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tline3open  Will the Flatware Collecting Hobby get to Stage III?

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Author Topic:   Will the Flatware Collecting Hobby get to Stage III?
Bob Schulhof

Posts: 194
Registered: Apr 99

iconnumber posted 06-28-1999 02:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob Schulhof     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have been involved in many collecting hobbies over the years from coins to baseball cards to classic cars, and they all seem to go through stages.
    Stage I- A Secret. You do it because you like it even though your friends think you are a little weird. Like: "A grown man collecting baseball cards?" or "Why would you want an old car when you could have a new one?" or "Stainless is just so much easier".

    Stage II- an active market develops. The collector can actually get a good price when it is time to sell, instead of 25 cents on the dollar to a few dealers who have a monopoly.

    Stage III- Prices rise and the hobby actually becomes a good investment instead of just an indulgence.

    Stage IV- Speculative frenzy everybody gets into it including "professional Investors". Even your friends get interested.

    Stage V- The bubble bursts Professionals move on or go back to pork bellies.

    Stage VI- The hobby returns to collectors a bit wiser for the experience.

It seems that the hobby of Silver flatware collecting is somewhere between stage I and stage II with the advent of e-bay. Will it get to stage III? There are positives and negatives:

    Positives: Silver flatware is inherently valuable, can be a beautiful work of art, is useful and fun. It could become very trendy to serve your friends with old silver.

    Negatives: There are thousands of patterns, which ones are collectable? how scarce or common are they?

Getting to stage III would seem to require gaining some focus on what to collect and more knowledge on dating. After all why are some beanie babies more valuable than a lot of silver pieces? Because they stopped making them and everybody knows it.

I think that Medallion and some Shiebler and Unger patterns are already there, with strong and increasing prices. Will the others follow? Which ones? I would be interested in your opinion.

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Richard Kurtzman

Posts: 768
Registered: Aug 2000

iconnumber posted 07-22-2008 01:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Richard Kurtzman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Nine years later, what do you all think?

[This message has been edited by Richard Kurtzman (edited 07-22-2008).]

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Posts: 1627
Registered: Mar 2003

iconnumber posted 07-22-2008 08:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Kimo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't think I entirely agree with the proposed framework, but in general I would say that silver collecting has been in stage VI or even what I would add as stage VII for a very long time. Stage VII is where the hobby continues but with a slow decline as the old folks who are the most serious collectors pass away and their numbers are not replaced with young collectors. It is like stamp collecting. It is not going to go away, but it is not going to be what it once was.

I would also quibble over silver being inherently valuable. Yes, the metal has an intrinsic value as bullion, but it is not all that much when one considers that a $20 bill these days will only get you a movie with maybe a small box of popcorn, or a few gallons of gas for your car. To me the value of collectable silver is the artistic work combined with the imbued historical charm.

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Posts: 1629
Registered: Nov 99

iconnumber posted 07-22-2008 10:32 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for bascall     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
While the price of silver may not be a major factor for a collector's view of his or hers prize pieces, it must have an influence on the availability of additions to a collection, or do the masses of silver that are going out for scrapping all get screened for desirable items that should be rescued from the process?

In my humble estimation largely because of the price of silver and anticipation of higher silver prices, we are in stage VI of collecting.

[This message has been edited by bascall (edited 07-22-2008).]

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Posts: 602
Registered: Apr 2004

iconnumber posted 07-22-2008 10:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for argentum1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Unfortunately Stage III brings out the profit takers and antiques go into the melting pot. Remember the Hunt brothers and $50.00 an ounce silver.

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Richard Kurtzman

Posts: 768
Registered: Aug 2000

iconnumber posted 07-22-2008 11:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Richard Kurtzman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hi all,

Please remember that this topic was confined to flatware collecting and not silver collecting in general.

This was an area of silver collecting that had historically, for the most part, a very low profile.

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Posts: 798
Registered: Apr 2008

iconnumber posted 07-23-2008 03:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for agphile     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It seems there is a difference between UK and USA experience. Flatware collecting has a long history in the UK. What changes with time are the periods that are collectible. Thus Gask in his 1926 book could say: "Most collectors of discrimination sedulously avoid the spoons of all sorts with fiddle-pattern handles which came in during the latter part of the reign of George IV……. They also shun the florid nineteenth century so-called King’s Pattern variety of this spoon".

As the 19th century has become more distant, its products have become more collectible, however.

I should add that I find it difficult to think of my collection as an investment. The collector who is not also a dealer has to accept that there is a difference between buying and selling price. Items would need to appreciate significantly faster than inflation to generate a profit in real terms (apart from the few cases where the seller from whom I bought has not recognized the value.

However, it is a comfort that the collection has at least some value, as I mention to my wife from time to time. I might have had an obsession that simply consumed cash with nothing lasting to show for it!

