Will soaring silver prices lead to a return of silverplate?

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Update: August 11, 2011 – For more recent thoughts about the effect of the commodity price of silver on vintage silver prices.

The most recent “Letter from the Silver Desk” by Dean Six, Editor-in-Chief of Silver Magazine points out the fourth most popular search on www.Kovels.com in 2010 was for “silverplate”. This is due to the astronomical price for silver in the commodities markets.

To answer my title question the short answer is  – most probably.

Fascinating – but what’s the long answer?

A couple of factors are at work.

  1. As I write this, the price of silver is $34.87 per troy ounce! I’ve added the exclamation mark, because I’m shocked.  I have not looked at silver prices in a few weeks – last time I checked they were +/- the $28 per troy ounce mark.
  2. The combination of bad economic times and soaring metal prices have caused a torrent of silver to be sold for it’s scrap value. If you are struggling to make ends meet, liquidating Grandma Helen’s sterling flatware is a way to realize some cash, right now. Even if you aren’t struggling to make ends meet, scrapping Grandma’s silver is a nice windfall.

Interrupting our regularly scheduled program…

Let me add an important note regarding this post – my remarks are not aimed at people selling silver because of financial hardship.  Scrapping silver vs. not paying rent/mortgage or scrapping silver vs. ability to feed your family – it’s no contest. Silver is a luxury – food and shelter are necessities. I want to ensure this is perfectly clear. Remember this as you read further!


And now we return to our regular program.

If you have some silver lying around unused…

You are in luck. It may be that Grandma’s silver has been sitting in the attic since 1953 (getting more and more tarnished) and the decision to scrap it is going to be an easy one. It’s not something you ever use, it’s just another piece of clutter in the attic. The slightly sentimental feelings you have about it (which is why it’s been in the attic for so long) are discarded. Off it goes to scrap.

You might want to re-think that financial strategy…

If you are bound and determined that Grandma’s silver is clutter and you really want to get it out of your hair, at least look into it a bit. Make sure you are not scrapping a rare (and thus valuable in the secondary aka antiques market). If you end up selling Grandma’s Tiffany Lap Over Edge flatware for scrap prices, wow, you have left a lot of money on the table!

At the very least don’t end up sending handmade/rare/valuable/unusual/antique pieces to be melted into silver bars. These items have a great deal more worth than their price as base metal. There is artistry, history, and culture being lost at an alarming rate – because these pieces are being scrapped along with everything else. It will take you a bit longer to liquidate into cash, but you will have done yourself a financial favor. Secondarily, you’ll give these pieces a chance to go to a new home, rather than be destroyed. Forever.

Perhaps you should re-think selling it at all

Re-consider the notion that silver is high maintenance and only for the very “best” occasions. We live in a fast paced, informal society, but silver fits in very easily. Regular readers are familiar with my “use it now” philosophy of silverware. It may make some uncomfortable, but these are functional items. I have made a conscious decision to use my silverware everyday (and put it in the dishwasher – with certain do’s and don’ts) rather than not use it at all because I don’t have time to hand-wash and polish.

On March 15th, I’m going to release a (free) e-book that clearly states this philosophy and the reasoning behind it.

Every Day Best – that title gives you some good ideas about where I’ll be heading.

Finally, are we heading to a renaissance of silverplate?

Without question, the scrap price of silver is simultaneously decreasing the supply of available flatware on the secondary market and pushing the prices of those pieces very high.

High prices are leading to a logical alternative – silverplate. Many older pieces are exquisite. They are of excellent quality and the design and workmanship is superb.

In recent years, the market for silverplate has not been particularly robust. That will soon change as people seek out alternatives to silver and they fall in love with silverplate in and of its own right.


Thanks for reading. If you know someone who might enjoy this post, perhaps you might Tweet it, post it to Facebook, or email it to a friend?

What do you think about silverplate making a popular comeback? Or about selling Grandma’s silver?

As always, I love your comments!


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2 thoughts on “Will soaring silver prices lead to a return of silverplate?

  1. IvetteNo Gravatar

    I’ll never understand people who don’t value beauty and are willing to sell these beautiful things for scrap. Of course I understand if one is starving. But this isn’t 1860, I can’t believe that scrapping Grandma’s Georgian is going to feed your entire family or pay your mortgage. But okay, I do understand the priorities.

    It’s fascinating to think that silver plate probably came into being in the first place because of monetary issues. Rising middle class, wanting to have lovely things. Being new money, have no hand me downs, so silver plate answers all concerns. It can be equally beautiful I agree.

    And now it’s sad that it’s coming back as the middle class becomes relatively poorer.

    But I’m on cold medicine and clearly depressed. Enough of this. Silver plate is absolutely beautiful, and if it gives everyone a chance to enjoy the beauty, feel, and uplifting nature of silver, then so much the better.

  2. SilverMagpiesNo Gravatar Post author

    Hi Ivette –

    Sorry to hear about the cold and hope you are not depressed! Some Eye Candy will fix that!

    Your economic and political analysis is (IMO) spot on. It will be very interesting to see what the next 2-3 years brings regarding the prices/popularity of:
    silver (scrap)
    silver (as antiques)

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