talking with her mother by phone, she said that she’d acquired her set of bowls in the early 1950s.

Before I began searching for the other two bowls, the green and blue ones, I had made up my mind that nothing was going to stop me from finding all four of these bowls, in good condition, and surprising my wife with them.

The only decision that I was going to have to make regarding the acquisition of these Pyrex prizes was whether I’d need to plan a bank heist or take out a second mortgage.

Without my wife knowing, my search continued. I found a handful of sellers who had the whole set, but the case with all of the sets was there was at least one bowl, sometimes two or more, that had a scratch, chip, or some other blemish or damage. Even with imperfections, these bowls were still selling for what I thought was a lot of money.

So, my strategy was to locate the best bowl of each color and then privately message the seller and negotiate a sensible price.

I quickly discovered that it would be easier for me to get a job as George Clooney’s stunt double than to convince a woman who owns a vintage piece of Pyrex to sell it to me for less than she thinks its worth. And so, paying the asking price for each bowl is exactly what I did.

After finding, ordering, and sending the money for each bowl, I arranged with each seller to ship the item in such a way that I could clandestinely pick up each one, hide it, and then give the set to my wife at the time of my choosing.

In the meantime, I decided to do a bit of research on these bowls. These Pyrex mixing bowls are what many people refer to as “The 400 Series.” The bowls made in the 1950s and later included a number on the bottom. The smallest, the blue one, is 401, the red one is 402, the green is 403, and the yellow is 404.

The bowls made prior to the 1950s did not have numbers on them. The bottom was stamped, “T.M. REG.” So, if you come across a set of these bowls with no numbers, hang on to them. You’ve got some money there.

Also, on the numbered bowls, they include the capacity of each. The smallest bowl holds a pint and a half. The largest bowl holds a gallon.

While I was at it, I decided to also locate and buy a bowl like my mom used when I was growing up. It is also a Pyrex bowl, but it’s clear in the bottom and painted green on the outside.

Hey, I figured if I was getting my wife four bowls like the ones her mom had, I could get one like my mom had for myself.

The bowls all arrived separately, yet somehow, I was able to keep my wife from seeing them and I hid them in the closet until I was ready to present her with all of them.

She was beyond pleased. She may have even teared up a little when I gave them to her. She uses them often, for everything from salads, to dips, to mixing ingredients for things she’s making.

My wife is pretty protective of these bowls. It’s not that I’m not allowed to use them, it’s just that I get “the eye” whenever I do. I know that that means if I break one, I’ll be sleeping in the Prius for awhile.

So, I rarely use her vintage Pyrex bowls. It’s a lot more fun to watch her use them. It connects her to her youth, her mother, happiness, and a simpler, more pleasing time.

The only thing that might make my wife happier would be if I actually could pass for George Clooney’s stunt double.

At least she has the bowls.


©2017 John Moore

John’s book, Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now, is available on Amazon and at More and Moore Treasures in Ashdown, Arkansas.


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