I'm often asked from people who want to take cooking more seriously what the essential tools a chef should have.
The first draft picks a kitchen team should look for is one good chef's knife (8 to 10 inch), a sturdy cutting board, a wooden spoon, tongs, a pot and a good all-purpose skillet or pan.
One of the more versatile, and inexpensive, is cast iron skillets.
This article from the Los Angeles Times talks about the recent trend among cast iron fans to purchase both old and new pans.
Pre-seasoned ones are really good, and the key is to following the seasoning instructions and never wash the pans with soap and water. Wipe out the pans once it cools.
Much like the story says, cast iron skillets can last for years, even centuries, if taken care of well.