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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Are Pieces with Old Hallmarks More Valuable?

Sometimes my answers are frustrating to readers and this one is no exception because the answer is, "It depends!" Here are some questions I ask myself when I'm considering buying a piece of sterling flatware, comparing it to other pieces in the same pattern. The questions are in order of importance to me.
  1. What is its condition?
  2. Are there any monograms or other custom engraving?
  3. What is its weight? (Some pieces have been made in different weights over the years.)
  4. What is its age? (This is linked to the hallmarks question.)

To me, questions 1 and 2 are extremely important. Questions 3 and 4 are somewhat important. If the piece is in excellent condition with no custom engraving, I won't worry about answers to the last two questions very much.

There are situations where the manufacturing process for a particular pattern changed significantly at some point. I hear this from time to time regarding the purchase of an old line company by a conglomerate. I hear that the quality of some patterns deteriorated at this point. If this is the case, question 4 becomes more important.

Keep in mind that I am in the business of buying and selling sterling flatware. If I was a collector of antique pieces, question 4 might move to the top.

By clicking on "Comments/Questions" below, you can see posted comments and add your own questions and comments. Or, you can send us an email by clicking on "View My Complete Profile" in the right column.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Who Will Buy Sterling Silver for Scrap Value?

First, let me answer the question directly.
  • Step 1: At the top of this screen is a Google ad window. Scroll to the right in that window and you should see a number of potential buyers. Gold buyers also buy silver. Also, look for ads from people who sell silver; most are also buyers. Google attempts to display ads from businesses near your location.
  • Step 2: In the right column of this blog, enter "selling silver" in the Sterling Silver Web Search box and click the "Search" button. You might also add your city name to the search criteria.
  • A new window will appear. Click on the ads you see at the top and on the right side of the new window.
Now, let me pose another question:
  • What price should I expect if I sell sterling for scrap?
The reason I ask this question is because a potential seller of scrap often thinks that he or she will get the market price of commodity silver. Let's look at an example of what that might be. The commodity price of silver as of this date (Feb. 24, 2009) is about $13.85 per Troy ounce. Therefore, a Gorham Chantilly place fork weighing 51 grams has a scrap silver value today of about $21.00. If I take that fork to a scrap buyer, should I expect to be paid $21.00 for the fork? Of course not!

The scrap buyer is in business to make a profit. My guess is that a scrap dealer might be expected to pay half the value of the silver. So, maybe we could sell our Chantilly place fork for around $10.00. How about a Chantilly teaspoon? Maybe we could get $5.00 or $6.00.

Now that we have set a more realistic expectation of a selling price, we can think about a potential buyer. I've not sold much sterling for scrap but I would start with jewelry stores, businesses that sell used sterling flatware and pawn shops.

I've seen listings on eBay for scrap sterling so that might be a place to start. has lots of ads posted by buyers of flatware, jewelry, etc. Now and then we receive a piece that has had an unfortunate encounter with a garbage disposal. In such cases, we have been successful selling them on eBay, clearly marked as "scrap".

Comments with other ideas are welcome.

Note Added 7/29/2009:
A blogger has added a comment regarding selling to silver refiners - please read it. The comment implies that you can get a better price for your scrap sterling by going directly to a refiner. We have verified this.

By clicking on "Comments/Questions" below, you can see posted comments and add your own questions and comments.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

How Can I Tell if It's Real Silver?

A reader named Leslie left a question attached to an earlier post. It was such a good question, we thought it deserved its own post. Here was the question:

I have been collecting many items for over 20 years. I am now getting much of it out of my house. I placed a whole box of 'silver' items in my garage sale last summer. My neighbor came by, saw it, and brought it back to me and told me not to sell them. He said that they were more valuable than I was asking for. I don't know what they are. I don't even know if they are real silver. I bought them because they were pretty. How can I tell what is silver and what is not silver? Some have marks on them, some don't and some marks have all but disappeared. Thank you.
I suppose in this context, the definition of "real" silver is "sterling" silver which is 92.5% silver content. One very common method of identification is to look for the word, "Sterling", imprinted somewhere on a piece. This is not 100% proof but it is a very good indication. If a brand name can be found, it adds additional verification. You may also see the number, "925", "92" or "92.5". This is a clue but not a guarantee. Sterling pieces can have significant value. Look for other posts in this blog to see how value might be affected by condition, custom engraving, etc.

The other common form of silver ware is "silver plate". A silver coating is placed on top of some other metal. Used pieces may look great but do not have significant resale value, generally speaking. Silver plate pieces often have the manufacturer's name and may have additional information regarding the pattern name.

If there are no marks found, try matching the pattern. There are literally thousands of patterns in use today and the task of matching may prove difficult. A dealer in used silver might be able to help.

If all else fails, try polishing the pieces with a good silver polish and see how it looks. This won't help much with proving the silver content but at least, they might look good enough to attract the attention of a potential buyer or you might want to just keep them for your own use.

We welcome photographs sent to us via email. We'll try to help identify a pattern. Click on "View My Complete Profile" in the right column. This will take you to a screen with our email link.

NOTE: Read the update to this post, "How Can I Tell If It's Real Silver? - Part 2", dated June 15, 2009.

By clicking on "Comments/Questions" below, you can see posted comments and add your own questions and comments.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Uneven Spoon Tarnishing

Note: This post was created while we were on the road in Luxor, Egypt.

We rejected in error a comment from a reader so we have created a post here to repair the error.

The reader asked why his/her soup spoon bowls tarnished faster than the spoon handles.

We can only guess at the answer. Certain foods cause tarnish much faster than others. These include eggs and vinegar. We add vinegar to some Chinese soups we prepare from time to time so maybe that's what this reader was doing. We suggest prompt hand washing after use to help alleviate the problem.

We will be interested to hear comments from other readers on this subject.

By clicking on "Comments/Questions" below, you can see posted comments and add your own questions and comments.