Q: What do Sterling Silver and Silverplate flatware & decorative accessories have in common?
A: Few want to polish either of them today.
Other than that, while they may look the same, there is a major value difference between the two. Sterling Silver, by law, has to be 92.5% pure silver, with the balance usually tin or copper. Silverplate on the other hand has absolutely no precious metal value. So with today’s silver spot price around $27.00 per troy ounce, Sterling is worth considerably more than Silverplate.
Silverplate has many different names such as EPNS (electro-plated nickel silver); EPN (electro-plated nickel); Silver-on-Copper; Quadruple Plate (dipped 4 times); Sheffield Plate; Alpaca Silver; German Silver; and many more. But all are still only a base metal, lightly coated with a silver plate, with fewer people appreciating the style and intrinsic value, all of which make it quite difficult to sell today. (We previously published a What’s It Worth Antique Minute column titled “20 Ways to Identify Silverplate”. If you missed it, email me at the address below and I’ll send you a copy).
On a recent day approximately 144,000 “Silverplate” items “Ended” on eBay, and of those only 67,000 “Sold”. This suggests to me that more than 50% of the listed items failed to sell, and of those that did sell, most sale prices were extremely soft.
Assuming that your children don’t want it, what can you do with Silverplate today? Here are a few thoughts:
• If you’re not 100% certain whether it’s Sterling or Silverplate, have it tested. A shocking number of people have donated “Silverplate” items, without realizing that they’ve actually given away thousands of dollars of “Sterling Silver”.
• While most Silverplate has nominal value, some commands premium prices. Make sure you know what yours is worth before you sell it.
• If feasible, keep it and use it because it probably won’t sell for much.
• Some people prefer to mix vintage Silverplate patterns which can provide a quaint and unique look.
• Look for forms and patterns that may have special contemporary decorative appeal.
• If the form is interesting, you might be able to sell it. Victorian Condiment Castor Sets, Pickle Castors, Coffee & Tea Services, Carving Sets, and other such items will still sell, although usually not at yesteryear’s prices. Price your items reasonably.
• Donate it and be done with it.
• When all else fails, I haul mine off to my local metal recycler and sell it for the scrap copper.
WHAT’S IT WORTH: If you like Silverplate, it’s a great time to buy because some wonderful pieces are selling for extremely reasonable prices. If selling, it’s not necessarily the best time to sell. The best-of-the-best items always bring strong prices, including French Christofle, better English Sheffield, and select Designer Silverplate can bring some strong prices. However middle market names, incomplete sets, items of ho-hum design, and items having condition issues typically bring disappointing prices. My suggestion would be to study eBay-Sold-Prices for “Silverplate” items to get a better feel for this market because there a few very valuable needles in the Silverplate haystack.
Mike Ivankovich is an Auctioneer, Appraiser, Home Downsizing Expert, and host of the “What’s It Worth? Ask Mike the Appraiser” Radio Show. Now in its 8th year, “What’s It Worth” airs live in the Philadelphia PA area on Friday mornings from 9:30-10:30 AM EST on WBCB 1490 AM, and on the Internet at: www.WBCB1490.com. Mike offers House & Estate Contents Appraisals nationally through his www.ZoomFacetimeAppraisals.com web site, and he has presented his “What’s It Worth” Zoom Appraisal Program in 24 states. Details on how your group can book Mike can be found at: www.MichaelivankovichMEETINGSPEAKER.com