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Author Topic:   Rare vs Common...???
t-man-nc

Posts: 327
Registered: Mar 2000

iconnumber posted 10-19-2003 10:02 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for t-man-nc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have several pieces of what I refer to as "UK / English" pieces, including several Scottish and Irish "Rattail" spoons of some antiquity, that I acquired in some of the lots I have purchased containing Coin Silver, which is more my interest...

As we all know there are a number of different "City" marks in “UK / English” silver.

Is there any reference as to the order of precedence pertaining to the rarity of specific City marks... Like there is in Coin Silver from some of the southern states (GA, SC, NC, ALA, etc.)?

I for one, spend the most of my time researching and reading about American silversmiths, and have to carry English reference books with me when scouring the antique store, as there are a number of occasions when I find a nice piece that while not coin, is appealing but the price may be high for what I can only judge as PPDK... Pretty Piece - Don't Know... and then pass it by as overpriced, when in fact it may be under priced for the rarity and a very real bargain. I must watch what I spend on my silver purchases, as I seem to find more and more I want and less and less I can afford.

In any case, these need to be snapped up before it gets into the hand of the silver smelters (yes, they are alive and have gone into high gear since the price of silver went up), whether they stay in my personal collection or are passed on to others to be held onto for posterity...

The rarer pieces tend to be rare not only because of low production, (in my opinion) but lost due to primarily ignorance (can you say the “Great Melt” some 20 –25 years ago).

While this site does not deal with the value of any particular piece of silver, we are all acutely aware that this love of the craft and awe of the talent that made these pieces is in fact, an expensive endeavor.

Please understand I am not attempting to put a price on any specific piece of silver or even a type, category or any other stratification, simply trying to gain some walking around knowledge... as it were...

Thanks “Smaug”

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swarter
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iconnumber posted 10-19-2003 11:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
You have asked an interesting question, t-man. Like you, I have been primarily interested in American silver, but througout my years of exploring the subject I have always paid attention to its origins, realizing that both the earlier styles and most of the silversmiths who made the objects were ultimately traceable to Britain and Ireland.

You can get a rough, but adequate, idea of relative abundance of products marked by the various assay offices simply by examining the tables in a copy of Jackson, which I assume you have. These tables will show the years of operation of each office, the names and numbers of silversmiths registered at each, and some idea, from the entries of items found, of frequency with which objects have turned up. One can expect that the longer the period of operation and the greater the number of working smiths, the less rare that items from an office would be.

These data reflect, of course, the information available to Jackson in England. In the US, the picture would be somewhaat different, in that what can be found here is a reflection of the sources from whence the objects came. These sources would be three -- original importation by retailers of objects for sale from London, family possessions brought by immigrants, and (later) imports of antiques for sale by dealers. There would therefore be an even greater abundance of London silver here, given the original importation, and the later bias of many antique dealers who believe(d) that anything made outside of London was, by definition, inferior. It follows, then that silver originating in London should be the most frequently encountered, that from the remaining larger offices (Edinborough, Dublin, Birmingham, and Sheffield) should be next, followed by the lesser offices and provincial centers, last.

There is probably nothing to be gained from trying to go beyond these generalities. Excepting that relatively abundant small specialty objects from Birmingham (where a niche for their production seems to have developed) can be found generally, the frequency of encounters with other items from outside London would be expected to reflect settlement patterns of immigrants. However, with the increasing mobility of the Ameicann population, these and other historical patterns have begun to blur, so that rare items can (and do) turn up anywhere.

[This message has been edited by swarter (edited 10-19-2003).]

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doc

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iconnumber posted 10-20-2003 01:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for doc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
An interesting question indeed, and one that I will be interested in seeing others' responses to. My interest is primarily in Irish silver, and in that case, silver from cities other than Dublin can have greater value, if old enough, due to its relative scarcity.

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Buckleman1
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iconnumber posted 10-25-2003 08:27 AM           Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Concerning the relative value of the various English, Irish and Scottish assay offices, this has seen a very marked change in the last fifty years.
London silver was the most sought after by collectors prior to 1945, since, by and large, the quality of London items was higher than provincial.
Provincial silver, because of lower price and often lower quality was thus far more likely to be scrapped.
As a result the once despised provincial silver, often rarer in manufacturing output anyhow , had become scare.
Since then, and especially in the last twenty years collecting has concentrated more on the academic side, and on rarity, with utility ( and in many cases quality) taking a lower precedence.

