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.
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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 www.kovels.com 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 (www.ragoarts.com)
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.