How to sell silverware | A reader’s question

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At the end of last month, I had a reader contact me with a question about how to sell a specific set of inherited silverware.  With a little adaptation from the response I send to her privately, I thought that a general post on how to sell silverware might be of interest to other readers.

The most important step in how to sell silverware

how to sell silverware - Cartier silver plates

These Cartier plates have been in my client’s family since they were commissioned. She decided to place them with me to sell because they were not being used.

Find out what it is.  

Are you selling rare Coin silver made in the 1700’s?  Is it a large set of Whiting’s Lily of the Valley?  Perhaps you have a fantastic yet, obscure Continental set? Or do you have a perfectly lovely but very common pattern from the 1950’s?

Knowing what you have is absolutely crucial to the way in which you approach selling it. I have spoken to people who inadvertently left 80% of the value of their silverware on the table because they did not know what they were selling in the first place.  This is the key for you to know about how to sell silverware.

Don’t overlook this step, even if it means paying someone to do the research for you.  Ask them to identify the silver for you and if possible give you an estimate of value. Be honest with them and say you want to sell and are looking for a actual cash value estimate rather than a replacement cost estimate.  On a side note, under no circumstances should anyone who does the research for you offer to purchase it from you.  That is a horrible conflict of interest.

Are you looking for instant cash or a higher return?

Generally speaking the faster you liquidate your asset the smaller the return will be.

1) Selling silverware as scrap, is the quickest option.

If you silverware is a common 1950’s era pattern, this is likely to be your best route.  If you decide do proceed, weigh your set excluding the knives and find the total weight in grams.  Then call around and ask scrap dealers how much for x grams of sterling plus y knife handles.  Don’t expect to get 100% of the spot price (which is the number you hear quoted on the commodities market). No one gets 100% of spot.  But do ask around.

Again, I’ve spoken to people who received get 30-40% of spot.  They did not know the weight of their items or the spot price and they were fobbed off by complicated statements about pennyweight and mathematical formulas.  You have x grams…it is worth y dollars on the spot market.  Shop around and see what is the best deal you can get.  And get the silver spot price from Kitco just before you call, not 2 weeks beforehand!  It changes, sometimes a lot in a short time.

2) The other option to consider is selling it as silverware.

If you have anything other than a very common set, I beg you to please take this option.  Don’t melt down a rare or even irreplaceable handmade treasure because you are impatient to cash out.  Once, it has been melted, it is gone forever!

How to sell silverware as silverware is a bit trickier than just scrapping it. Here are some avenues to approach:

      1. Sell it outright or consign it with a local antiques dealer.  You will probably end up with more money in the long run if you consign, rather than sell.  Personally I would make sure to reserve the right to approve the final price.
      2. Find a local auction house or use one of the specialist online services such as Heritage Auctions.  If you go with an auction house, again, speaking personally, I’d discuss the in’s-and-out’s of setting a reserve price.
      3. Do-it-yourself by listing on Craigslist or eBay.  I know from personal experience that my local Craigslist is a lively market for antiques.  As for eBay, I am not a seller there and have no experience, but I do know that not having an established online reputation can make things more difficult.

How to sell silverware – getting over the guilt

One last thought, I have heard from many people who are literally and metaphorically stuck over the issue of family silver.  They feel guilty because they want to move it out, and yet the pieces themselves sit in the attic or basement as unwelcome clutter in their lives.

My advise to them is always this.  If the pieces are not being used then let them go.  It’s OK not to like the pattern that your grandmother chose!  If you do like silver, but not her pattern, then put the money you earn towards a set of your choosing.  If you don’t like it because silver is just not your thing, then let it go to a new home.  I really, truly do not believe that our ancestors would want us to feel burdened and bound by their bequests.

PS

Yes I do provide identification services of the type described – Identify your silver

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2 thoughts on “How to sell silverware | A reader’s question

  1. IvetteNo Gravatar

    Some would argue that 1950’s silver pieces are the antiques of tomorrow. Melting down silver makes me sad. I do see the difference though….

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