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Posts: 2132
Registered: Nov 2002

iconnumber posted 07-23-2008 05:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dale     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There is a problem with step 2. Yes, the few dealers had a 'monopoly' or more correctly an 'oligopoly'. But they were the ones who taught and encouraged people to become collectors. As distinct from just having silver. These dealers were also the ones who promoted overlooked silver. Without them, the market becomes chaotic. Which we see at the great auction site.

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Posts: 2334
Registered: Mar 2003

iconnumber posted 07-23-2008 05:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ahwt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
We had Burgundy by Reed and Barton for most of our married life and when we got interesting in earlier American silver we looked for fiddle thread, oval thread, variations of the olive pattern and Jenny Lind. Most of the silver we were looking for was made between 1820 and 1860.
We started looking a little less than 10 years ago and it seems to me that most flatware in this group has stayed level in price or has gone down in price. I suspect that the internet has increased the availability of this period silver to the point that prices have been pushed down. I really do not see enough of 18th century flatware to know what that market is like nor do I really look for silver from the "gilded age" or other later periods to know what that market is like.

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Posts: 414
Registered: Jun 2002

iconnumber posted 07-26-2008 12:11 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Marc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

Not in our lifetime. There was a chance to reach #3 with the Medallion patterns, some of the choice Jensen and Tiffany patterns, and a few dozen others, but it will not happen.

Why?.. Economics. Supply and demand.
The internet, and inexpensive electronic communication (cheap cell phone minutes)

Let me give an example.. In the olden days (18 years ago or so), if you wanted to buy a place setting of silver, you had access to local dealers and the dealers who advertised nationally, and local auctions, and maybe the lady down the street. You paid $xxx.

This limited information (supply) let dealers pretty much set their own prices. It took a lot of time to get even this limited information. And it cost money to do. So the customer purchased locally, or if it was an out of date pattern, from one of the national concerns.

Let us move up the time line to any time within the past 6 years on the internet, and look, for example, at how buying and selling flatware on Ebay has enabled the price structure to change.

  1. Easy access to information (supply)by everybody who uses, or has friends who use, computers. Compare prices and buy your flatware from the cheapest reliable source.

  2. Trends in "follow the leader" selling. If you think of selling a few pieces of a flatware pattern at auction online and it brings good money, (high demand, limited supply) you may be surprised at how many sellers will be listing the same item within the week. As the supply increases, the demand is met, and the price drops. This happened with Medallion patterns, Majestic, all the Jensen patterns, and killer modernist flatware like Diamond, just to name a few. Your silver can now be purchased for 2/3 $xxx.
And the cheap cell phone minutes lets everyone communicate cheaply, even when not at a computer.

Also, if you look at Dale's thread on stainless steel flatware, the quantity available, and the low cost will keep sterling silver flatware in its place... between stage 1 and stage 2.

Thanks for letting me ramble..I have been thinking on this for a few days and had to post.


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Registered: Nov 2002

iconnumber posted 07-26-2008 03:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dale     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Some more rambling. Looking at the thread, and going over the market as I understand it, there are some plated patterns that have reached step 3. These would be the three main grape patterns, Vintage, LaVigne and Moselle and Charter Oak. Possibly Assyrian Head and Columbia should be added to the list. IMHO, these have held their value very well. The rest, well, they have not.

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Posts: 1203
Registered: Feb 2005

iconnumber posted 07-26-2008 04:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for jersey     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
OTOH I myself used to buy some ornate Gorham & Tiffany
pieces very reasonably. Now those same patterns are through the roof.

Maybe too people are becoming more educated as to what the best is considered to be. Good for them, bad for me as a buyer.
The other thing is people may be filling in their relatives patterns so the trend of what styles may not have been hot a few years ago will become so.

And that's my 2 cents worth.


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Posts: 414
Registered: Jun 2002

iconnumber posted 07-26-2008 10:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Marc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hi Dale,

We skipped stage 5 with the plated patterns and are now at stage 6.

Currently, the five plated patterns you mentioned are off 50% from their peak and have been down for a few years. Most all of the other plated patterns have been taking a beating too.. How do I know?.. I climbed on that bandwagon (plated flatware) 9 years ago, handling the top 20 patterns, and was doing well till the bubble burst and left me with a large stock of now overpriced plated flatware.

Unlike sterling silver, plated flatware has no intrinsic value.

The market for medallion, coin and sterling, flatware is similarly off, but not by as much.


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Richard Kurtzman

Posts: 768
Registered: Aug 2000

iconnumber posted 07-26-2011 12:56 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Richard Kurtzman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Three years later, I think we have to add a Stage VII. The flatware goes to the scrapper.

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June Martin
Forum Master

Posts: 1326
Registered: Apr 93

iconnumber posted 07-28-2011 10:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for June Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hi Richard. Thanks for reviving this thread. How interesting to read the thought process over these many years.

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