6 May 2014

How to Tell if your Silverware is Worth Money

You never know if here’s a secret small fortune hidden somewhere among yours and your family’s possessions.

But the question is – how to tell what is actually valuable versus what is just old junk?

This challenge is even more difficult when dealing with silverware. In order to sell your silverware for a good price, you first need to be sure of what exactly you’re dealing with. There are two kinds of silverware – silver plate and sterling silver.

If you remember where and when the item was bought and what the exact name and pattern name is, then you’re going to have to do a bit of work to uncover the true identity of your silverware.

Step one is to figure out if it’s silver plate, which is a base metal (such as copper, brass, nickel or silver) that has a tiny layer of silver electronically bonded to the surface.

The back of silver plated silverware should have some or all of the following information markings: manufacturing company name, country of origin, product number and what’s known as the EP (electroplate) marking.

EP Marking

See the EP in the above image? That means it’s silver plate, not sterling silver (which is much more valuable).

True Sterling Silver

In this example, there’s no EP, indicating that the silverware item is true sterling silver.

Once you have a sense of whether your item is silver plate or sterling silver, the next stage in the research process begins. That involves figuring out what the item is. If you’re unsure of just what the silver piece is meant to be – is it a cigarette holder or simply a small vanity jar? – then you need to do some web searching to find out.

Google, of course, is one of the best resources, but online forums for silver collectors are also highly valuable, such as Silver-Collector.com

The other factor affecting the possible value of your item is, of course, its condition. The rule of thumb here is that the more tarnished an item is, the more polishing it will need to unlock more of its financial worth. Also, wiping away tarnish can also reveal whether the piece if silver plate (there will be an exposed metal underneath the part where the silver layer has worn off), or if the item has other damage.

Now that you have a rather full sense of the silverware, it’s good to check online to see what similar items sell for. Auction house Ebay is a good start here.

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