Vintage curling irons are highly collectible items. Some are true marvels both in construction and in the idea that women used them to style their hair without burning it right off. If you are interested in vintage curling irons or already have a collection, make sure that you know a little bit about what you are collecting so that you can fully appreciate the progress of this styling tool.
Vintage curling irons were heated on the fire or the stove for the most part. They were part wood and part metal. The metal portion was heated and then the user held the wooden handles, which would have remained cooler than the rest of the tool, and curled their hair with the hot part.
Vintage curling irons look a lot like tongs or even needle-nose pliers. In fact, they were sometimes referred to as curling tongs. They tend to have thick wooden handles that were painted a bright color to indicate that they were safe--or safer--to touch than the metal end. The metal ends would have had one or two pieces, and the hair could either be clamped between these pieces or wrapped around the single rod.
You can identify a vintage curling iron in several ways. They are often sold with their original packaging, which can make them more valuable. Also, they generally will not be electric, although some older electric models are considered vintage by some collectors.
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Vintage curling irons come in many variations on a common theme. They nearly all had two long wooden handles that joined to a metal rod of 6 inches or less. Longer handles usually indicate that the iron was heated on or in the fire, while shorter ones indicate that the iron would have been heated on a stove. If the iron was used for crimping hair, then there would be two metal pieces that could be manipulated to press the hair between them. Curls were generally achieved by wrapping hair around a solitary rod.
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If you are considering starting to collect vintage curling irons, make sure that you know what various irons are worth. Most are mainly curiosity pieces and are not real investment collectibles. If you find one with original packaging it may be more expensive, but these are not necessarily items that you will be able to resell easily should you try to "cash out" your collection. If you buy a vintage curling iron, do it with the knowledge that you probably will have to enjoy it forever rather than get a return on your item at some point.
Never curl your hair with a vintage curling iron. These appliances are dangerous and may be even more dangerous now that we are accustomed to styling our hair with curling irons that regulate heat and distribute it evenly across the barrel of the iron. You can burn your hair off, hurt your hands and even singe your scalp using a vintage curling iron.