The urge of others to “Spring Clean” the house is often a “Sterling Opportunity” for Yard Salers. The result of a winter surrounded by things we no longer want need or taking up too much space sometime leads nto clearing things out without really taking into account their genuine value and letting them go for pennies on the dollar.
In my many years in the business I’ve come across many items at garage and estate sales miss-identified and priced well below even their value at auction. They generally fall under the Decorative Arts and Metal ware categories, but often Furniture and Collectibles as well.
The first on this list is Silver, the majority of under priced items I see these days is worn or damaged silverware and surprisingly the easiest to check and even place a base value on. Items made of silver, such as souvenir teaspoons, tableware, jewellery, and cigarette cases all have a basic floor value based on the weight of the precious metal used in making them. It does not matter what condition the item is in, it has a value as “Scrap silver” by weight if it has any silver content at all.
Determining if the item you have is actually silver and not silver plated is relatively easy, especially if the item was made in North America. All that’s required is to look for the company markings, if the item is silver it could be marked with a numerical stamp, or the word “Sterling”. Sterling Silver is a standard measurement of silver first used in England that indicates the silver content is 92.5% pure silver, the numerical stamp for Sterling is “925” ( 925/1000 ths.pure silver). The other numerical marking you might run into is “800”, indicating a silver content of 80% pure silver. On smaller items such as spoons and jewellery these marking can often be worn or quite small, so a magnifying glass would come in handy when checking for these marks.
With all precious metals, the value for them by weight fluctuates on a daily basis on demand from international markets, which is often listed daily in the financial sections of newspapers and online. As I write this, the daily “Spot” value for Sterling silver scrap is $14.43 a standard ounce. There are several online calculators one can use to determine a base value such as http://www.silverrecyclers.com/Calculators/ster_calculator.aspx . The most common unit used for silver is the “Troy Ounce”, which is approximately 1.0971 Standard ounces, but most scrap silver calculators offer options in more commonly used weight measurements such as Ounces and Grams. To use these calculators is pretty easy, all you have to do is weigh the item on a digital kitchen scale and enter the weight into the calculator and click calculate, it will then show what the current “Melt/Scrap Value” is for the item weighed.
It’s easy to see that the scrap value of just a couple of silver items can add up to a tidy sum, even a very plain sterling silver spoon can weigh over an ounce, a battered sterling teapot could have a scrap value of over $250.00. That said, you should know Silver items of all sorts also can have a value far above it’s basic scrap value. Depending on it’s vintage, style and maker that teapot could have a value ten times its scrap value, so before rushing off to a dealer in scrap silver, call in an Appraiser for a valuation of it’s potential value as a Decorative Arts or Collectible item first.