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Author Topic:   My first big bargain OR Know Your Marks
Brent

Posts: 1502
Registered: May 99

iconnumber posted 08-06-2000 06:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Brent     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
[20-0017 20-0022]

When I was first starting to be interested in silver, I obtained a copy of Rainwater's Encyclopedia of American Silver Manufacturers and promptly began devouring the marks. This simple book enabled me to get some incredible bargains, simply because many dealers who sold silver didn't seem to have a copy.

Case in point:

I was browsing in an antique mall when I saw a large bundle of oversized soup spoons in a glass case. As I often do when shopping,I found myself on the floor, peering up through the case to try to read the marks. I could see the marks of S. Kirk & Son, of Baltimore, and the 925/1000 stamp they used in place of STERLING. Craning my neck the other way, I saw that the price tag appeared to read $25.00 Each? I thought. Anyway, I had the attendant open the case, and lo and behold the tag read "10 silverplate spoons $25.00". Being new to the game, I got an amazing rush of adrenaline and said, "I will take them.". I didn't say a word until I was outside and driving away, for fear that someone would recognize the mistake and nullify the sale. Anyway, it was quite a thrill for a kid, and just because I had done a little homework. Needless to say, I never skimp on books!

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Paul S

Posts: 32
Registered: Dec 2000

iconnumber posted 12-07-2000 05:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Paul S     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
About a year ago we were doing our usual runs of antique shops locally. I went into a shop and found a interesting looking silverplate punch ladle in a grape pattern. The shop owner told me "That's not the Roger's pattern everyone is so interested in" and sold it to me for $100.00. I looked at the back and saw the National Silver Company marks and knew it was "Moselle", far more desireable than the "Vintage" piece he was refering to. I contacted a silverplate dealer friend of ours, really just to find out the value, and he offered me $700.00 for it on the spot. Well, thinking I'm no fool I'll take the $700.00 and run to the bank with my profit! About a month later I saw a "Moselle" punch ladle sell on e-bay for over $1,400.00!! How about some other dealers. I find the percentage of profit in old silverplate wares to be much more profitable than sterling and usually easier to find.

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Brent

Posts: 1502
Registered: May 99

iconnumber posted 12-07-2000 09:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Brent     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Great find! I had no idea that silverplate flatware had escalated so much in value; I will have to keep an eye out for interesting pieces. Hell, $1400 would buy most good sterling ladles!

Thanks for sharing!

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deb

Posts: 14
Registered: Dec 2000

iconnumber posted 12-11-2000 09:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for deb     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have TWO great finds to mention, both of them bought from antiques dealers...the first, a very large set of Community silverplate Grosvenor pattern--bought it for 250.00, sold it for 895.00, guilt free! The other was a mixed set of initialed 'N' Fairfax--bought for 250.00, sold in pieces for nearly twice that amount. BIG NOTE! The person who bought the majority of the monogrammed items last name matched the inital of my items--while I have many initialed and monogrammed pieces in my collection, selling experience dictates that the majority of buyers do NOT like marked pieces. (But I do!)

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Paul Lemieux

Posts: 1758
Registered: Apr 2000

iconnumber posted 12-12-2000 12:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Paul Lemieux     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It appears on eBay that if one lists an item that hasn't been listed before, and is at least somewhat desirable (e.g. in a popular pattern), it will go for a higher than retail price; a second identical piece will go for less, a third piece, even less, and so on. For example, if I were to go right now and list a Moselle ladle (if I had one, I would list it), I bet it wouldn't get that much money. Another case: I had a Gorham Lancaster pattern butter pick that I paid a buck for at a flea market; I thought I could get $20-30 for it. To my surprise, when I listed it on eBay, it sold for 140.00. I have no idea why; I checked on a flatware retailing website to find it carried a price tag there of 49.00. If I was sure each Lancaster butter pick would sell for that much, I wouldn't hesitate to pay fifty bucks apiece for them, but it just doesn't work that way. Soon, I'm sure, prices would begin to dip below retail.

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Brent

Posts: 1502
Registered: May 99

iconnumber posted 12-12-2000 01:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Brent     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Great buys, and an interesting observation about eBay. It does make sense, though, in terms of "auction physics". Given several identical objects at auction, the first piece will sell for the most, because there are the most potential customers. If the top bidder is taken out of the equation after each sale, subsequent auctions will not reach the same level, due to less competition. This assumes that the top bidders only want one of whatever it is, though. If one bidder wants every piece, the final selling prices will stay about the same from sale to sale.

I am also amazed at how auction fever can drive prices beyond any reasonable level. While working an actual estate auction, I watched two bidders battle it out for a two-year old dining room set, which eventually sold for more than a brand new one. And the buyer had to figure out how to get it home!

Auctions are a lot of fun to watch and work in, if you ever get the chance. On line auctions are fun to do, but the live ones are always better entertainment!

