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tline3open  The importance of a mark?

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Author Topic:   The importance of a mark?

Posts: 1502
Registered: May 99

iconnumber posted 11-29-2000 10:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Brent     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If you collect coin silver, do you shy away from unmarked pieces? I have actually accumulated a nice collection of unmarked American spoons, largely from the 18th century. Most of these were "rescues". I hate to see a nice old spoon wallowing in a pile of junk, and I will often buy something just to save it from oblivion. Dealers seem to have a hard enough time identifying marked coin silver; as a result, unmarked coin often gets classified as plate, with prices a fraction of any marked piece.

What do you think about unmarked coin? Will you buy it if it presents itself? Will you pay as much for an unmarked piece as a marked one (I didn't think you would)? How much value is in that little stamp?

As more research is conducted into American silver, the more evidence we have that the mark on a piece of silver is often not the mark of the person or shop that made it. The silversmith community was very close-knit and cooperative. Some shops manufactured goods for wholesale, some were purely retailers, some specialized in engraving or castings, and some did a little of everything. Each of these types of shop sold silver to the public with their own mark, and each has been recorded as a "silversmith", whether or not they made anything of their own.

To pose the question again, where does the value in a piece of coin silver lie? Is it in design, craftsmanship, historical connections, or just a mark? If half the value is in the mark alone, are we being foolish?

At a recent New York auction, I saw that a fine unmarked Philadelphia tankard, attributed to Philip Syng, sold for only $4800. Meanwhile, similar marked pieces were selling for over $20,000. Why? What are we paying for? In furniture, where labels are the exception rather than the rule, craftsmanship, proportion, design and execution are what drives prices. Attributions are often based on style and quality alone, and collectors accept these attributions and pay accordingly. Why can't we get to that point with silver?

In short, I think we are too hung up on marks, to our own detriment as collectors.

[This message has been edited by Brent (edited 12-11-2000).]

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Posts: 80
Registered: Nov 99

iconnumber posted 12-02-2000 07:36 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Trefid     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Your question is certainly a thought- provoking one. In my collection the "unknowns" are steadily becoming more interesting to me than the identifiable ones. I've never collected with a thought to resale value, so the fact that a piece is unmarked doesn't detract from its value to me if it is beautifully crafted and of an interesting or unusual pattern. And I HAVE been known to purchase an unmarked piece in a rare pattern for a higher price than comparable marked pieces in more readily available patterns.
A case in point is the "LEAF AND BERRY" pattern illustrated elsewhere on the Forum. It's unmarked save for "coin" and (usually) a number. And the prices asked for examples of it have been consistently higher than one would expect for unmarked pieces. I've paid them every time.

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