The Smart Collector: Silver flatware may be worth more melted down

2011-09-25T00:00:00Z The Smart Collector: Silver flatware may be worth more melted downDanielle Arnet Tribune Media Services Arizona Daily Star
September 25, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Q: I have complete place settings for eight plus many serving pieces in Gorham sterling's Chantilly pattern. What is its value in today's market?

A: Smart collectors know that these are high times for gold and sterling silver. Some have also learned that their metals, including silver flatware, are worth more melted down than intact. Before readers rush to empty silver chests, know that this is about sterling. Silver plate in most patterns is almost unsellable.

At one point, brides aspired to large sets of china, flatware and crystal. Made since 1895, Chantilly by Gorham has been a traditional favorite since the beginning. Giant www.replacements.com names it "the most popular flatware pattern ever produced." Look on the site to view examples and prices.

Original Chantilly flatware has a British-like hallmark as back stamp. Pieces made before 1950 have a lion, anchor and "G" mark. Pieces made after that date have a "Gorham" mark. Gorham has also made Chantilly pattern china and crystal.

Since the reader's concern is about value, the way to determine that is to research prices. Knowing the going rate(s) equals value.

Start with online research of the pattern and maker to learn what online retailers ask for the set. Do the same for individual serving pieces. You'll see that the serving pieces sell for more.

We found online replacement silver dealers selling original Chantilly services for eight at around $7,500. Who knows if they get that?

But that's retail. The general rule in selling is to expect half that when selling, less if the item is not highly desirable. Buyers only pay for items they know they can move, especially in this economy. Sometimes less is rock bottom; demand for flatware is … flat.

Susan Ranta, founder of the replacement site www.setyourtable.com, told us that old sterling flatware is so heavy to ship that weight and insurance make buying in quantity costly. Someone has to absorb that cost, and it's the seller. When buying from a dealer, you absorb.

Worse, Ranta continues that: "Chantilly is a popular pattern with a lot of it available. So offered prices for it will be lower than for a rarer pattern."

Knowing what replacement dealers will pay and what scrap dealers pay gives a pretty true idea of value.

She advises the reader to go online to www.monex.com for the latest market prices on buying bulk silver to melt down. Price quoted is for sterling in troy ounces.

Weigh forks, spoons and serving pieces on a postal scale. Knives with hollow handles and stainless blades do not weigh true, so forget this step with them. An online conversion scale can then change results to troy ounces. (Troy is a weight system for precious metals and gemstones. When you purchase an ounce of silver or gold, you are buying a troy ounce. A troy ounce is about 31.1 grams.)

After everything is weighed and converted, approximate scrap value is determined.

When and if you decide to sell, approach silver dealers. Many buy for scrap. Get several estimates.

The serving pieces - and the reader has a good selection - may best be sold individually, as they are more desirable and less common than place settings.

Ranta has faced the sell-or-scrap dilemma herself. "I almost sold my sterling flatware for $2,500 melt-down price against much less offered by replacement dealers," she told us. In the end, a daughter decided to take the set.

Q: We have a square 1800s baby grand piano from Germany. How do I get an appraisal at a reasonable price, and where can I sell it?

A: If the object is to sell, a good area auction house that specializes in decorative goods and has experience selling similar and/or antique pianos will provide a price range based on its experience and databases.

Your piano tuner or sometimes a local piano mover can also provide a general price range. Auction results vary depending on where and when sold, condition, who is bidding, and if the sale is properly advertised and on the Web. If you do consign, be sure to have everything related to the history of the piano available.

AUCTION ACTION

A group of six items, given by the mother of baseball great Lou Gehrig to a friend, brought almost $1 million in a recent Heritage sports auction. His game-worn 1934 Tour of Japan uniform alone sold at $507,875. The matching cap, sold separately, brought another $95,600. Other results included "Shoeless Joe" Jackson's bat "Black Betsy" ($537,750) and a baseball autographed by the 1926 New York Yankees ($131,450). Held as part of a sports collectors convention, the entire sale realized almost $5 million.

Danielle Arnet welcomes questions from readers. She cannot respond to each one individually, but will answer those of general interest in her column. Send an email to smartcollector@comcast.net or write Danielle Arnet, c/o Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 60611. Include an address in your query. Photos will not be returned.

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