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Tips for Collecting Silver
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Tips for Collecting Silver
Tips for Collecting Silver by Kathleen Sullivan
"How can I tell if my flatware is sterling or silverplated?" This is our
most frequently-asked question. If it doesn't have the word "sterling", then
it most likely is not sterling silver. The word "sterling" is found on
American silver dating after 1860. Early American silver is very rare and
was usually marked with only the maker's name or initials. Silverplate has
the maker or company name and often includes terms such as "A1" or
"quadruple plate". These are various descriptions of the amount of applied
Whether you choose to collect sterling or silverplate, the following tips
Choose a Style, Era or Maker. Reflect upon your lifestyle and personal
taste, then make choices that will be a good fit. There are many specialty
areas of silver collecting. Some collectors are devoted to a pattern while
others collect a particular maker or era. Some only collect a particular
type of piece, such as fish servers or tea strainers, and many expand into
Mix-n-Match. The mixing and matching of patterns has great aesthetic appeal
on any table. This is a wonderful option particularly with hard-to-find,
discontinued flatware patterns and is often a must for affordable
Wear or Damage. Signs of use do not necessarily detract from value while
damage may or may not. Slight damage on a rare flatware or hollow ware piece
will not significantly reduce value, if at all. Be wary of buying tarnished
silver as it can hide otherwise obvious wear, damage or repair. The price of
a tarnished piece should be significantly lower than retail because the true
condition of a tarnished piece is unknown.
Monograms. Many collectors view the old, elaborate monograms as a lost art
form and historically important. It does not detract from the desirability
or value of a piece. If the pieces you collect are readily available without
monograms, they are, in this case, more valuable if they do not or never had
one. Monogram removal can damage a piece and is, in most cases, easily
Authenticity. Some collectors frown upon pieces that have been updated, such
as replaced knife blades. Silverplated blades are often found with wear.
They can easily be replaced on hollow handle knives and some prefer to have
them replaced with stainless steel blades. However, stainless steel was not
introduced until the early 1920s. This is one of those areas which is a
matter of personal collecting preference.
Repair. Dents, disposal or other damage can be repaired by a silversmith.
Pieces can also be replated. The cost is prohibitive for easily-found pieces
but is worthwhile and economically feasible for the rare pieces.
Modified Items. Be aware that these exist and learn how to determine if a
piece has been modified from its original state. Common flatware pieces are
sometimes altered to make them appear to be rare or more valuable pieces.
For example, spoons are sometimes cut to resemble ice cream forks. A sugar
spoon may have been pierced to resemble a sugar sifter. Avoid purchasing
modified pieces for your collection.
Forgeries. New forgeries in popular and rare patterns appear regularly for
sale on the internet. In particular, salt spoons and rare pieces such as
asparagus servers. Many of these pieces have no maker's marks and some have
been recently reproduced. Further, forged maker's marks in silver have
appeared for hundreds of years. The age of a piece does not necessarily
indicate it's authenticity.
Educate Yourself. Many good silver books are available in the collecting
section of your local book store or library.
About the Author
Kathleen Sullivan, owner of Bay-dreamer's Antique Silver Chest at
http://www.baydreamersilver.com specializes in sterling silver and
silverplate replacement flatware, with a focus on obsolete serving pieces.
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