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tline3open  Wanted: info on popularity of coin silver

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Author Topic:   Wanted: info on popularity of coin silver
wizwoman

Posts: 5
Registered: Mar 2003

iconnumber posted 03-31-2003 12:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for wizwoman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hello. I have noticed that lately there seem to be a lot of listings for coin silver (eBay, etc.). Is this a recent popularity? Why do you think? Do you think that people are calling items "coin silver" as a new buzzword in the collectibles market, when item is not actually coin silver? How do you know that something is coin silver. What is the purity of coin silver? How many questions can I fit here? smile))))

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Kimo

Posts: 1597
Registered: Mar 2003

iconnumber posted 03-31-2003 02:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Kimo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Coin silver is 90% silver or 900/1000s. By comparison, sterling silver is 92.5% silver or 925/1000s and German silver has no silver in it at all.

I think that your perception that some uninformed dealers are latching onto it as an easy catch phrase for any silver colored metal that is not marked sterling may be true. Look at what dealers did to the term "art deco" by doing an ebay word search on the term and you will see 15,000 to 20,000 auctions at any given time where very few of the items have any shred of art deco design.

[This message has been edited by Kimo (edited 03-31-2003).]

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Fitzhugh

Posts: 136
Registered: Jan 2002

iconnumber posted 04-02-2003 08:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fitzhugh     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think to clarify your confusion, substitue "early American" for the term "coin" and you'll understand better the long-standing interest in the field. There is nothing faddish or new about the study and collecting of American antiques.

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wizwoman

Posts: 5
Registered: Mar 2003

iconnumber posted 04-02-2003 09:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for wizwoman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you. But there must be a difference between early American "coin" silver, and early American "sterling" silver, yes? And how would you tell the difference?
wiz

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wev
Moderator

Posts: 4095
Registered: Apr 99

iconnumber posted 04-02-2003 10:13 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for wev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Actually, there is no such thing as early American 'sterling' silver. Sterling is a standard, established in England, of 925/1000 silver purity by assay; colonial and post colonial silver was not subject to assay (Baltimore City excepted) and the sterling standard was not adopted in any pervasive way until the 1850s and only then by mutual agreement. Prior to that, the purity of a given piece of silver was more a matter of circumstance than anything else. Raw metal was not imported into the colonies (officially at least), so silver was recycled -- old pieces and coins re-melted into workable stock. Sometimes the metal was very good and sometimes not; a survey at Winterthur's collection found a range from 750/1000 to 975/1000, though on the whole most work met or exceeded the English standard. In post-colonial America, the use of the term 'coin' was essentially a marketing ploy; stock silver became regularly available to makers and they needed to assure the public of the quality of their metal -- "as good as coin." By this time, coins weren't used as stock metal except in times of real shortage or in isolated pockets outside lines of supply. The only way to be absolutely sure of a piece's purity is do an invasive assay.

As to the collecting of early (pre-1850) silver and ebay, I have been watching auctions there from the first. There have been minor seasonal ups and downs, but generally the amount offered in any given week has remained quite steady as a portion of total listings. There has been, however, a strong trend toward better quality pieces in the last few years; this is no doubt due to the increasing number of dealers using ebay in lieu of a traditional shop.

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Richard Kurtzman
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Posts: 759
Registered: Aug 2000

iconnumber posted 04-02-2003 11:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Richard Kurtzman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hi Wev, I'm sorry, but I have to differ with you on the the term "coin" being essentially a marketing ploy. Coins were used extensively in the making of silver articles during the first half plus of the nineteenth century. At one time Gorham actually had a storage space called The Barrel Room which was filled with barrels of coins to be melted down. As late as 1868 coins were being used as a source of silver. An article on silver and silver plate, focusing primarily on Gorham, in the September 1868 issue of Harper's Magazine states,
quote:
"Three precious commodities have to be purchased by this Company. One is silver coin, which is the staple material of their ware. The Gorham Company... have now adopted the sterling standard. Hence the necessity for purchasing something besides the daily supply of coin. Coin being the form in which silver is usually bought for manufacturing purposes, the Company are obliged to buy a certain quantity of pure silver for the purpose of raising the standard to sterling... All these precious articles - silver coin, pure silver, and gold - are sold by the coin and bullion dealers of Wall Street. Like other commodities, they are sometimes scarce, sometimes abundant, and occasionally superabundant. The time has been when silversmiths could not buy in all New York five hundred dollars' worth of silver, and they had to run about Chatham Street hunting up little lots of dimes and half dimes that used to be displayed in the windows of lottery shops. Generally, however, large kegs of Mexican dollars are to be seen in the vaults or behind the counters of the dealers in bullion, as numerous as kegs of nails in a hardware store."

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wev
Moderator

Posts: 4095
Registered: Apr 99

iconnumber posted 04-02-2003 12:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for wev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
No, you are quite right, I should have been clearer. I was speaking to the small shop, the independent silversmith, not the large factory firms that bought bulk coinage by contract from various goverments and private firms for re-processing. Certainly, in times of shortage, as we both said, a maker would use whatever he could procure, but the time of a customer bringing in three worn out spoons, a broken cup, and 5 Spanish dolars to the making of a new tankard was generally past. And, it should be noted, Gorham was re-processing the coinage to sterling grade, not coin.

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ahwt

Posts: 2173
Registered: Mar 2003

iconnumber posted 04-02-2003 04:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ahwt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I apologize if this is too far off from the original question, but I have always thought that “coin” and “pure coin” were comparatively late markings on American silver; i.e. markings used after 1820. Before this time didn’t the silversmith just mark his silver with his name, initials or an occasional pseudo mark? The early silversmith was somewhat like a banker in colonial days and most likely knew his customers, if not socially at least on a first name basis. As silver products became more available to the general public, the term “coin” was a useful mark of quality and in some sense substituted for lack of personal relationship between the silversmith and the customer.
It is of some interest that “coin” and “sterling” were not defined by U.S. law until 1906 and the passage of 34 Stat. 261. (now 15 U.S.C 296)

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wizwoman

Posts: 5
Registered: Mar 2003

iconnumber posted 04-02-2003 07:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for wizwoman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Wow! Thanks for all the info. The more I find out, the more confused I get smile
I guess my specific question now would be, today, when sellers advertise something as
"coin silver", what do they mean? Or is there actually no standard for using that term? Thanks for your help.
wiz

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Trefid

Posts: 80
Registered: Nov 99

iconnumber posted 04-14-2003 02:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Trefid     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There are a heck of a lot of eBay sellers who use the "coin silver" term incorrectly. Many apparently define the term as "solid silver not sterling." Thus, they sell European silver (.800, .830, .840, etc. fine) in the coin category. And since new sellers are constantly "learning" from what's already listed, the problem is here to stay, I'm afraid.

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