Precious Metals

Selling silver for melt value not always smartest move

During the surge of the spot price of silver leading up to the $50 an ounce in February 1980, it was a common sight to find people giving up family heirlooms made of the precious metal to profit from the increase in the metal price.

How much of those family treasures wound up in the melting pot to be reincarnated as something else will never be known.

Regardless of the price of silver, which has been hovering between $14 and $15 per ounce recently, likely countless ounces more of silver in the form of silverware, eating utensils, jewelry, and the like still have been sold for the intrinsic value of the metal they contain.

Connect with Coin World: 

Antiques and collectibles writers Kim and Terry Kovel believe second thoughts should be given to trading in grandma’s silver teapot or dinner place setting simply for the money the pieces would generate solely from their precious metal content. There’s also the collector's value.

The Kovels write on that “few brides ask for a silver tea set or even a set of silverware, so those pieces are selling at bargain prices. It is the lucky couple that inherits a sterling water pitcher by Tiffany & Co. Even luckier are those who get Tiffany silver in Art Nouveau patterns."

A case in point: At a Rago Auctions Dec. 5, 2014, sale ( in Lambertville, N.J., an 8.5-inch high sterling silver water pitcher with raised catfish on a hammered background carried a pre-sale estimate of $2,500 to $4,500. It could have sold for much less if cashed in just for its silver scrap value. The piece weighs 33.7 troy ounces. Its melt value strictly for the precious metal is around $500. 

The pitcher has dents, lost patina, a repair and a monogram, all damage that lowers the value, according to the Kovels.

Nevertheless, the unusual pitcher, manufactured circa 1878 to 1891, sold for $18,750 because of the fine workmanship, unique design and, according to the Kovels, the fame of the maker — Tiffany & Co.

Community Comments