Frequently Asked Questions 


Click on a question below to go to the answer:




How does a toaster work?
Please read, Toasters: The Inside Story.

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What is my toaster worth?
Our main purpose here at the Toaster Museum Foundation is to provide historical information and we are not certified nor licensed appraisers. Prices for all antiques and collectibles fluctuate greatly, and the most accurate statement you can make about the value of some old thing is that it is worth exactly what someone is willing to pay.

Because most toasters were produced in the tens - if not hundreds - of thousands, they are not incredibly valuable (which is why we were able to get into collecting them); but their value will increase as they grow older and as more people become interested in collecting them. There are a number of models that are fetching high prices, especially ones that have ceramic bases or are made entirely (well, not the mechanics) of porcelain.

Of course, the condition of the toaster contributes to its value. An unused model with its original cord, in its original box, would have the most worth to a collector.

One way to see what old toasters are actually selling for (after all, a toaster with a price tag of $100 on it that sits in a shop for years obviously isn't "worth" $100), is to check online auction sites and search current and completed auctions. One popular site is eBay.

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How old is my toaster?
It's often difficult to determine precisely. A successful toaster may have been in production over a period of 10, 15, or more years. Combine that with the fact that most of the companies aren't around anymore - and the ones that are often didn't keep those kind of records (who'd have thought people would be interested in a toaster's history!).

So, we have to try to figure out a toaster's age from old advertisements and catalogs - from stylistic similarities - from the materials used - and other such methods.

Patent numbers engraved on toaster can be misleading - the number might refer to a design patent from 15 years earlier, and what you thought was a 1914 model is actually from 1930.

Look over a chart showing Important and Interesting Patents.

Here are a few helpful tidbits to determine age:

  • Chrome plating didn't get used until the late 1920s, before that appliances were usually nickel plated - sometimes silver plated. Nickel plating gives off a yellowish hue.

  • Early automatic toasters - or toasters with timers - used a clockwork-type mechanism and you can hear them tick. Later automatics from approx. the late 1940s on are silent.

  • Generally, if it looks and feels really old (scary, old braided cord - sturdy, over-engineered, etc.), it probably is.

Look through our Cyber-Toaster Museum and see if there is a toaster similar to the one you want to date and then if you still need more information, e-mail us with as much information as possible (manufacturer, model/serial/catalog number - and a photo is also helpful), and we'll see if we can help.

One company that did keep records of when some of its older toasters were manufactured is Toastmaster - we have a chart posted showing: Toastmaster Toasters: When They Were Made.

Also, you can get other people's opinion on a toaster's age in our Forums Section.

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Where can I get my toaster repaired?
Repairs and parts are tough - the companies still in existence don't seem to have parts for their older appliances (and it probably wouldn't be very cost effective for them to warehouse parts for 50-year-old toasters), and most repair shops don't want to deal with them either.

You might check with the following shop and see if he can help (he likes to work on the old toasters):

Donald Kehoe
1 (800) 562-4226

You can also check the web site of the National Appliance Service Association and search to find a member repair shop in your area.

Additionally, you can see if anyone has recommendations for a repair shop in our Forums Section.

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Where can I buy old toasters?
There are the usual places: Thrift Stores, Junk Shops, Antique/Collectible Stores or Malls, Garage/Yard/Tag/Estate Sales, etc.

If you're looking for a specific toaster, "Just like Granny used to have," - you will probably have luck at online auctions like eBay.

You will also find some vintage, refurbished toasters at toastercentral.com

You might find the toaster you're looking for up for sale in our Forums Section.

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How did this foundation begin?
This question is answered in the article, Whence Came This Foundation.

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I'm a student doing a paper/report on toasters that's due tomorrow - can you tell me everything I need to know?
First, a little lecture:

Part of the reason you get assigned to research and write papers is so that you can learn how to extract information from a variety of sources, distill the parts you need, and compile and present a unique, coherent document representing your interpretation of the facts.

The Internet is a wonderful resource, enabling people around the world to access information from respected sources and cranks alike - unfortunately, it is not always easy to determine which source you have found.

If you're doing a report on toasters, most of the information we have is going to be posted somewhere on this site. Carefully browse our pages and then if you still have specific questions, feel free to e-mail us - a broad question like the one above is difficult to respond to. We don't, however, check our e-mail every day - so don't expect an immediate answer.

Also, don't rely on this site as your only source of information - there is much we don't know.

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Who invented the toaster?
When this question is posed, usually the questioner is interested in who invented the electric toaster.

There is information about just this subject in the 1900-1920 section of The Cyber-Toaster Museum. There is evidence now that either an inventor at the Pacific Electric Heating Co. (later Hotpoint), someone at the Simplex Electric Co., or Hoskins Manufacturing came up with the first American electric toaster, but there is no known patent coverage so we don't know the date or the person. And, we've heard rumors that there is an 1893 English toaster that was the very first electric, but we haven't tracked down any info yet. Details on the inventor who designed the first automatic pop-up toaster can be found on the 1920-1940 page.

Of course, there was toast before electricity. The ancient Egyptians are credited with first making bread as we know it today (leavened, with natural yeast), and probably made the first toast by placing bread near fire.

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Where does the word "toaster" come from?
According to the Encyclopaedia Brittanica, 11th Edition, from 1910-1911, the word toast was borrowed from the Old French "toste", which has the Latin root of "torrere, tostum," meaning to scorch or burn.

The encyclopedia also has this to say about the origin of the word toast, as when one "raises a toast":

It was formerly the custom (a 16th Century fashion) to have pieces of toast floating in many kinds of liquor, especially when drunk hot. It is said to be from this custom that the word is used of the calling upon a company to drink the health of some person, institution or cause.

The following apocryphal story is being told by guides in more than one location about the origin of the word "toaster" :

    I was recently told a story that is a bit unbelievable about the history of the first toaster. Can you please tell me the truth about where it came from and how it got it's name? I would really appreciate it. It goes like this...
    I went to historic Deerfield, Massachusetts where a guide was showing us the fireplaces and some old cooking items. One of the items was an iron standing grid that they would slide bread slices into and place in front of the fire. This grid could turn around and the story goes that the women would push it with their toe.....originating the term "toe stir" which eventually became toaster.

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What's the best toaster being made today - and where can I buy one?
There are a number of advantages to owning a new toaster - from wider slots that accomodate bagels and thick breads, to "cool-touch" models where the exterior won't get scorching hot. Plus, more emphasis is being placed on design once again - so there are some attractive toasters being made.

We have not been able to gather and test all the new models out there, however. You might want to look into Consumer Reports to see if they have tested toasters recently.

Finally, we recommend that you take a loaf of bread with you when shopping for a toaster - the proof of the toaster is in the toasting!

Return to Questions.

What is "toast sweat"?
When bread is toasted, some of the moisture is turned into steam by the heat of the toaster. If the toast is placed on a cooler surface, the steam will condense back into water leaving the little droplets some people refer to as "toast sweat."

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What's the best way to clean toasters?
Check out this article from hotwire.

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I have this other appliance, where can I get information on it?
You should visit the fine folks at The Old Appliance Club.

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