Increasing affluence, especially in Ireland and the Channel Islands , made the "local" buyers stronger and more interested in their heritage

Consequently for similar items , in similar condition , of similar quality prices now have a totalty different pattern.

In very rough order silver from 1700 is ranked commercially as follows (NB Many people would dispute these rankings - including my wife !)

Top of the list
Channel Islands ( Jersey generally the lowest
). Very wealthy collectorts living in Channel Islands
York.
Chester pre 1830 - especially Richard Richardson due to a wealthy descendent being a buyer
Irish provincial
Scottish provincial

High Up
Dublin
Edinburgh

Meduim
Newcastle
Exeter

Standard
London

Lower
Birmingham (due to vast production and generally perceived low quality

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t-man-nc

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iconnumber posted 10-29-2003 11:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for t-man-nc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is very interesting... I have a lot to try to incorperate into my mental notebook while looking at the different pieces I encounter... I have seen most of the pieces identified by Buckleman except for Channel Islands... How would one reconigise Jersey or any channel Island pieces...

I have a small bowl i have just purchased thinking it to be a coin sugar bowl with a very tight fitting lid, to keep out insects, and when a dealer who spend much of her time in Europe saw it she seems to think it a Channel Islands pieces of Church Silver... where the bowl is more of a footed two handed cup without the handles the foot is weel welded to the body and the base contains an EB contained in Rectangle, and marked twice very nicely on the bottom of of the bowl. the Lid when removed is very schallow and when turned on it top the lid becomes a small dish. The lid id also marked with the two ED in Rectangle. These are the only marks on the piece.

The lady is a well educated collage professor in Chicago and the silver she says she has seen is only five peices from the Channel Islands and whould bet her salery that it is... So I have without trying, stured up a challange....

I will ask Lisa to get some pictures of all the angles on this thing and see how it goes...


Thanks "Smaug"

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t-man-nc

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iconnumber posted 10-31-2003 08:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for t-man-nc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here are the pictures...




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Buckleman1
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iconnumber posted 10-31-2003 02:37 PM           Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Very nice piece of silver. It could (and outside buckles I'm ignorant!) indeed be a piece of church plate - a paten and cover for the Host.
Channel Island silver is very hard to identify unless you have a book of makers marks and POSITIVELY match one. The other clue is that ownership initials are usually three letters in a straight line, separated by three dots in triangle formation ( like "therefore" in a logic proof). The Letters are for syllables. ie Tomkinson could be "T K S" and not actual initial letters . Actually its more complex than that and no-one has ever convinced me that we now actually understand it !

Do not confuse three initial in a triangle formation as this though. In English silver
"A" over "B C" is Surname "A" over first name of one partner "B" and first name of second partner "C". Thus T over C S could be a marriage gift to Clive Taylor and Sue Taylor. Or a partnership of two brothers Claude and Samuel Turnip.
I had a Channel Islands pair of buckles for months before a friend recognised the makers mark so it is not impossible to have a piece and not know ! As it changed the value from around USD 200 to USD 2000 I was very pleased !

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swarter
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iconnumber posted 10-31-2003 04:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Can you provide a close up photo(s) of the mark(s)? This would be necessary for comaprison with published marks. You mention both EB and ED - are there actually two different marks or is one a typo in your message? There was an otherwise unidentified maker on Jersey who used an ED mark, but there is none with an EB in Richard Mayne's book.

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t-man-nc

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iconnumber posted 11-01-2003 08:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for t-man-nc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The two marks are both EB in a rectangle... the ones on the top are both facing the same way while the ones on the bottom are reversed or 180 degrees... I will see if I can get Lisa to photo them as my photos are too blurred...

Swarter... What is your opinion as to the use of this piece, and its possible origin... It is pretty and I don't know if the size is apparent from the pictures but it is small ... 4 inches across the top of the bowl, 2 and 1/2 across the bottom / foot, and the top with its foot, is about 1 inch... the top clamps tight on the bowl so that it is hard to get off and the inside is absolutely hand hammered like 18th century silver I have held and the weld of the foot is similar to early to mid 18th century... Any guess...

