Q: We have an 80-piece set of Wallace Sterling flatware in the Grande Baroque pattern, bought in 1957. We found the quality of the set is superior to pieces sold today. What is the value of our set?
A: Our reader has done enough research to learn that 80-piece sets are not offered today. While a simple answer is what she wants, there really is no simple answer to her question, and I’ll tell you why.
Let’s get the quality issue out of the way first. Many replacement sellers swear by vintage flatware because it is of higher quality and weight. It wears better. In non-sterling, old silver plate flatware has a deeper plate.
Wallace’s Grande Baroque may be the most popular sterling tableware (also called flatware) ever made. For decades, it was the pattern of choice selected by brides. Introduced in 1941, the design incorporates Renaissance florals and has been expanded to include hollowware and plated Golden Baroque flatware. Today, more than 100 differing pieces of flatware are available in the pattern. GB is still made; we found a new dishwasher-safe version online from Macy’s.
Many households held on to their sets, passing them down to new generations of brides. They in turn added missing pieces, and so the sets grew. As a result, large sets of GB are not uncommon and many end up at auction. Eighty pieces may seem like a lot, but read on to learn about whopper sets that have sold.
Times and tastes change, and sterling is no longer a must-have for brides today. Pottery Barn or better stainless is just fine .
What our reader did not consider is that the market for GB today is primarily a replacement, or secondary, market. On a happy note, she ended up with sterling that is a popular pattern still in active demand.
Comparing current retail is not the way to go when researching vintage silver. One needs to find results for sales of the old, starting with the replacement market.
Looking at the world’s largest replacement service, www.replacements.com, we found 45-piece starter sets of GB posted for $3,679. Dinner sets, also 45 pieces, are $4,499. That’s info from just one seller, so use it FYI.
Next, I’d look on eBay for completed sales of comparable sets. When we looked, 185 sets were offered; a 110-piece cased (original box) set with many unusual serving pieces brought $4,281 in April. Tuck that info away FYI, as well.
Then use www.liveauctioneers.com to view sets sold at auction within the last months. We saw a service of six-piece place settings for 12 that sold for $2,100 and a 73-piece set in original box for $2,250. A 118-piece set brought $2,800, and sets of 105 and 109 pieces did not sell.
I’d also check differing vendors online to see what they charge for comparable sets. Finally, after all those results, you’ll have a ballpark idea of real-life prices.
See what I mean about no simple answer? Value depends on where and when an item is sold, on condition, demand, and, in silver, what pieces are involved. Interesting serving pieces trump basics — unless the buyer is looking for those basics. For the best and truest answer, do your homework.