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Knowing how to sell silver plated silverware and flatware can at times be tricky. I was in the antique business for several decades (and I still dabble) and silver-plate was one of the things that I loved to buy and sell.
I found that most people are not very knowledgeable about silver plate and there was a lot of misconceptions out there about how much you could sell silver plate and flatware for and where to sell silver plate and flatware.
It doesn't matter if you have a houseful or just a few items, it you are looking at selling silver plate there are a few things that you should know so that you get the most cash for what you have.
Silver plate was very popular in the early part of the 20th century and almost every bride would have it on her gift registry. There was an enormous amount of silver plate bought and most older homes will have a drawer or cupboard that has silver plate in it. It fell out of favor because space age plastics became popular in the 1960's and people did not want to spend the time cleaning silver and looking after it. It also can not be put into dishwashers and must be hand cleaned.
Unless you bought it and remember exactly what your silver plate is called, what the pattern name is, what year you bought it and from where you bought it from, you are going to do some research on your silver plate.
First off make sure what you own actually is silverplate. Silver Plate is the process of taking an object that is made with a base metal and electronically coating it with a very thin layer of silver.
The base metal could be Copper, Brass, Nickel Silver or Britannia Metal. Very cheap silver plate is done on Zinc.
On the back of silver plated items there will be markings that can include the company name, the country it was made in, a product number and the E.P. (electroplate) marking.
This can read as EP (or sometimes SP) on Copper, EP on Brass or EPNS (very common) or EPMS (on Britannia Metal) which means that the piece was most likely made between 1880 and 1920.
There are other marks that are used such as Sheffield Plate or Sheffield Reproduction. Sheffield Plate is the process they used before the discovery of electroplating. It was copper sandwiched with silver on either side of it.
True Sheffield Plate is old, pre-1840s and it is valued because of that. In the antique business it is referred to as Old Sheffield Plate because so much of it was reproduced later on as Sheffield Reproduction. Old Sheffield Plate often does not have any markings on it, which can add to the confusion even more.
If the item has a stamp or series of stamps on the back then it is most likely Sterling Silver, an item made completely of silver.
Sterling silver is much, much more valuable than silver plate so it is very much worth your while to know the difference. There are sterling marks listed on silver websites for you to do your research.
If you think it is a cigarette container but it could be a vanity jar then look it up. Ebay is a great resource to find items so you know what you have. Antique sites might also have the same item.
If you are looking up silver plate flatware then you will need to know the name of the pattern. If the item is well documented then you might also find out the age. (By the way old is not an age. What is old to a 18 year old and old to a 65 year old is two different things.)
What condition is your silver plate? If it is terribly tarnished then you are going to have to decide it you want to do some polishing. It is only when you polish a piece that you can see if the silver plate has worn off or if there is other damage on the piece.
An unpolished piece sells for considerably less because you can't tell if you are buying a dude or not.
NO NOT USE DIPS to clean silver plate. It strips the glow from a piece and makes it look like a piece of tin.
So now you should know what type of silver plate you have (EPNS etc.), what exactly it is (vanity jar) , what kind of condition it is in after polishing (perfect or worn) and if you have seen a similar item on Ebay that has dates you also might know the age of it.
How much should you try to sell your item for? Go back to Ebay and see what similar items are going for. As with all things in life the older and rarer your item the more money you could get for it. If you sell it in the right place.
Your options for selling your silver plate silverware or flatware?
Each one of these choices have good and bad points about them. For most of them you should have a good quality clear photo of the item that you can send to people in email or be able to post online.
Kijiji and Craigslist
This is a good free option if you live in a large area with lots of people that look online. You will have to meet with the people that you are selling to and should do so in a public place where you would feel safe (like the parking lot of a police station). They might see your item and decide not to buy.
You would have to set up an account and when the item is sold you would have to mail it. Your potential buying audience is huge but there is a fee involved.
They will handle everything to do with the sale and you just have to pick up your cheque. Auctions can go either way, two people might bid each other up or it might sell for almost nothing. Auction houses take a cut of the sale (anywhere from 25% and up) so it is in their interest for the item to sell well.
Good ones tend to have a lot of traffic so that item can sell fast. You will negotiate a fee (anywhere up to 50%) and a time limit the item will be in the shop (usually no more than 3 months). If no one is interested then you have to retrieve your item.
Consigned to an Antique Dealer
Don't feel shy about calling up an antique shop to see if they are interested in your items. Many antique shops prefer consignment so they do not put a lot of their own cash into their inventory. They will take a portion of the sale ( 40% to 60 %). Most prefer to have a time limit that they will have the item in the shop but if it is very rare or very expensive they might waive this. If the item gets damaged or stolen then they are not responsible unless you have a contract stating otherwise.
Selling to an Antique Dealer
You can sell to a shop, ask for a dealers list at an antique mall or look online or in the newspaper classifieds. Dealer will tend to give you about 50% or less of the items value.
Selling to a Museum
This is a very rare case. You would have to know the full history of the piece and the provenance (who had owned it before) and have proof that the item you owned had some sort of historic value. All that being said, valuable historical items are discovered in people's basements and attics.
You would be best reaching out to a museum that specialized in the time period of the item you owned. (I have never sold to museums but I have donated to them and they gave me a tax receipt that I could use.)
There are some free standing antique fairs like Aberfoyle Antique Market that rent out spaces for casual sellers. You would have to bring in your own tables, tent and get set up. Rent will vary for the day, time of year and how much space you want.
Even if you don't have enough stuff for your own garage sale you could always buy a table at a group sale and try your luck their. In general most people don't buy silver plate at garage sales but you never know. Dealers tend to haunt large garage sales.
Scrap Metal Dealers
Some, not all, scrap dealers will buy silver plate. What they really want is the base metal underneath, especially if it is copper. It never hurts to ask. This is a great way to get rid of items that have the silver worn off or are pitted.
It might take a little bit of research to find the right venue to sell your silver plate but there are many options out there and there are people who are looking to buy. Sometimes it is to complete a collection and sometimes it is just because they like the look of silver.
So now that you know how to sell silver plated silverware and flatware what if you decide it isn't worth the money you thought it was?
If you decide that your silver plate just isn't worth the time and effort to sell it then why not use it? It is actually very easy to clean and can look stunning when used on a dinner table. I use my tea service every day.
Sometimes it is worth waiting a little while to see if the demand for silver plate perks up again. Every time it is featured in popular media then people are intrigued with it once again and the demand is back.