If in fact the piece is not coin as I now believe, then I need to let it go as it ties up too much of my budget on a PPDK "Pretty Piece - Don't Know", But my curiosity is killing me...

Thanks Smaug

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swarter
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iconnumber posted 11-03-2003 12:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Covered sugar bowls of this form were made in the 18th Century in Britain and America (and possibly on the Continent). There are published photographs of both bombe' and pyriform shapes, with several surviving American Colonial examples of the latter form. When inverted the lid served as a dish. One suggestion (Ian Pickford) is that the dish served to hold spoons when in use on the table. Given the cost of silver items at the time, being able to use a cover for an additional purpose, whatever that might have been, would have saved the expense of purchasing another piece.

I am unable to determine from a photograph when or where this one might have been made - it coule even have been made it the earlier form by a later craftsman. Perhaps the nature of the lip of the lower bowl and the overlapping method of closure might provide a clue to someone knowlegeable about construction techniques. I could not tell you the silver content, either, except that it is most probably not electroplate - it could be either coin or stirling (or even Sheffield?). A close-up of the marks would be most useful -- if identifiable, a number of questions could be answered.

If you are going to discard it, throw it in my direction!

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t-man-nc

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iconnumber posted 11-16-2003 05:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for t-man-nc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think I have solved the issue by shear happenstance... I purchased a book over the ebay and it arrived the other day while I was in Tucson, and I just got back and there is a Sugar Bowl in one of the pictures with an almost identical lid, and a somewhat elongated body with a higher foot. The marks on the piece are the same and the time period is the mid to late 1700's.

The book is "A Treasury of Old Silver" I picked up for a few dollars, and the picture can be seen on page 69 showing pieces from the Museum of New York. the "EB" mark is that of Ephraim Brasher of New York.

So it appears I will be keeping the bowl with the collection.

While it is not Channel Islands, it is a good fit for my collection.

As for discarding it... had it not been coin I would have made it available to our fellow silverphiles here to whom ever wanted to place it in their collection.

Speaking of which, I was tempted to pick up a couple of what i refer to as cake baskets, thes were made in Londen, one in 1740 and the second in 1760, if I remember right they went for a couple of hundred a piece... i don't know if that is a reasonable price but both were lovely, and quite ornate fully marked, and generally very appealing... I most always learn about these the day of the auction, but if some one here wanted these types of thing I would pass them along at cost plus shipping and insurance... The mechanics may be a little difficult as it would be impossible to send pictures until after they were purchased, so this may not work, but wanted to make the offer anyway...

Thanks for all the feedback and help it is very enjoyable to be able to spend time with those of common interests...

"Smaug"

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FredZ

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iconnumber posted 11-16-2003 08:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for FredZ     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Next tine you come to Tucson, drop me an email and I will meet you for lunch or at least have you come by and see my treasures. It gives my wife and I a reason to clean up the house.

Fred

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t-man-nc

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iconnumber posted 11-16-2003 09:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for t-man-nc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I may be comming back in two weeks, I will try to stop by. I was staying at the Hilton on Broadway and Kolb, east of the city. I am doing some consulting at St. Mary's.

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swarter
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iconnumber posted 11-16-2003 07:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well, if indeed this is actually by Brasher, you are to be congratulated on your good fortune. If you truly realized the import of what you might have, I don't think you would be so casual about it!

Here is the mark usually attributed to Brasher. Study it closely, paying particular attention to the details of the letter forms. Marks that look similar, if not identical to this one (at least in illustrations), have been attributed to Ezekial Burr and Eleazer Baker, as well, so caution is advisable, no matter how similar the pieces themselves might look!

This mark is from a 9" spoon, upon which it is struck twice, as was apparently his practice. The punchmark measures 5mm X 3mm.

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wev
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iconnumber posted 11-16-2003 08:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for wev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It might be worth noting there are at least two spurious Brasher marks to my knowledge, but here's hoping.

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t-man-nc

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iconnumber posted 11-18-2003 02:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for t-man-nc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
it matches exactly...same form of the "E" where the back touches the rectangle, and the form of theright hand of the "E" also the "B" left hand back and the lower right hand side is larger.

I will try to get a closeup... and get posted today.

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t-man-nc

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iconnumber posted 11-18-2003 02:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for t-man-nc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I can't seem to get the camera to not be fuzzy... I will have to see if I can get Lisa to take the picture when she gets home...

OK you got my attention... explain the importance of the find, because now I am excited that I may actually be able to make some contribution to the body of knowledge related to my endevour...

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wev
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iconnumber posted 11-18-2003 03:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for wev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
You can read here
American Silversmiths - Ephraim Brasher

some basic bio.

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swarter
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iconnumber posted 11-18-2003 08:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
OK you got my attention... explain the importance of the find, because now I am excited that I may actually be able to make some contribution to the body of knowledge related to my endevour...

While most of the relatively small nubmer of his holloware objects preserved in published collections are Neoclassical forms from the Federal period, Ephraim Brasher was one of a half-dozen silversmiths of Dutch descent considered as master practioners of the Rococo design in New York colonial silver. Brasher's real popularity, however, seems to stems from his coining of the "Brasher doubloons," and his sword hilts, forms which have "cross appeal" to collectors in several fields. Given that his productive career spanned more than 40 years, and that his patrons included such prominent citizens as George Washington, it is somewhat surprising that there is not more of his holloware in collections. Perhaps that is because, in addition to the disruption caused by the Revolutionary War, in which he volunteered, his activities were as varied as his products - at one time he served an Assistant Justice of the Peace, and at another as Assayer of the U.S.Mint.

In addition, colonial covered sugar bowls are not common, to say the least. So, if this turns out to be a genuine product of Ephraim Brasher's workshop, as it sounds as if it may be, you have added a new centerpiece to your collection - your instincts apparently are better than you realize. A fortuitous "whim aquisition" like this can turn a casual or unfocused collector into a dedicated aficionado. This piece may be silver, but you have struck gold, as this previously unknown piece adds to the body of knowledge of the work of an important early American silversmith! It would be a worthwhile contribution to trace the origin of the bowl and try to determine something of its provenance.

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t-man-nc

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iconnumber posted 11-18-2003 10:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for t-man-nc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Lisa is looking at it and says the "E" is different, but here eyes are better than mine... so she is doing the pictures and I am asking WEV to post for me...

"Smaug"

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wev
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iconnumber posted 11-18-2003 11:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for wev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The mark:

This looks very close the the right-hand side of mark C in Belden.

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swarter
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iconnumber posted 11-19-2003 12:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Lisa is correct - the E does look different. I see other differences, too, but the picture is too unclear to rule out distortions that can occur from various external influences. We need to get a clearer photo and have wev send it to Winterthur for confirmation, but I am not optimistic that it is the punch I illustrated (same as c in Belden). It is not any of the others shown in Belden. If he did not have another, similar punch to c, it is likely to be spurious, or belong to someone else (Flynt and Fales show a similar mark for Ezekial Burr - if correct, that might even be it). in any case, it is worth following up.

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t-man-nc

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iconnumber posted 11-19-2003 07:41 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for t-man-nc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
To whom should I send the piece to at Winterthur?

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t-man-nc

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iconnumber posted 11-19-2003 08:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for t-man-nc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I looked at belen and at F&F and the center vertical bar seems different as though it was bent or dammaged and the top and bottom bars are spreading apart, like the die was starting to fail or split. Just a curious thought... maybe Fred would know the answer... why would a smith change the punch from an "EB" to a newer version "BRASHER"... could a punch become damaged and cause distortions to the marck... when I could see better I could distinguish slight differences between the marks on severl examples of a particular smith ... is this my eyes playing tricks on me?

"Smaug"

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FredZ

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iconnumber posted 11-19-2003 08:48 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for FredZ     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have seen examples where a maker's mark has shown wear and cracks. sometimes a portion will break off due to an errant blow or just fatigue. The mark on your bowl does not look as if it has spread but was made that way. Were it a crack, you would see a fin of metal where the crack occured and not a split in the letter. The top loop of the "B" appears to be substantially larger than the bottom loop. The serifs in the the "E" are quite different. The bottom one flares inward while the mark on your's flares out. The bottom serif on the "B" is shorter than the Brasher mark and there is no space for it to have ever been larger.

It still is a wonderful piece and worth checking into.

Fred

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swarter
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iconnumber posted 11-19-2003 01:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My suggestion was first to send the photo of the mark to Winterthur via wev, who has an established relationship with them. You could also send along photos of the piece, but I would not send the bowl itself, unless they request it.

I was going to suggest that, when you visit Fred, you bring it along and let him take a look at the construction to get his silversmith's opinion on whether it is hand-wrought in the appropriate manner for the period.

Illustrations of covered bowls always seem to have the covers in place, rather than the more informative positioning you used - I have questions concerning the form of the inside lip of the bowl, which cannot be seen in other illustrations; also the period examples I have seen pictured have the edge of the foot-ring of the cover smooth where it would sit on the table when inverted for use - yours appears to be decorated in some way. These may be matters of style rather than function, but I do not have enough knowledge to have an opinion on the matter.

I have bought from an established dealer who, although he specializes in English and Continental silver, has had some nice American pieces in the past. He no longer deals in them, having given up in frustration with buyers who demanded proof of identifications which he could not provide to their satisfaction - "it's too tough," he said, preferring to restrict himself to pieces bearing the more ordered hallmarking systems.

Do not let these uncertainties discourage you - it is the nature of American silver, which has no registry of marks, to be challenging in determining identification - that is part of what makes it so interesting.

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t-man-nc

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iconnumber posted 11-19-2003 04:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for t-man-nc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I spoke to Don the metals curator of the Winterthur today and I tried to describe the marks and he said that a number of brasher marks have been identified in the past 20 to 25 years since Belden's book, and I have managed to get some time off to drive up to Delaware and meet with him next month. I am also taking a number of my more elusive pieces with me. Don has offered the use of the museums reference documents and photo catalog to me for the day. I will be taking a Camera to try to record the event in case is it not a Non-Event, as it were... Even if it is not a "Brasher" I will get a real thrill being able to see a number of the pieces up close...

I am counting the days....

Don Mentioned a new book by Debra Waters or Debra Walters in two volumes from the NYC Museum that has a number of good photos from their collection including a number of Brasher pieces... is anyone familiar with the book?

"Smaug"

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swarter
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iconnumber posted 11-19-2003 06:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Good for you. Punches do wear out or get damaged; one could be replaced with another similar one by the same engraver - here's hoping! I found Donald Fennimore to be a good host when I visited there some years ago. We are all waiting to hear the outcome.

The book is Elegant Plate: Three Centuries of Precious Metals in New York City by Deborah Dependahl Waters. Oddly enough, it does not show the Brasher covered sugar bowl they are supposed to have.

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t-man-nc

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iconnumber posted 11-21-2003 10:48 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for t-man-nc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I just send WEV a picture of the piece in the book, I hope it is clear enough with my eyesight, I don't know... if it is not good I will ask Lisa to take again...

"Smaug"

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wev
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iconnumber posted 11-21-2003 03:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for wev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

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t-man-nc

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iconnumber posted 11-21-2003 05:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for t-man-nc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
see why I though it might be the Brasher piece... the design on the top of the museum piece is almost exactly the same, the size and weight make me beleive it is Brasher, and the Double EB marks... we will see in December.. I Hope..

Thanks for posting the pictures WEV...

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swarter
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iconnumber posted 11-21-2003 06:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The inverted pear-shaped body of the pictured Brasher bowl is typical of the Rococo style bowls made in 18th Century America. Other than the fact that there is a frill around the top footring, I can see nothing in particular that relates the two bowls, but Brasher was certainly versatile enough to have worked in more than one style, as were most competant practitioners of the time. They could usually make whatever their customers demanded of them.

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Scott Martin
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iconnumber posted 11-21-2003 11:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This thread was started in the British / Irish Sterling Forum but the subject evolved to such a point that this thread was moved here to American Coin Silver Forum.

This is a very long thread. Let's start a new thread Rare vs Common...???" #2 (click here)

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