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Paul Lemieux

Posts: 1758
Registered: Apr 2000

iconnumber posted 12-13-2000 12:49 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Paul Lemieux     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've worked at a bunch of estate auctions, and they are indeed a lot of fun. The ambience is so much more interesting than anything else. I think another fact you will find, more with estate sales than consignment sales, is that many of the high bidders are locals who want a piece of local heritage, so to speak. Online, there is none of the lore and history attached to items. It's so impersonal compared to a real auction. I was at a nice estate auction in Vermont, where I live, and silver prices were all retail and up, as were other antiques, partially because it was the estate of a popular townsman. Also in Vermont, a few years back, an old couple passed away without much notice, because they seemed in a pretty destitute condition. Then a discovery was made...gold bars and bags upon bags of silver coins all over the house and outbuildings. There were even a couple Stutz Bearcats hanging around(!), not to mention like a dozen other cars stashed under canvas or in tiny sheds. There was at least 2 million dollars worth of gold, silver and other treasures. I guess the couple was of the Depression mentality (i.e. hold on to what you've got!), and also a bit eccentric. Well, as you can imagine, it caused quite a stir, especially when Christie's became the managing auction house. Prices went higher because of the unique story attached. The same stuff (much of it junk) would have failed even to sell anywhere else. (I know this digresses a little from the original topic, but it's an interesting story nonetheless.)

[This message has been edited by Paul Lemieux (edited 12-13-2000).]

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FredZ

Posts: 1069
Registered: Jun 99

iconnumber posted 12-14-2000 02:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FredZ     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I remember well the first coin silver spoon I purchased at an antique store. It was brightcut with a foliated scroll decorated bowl..... The makers mark was deep and filled with grime and so it was not legible.... I had borrowed a copy of Beldens book from the Library and so was familiar with the type and style. It was probably late 18th cent and American. It was also on sale 20% off the paultry sum of $1.00. This spoon is proudly displayed as my first in a collection of several hundred spoons. I believe the spoon is by Caleb Beal from Massachusetts. Books are certainly a wise investment and I never regret buying a single one.

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Brent

Posts: 1502
Registered: May 99

iconnumber posted 12-15-2000 02:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Brent     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Now that's a bargain! As I am slowly weeding out my collection, I am surprised at how many of my first buys are still "keepers". I may not have been able to find much then, but a lot of the things were pretty good. Nowadays, more dealers seem to know (or think they know) what they have, and prices are escalating. There are still finds to be made, though. As you say, those books always pay for themselves. Thanks for sharing!

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swarter
Moderator

Posts: 2920
Registered: May 2003

iconnumber posted 06-28-2003 12:03 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There are some really great stories buried in the archives of this forum. This topic in particular brings back a flood of memories.

Some years ago, about the time of the Hunt Brothers precipitated Great Meltdown, when people were cleaning out their closets of anything that even looked like silver, the stuff was everywhere, and pickings were great. There was little tradition of old silver in the relatively new states of the West, and correspondingly little knowledge on the part of many of the sellers anywhere but at the toniest of the trade shows. Much of my collection from those days is made up of other peoples mistakes. If it doesn't say "Stirling" it must be plate. Right?

There was the bin full of $3 English silver plated Old English tablespoons, among which were two pristine tablespoons marked in the manner of English platers G.B in a rectangle, followed by four squares with one letter each, A, B, D, N. There are two nice stirling spoons in my Scottish drawer, by George Booth of Aberdeen, with an added date of 1819!

There was the perfect shell-back Hanoverian tablespoon with the price tag pasted where the maker's mark should have been. Was there a mark under the tag (not wanting to completely feel the thief,I asked)? "Oh, no, sir -- I wouldn't do that!" was the response. It was a nicely made spoon, worth the $17, even unmarked - but I waited until I got back to the car to peel off the tag, under which was a rectangle with two block initials - MN - for Mark Nelson.

One day I walked into a mall and found in a case an unpriced colonial teaspoon. I had it taken to the counter and had the clerk call the seller for a price. She wouldn't do it over the phone, but would do it the next time she came in. The clerk promised to hold it at the counter and call me when it was done. After some weeks and repeated calls it hadn't been done, and finally was no longer there. I drove the 30 miles, but no one there knew what I was talking about. So I browsed around, and Lo! It was back in the original case, and priced. So I paid my $5, and went on my way. I stopped by another mall owned by the same proprieters, and there in another case was another one - only more expensive, all of $12.

And then there was the 13" stuffing spoon in a pawn shop: "Now, you understand, sir, that it is NOT stirling? I know! I tested it myself!" OK, it's still worth the $7 - after all it was made in London in 1794 . . . .

And then, thre was my second piece of holloware, in a Mall where there was never a real treasure to be found, because the owner vetted all the merchandise before it was available to the public. My wife came up from the basement with a rouletted engraved beaker tagged simply "silver cup $21." "I think this is something good, she said." I saw the telltale zigzag assay mark and agreed. As we checked out, the owner took the beaker to wrap and hesitated - she turned it over and paled visibly - "Ohh - that looks old," she said. "Could be, I responded," coyly. As she wrapped it, I heard her mutter under her breath "I didn't see that." When I got it home, I quickly determined it was made in Stockholm in 1723. It took a while longer to identify the maker, though.

Like one of my friends repeatedly reminds me, "Knowledge is money!" Those books are no good if they only sit on the shelves, unread.

[This message has been edited by swarter (edited 06-28-2003).]

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June Martin
Forum Master

Posts: 1210
Registered: Apr 93

iconnumber posted 07-01-2003 09:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for June Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I miss those good old days when you could find unrealized treasures. Now everyone goes to ebay to find something close and thinks because it's marked sterling it must be something great.

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swarter
Moderator

Posts: 2920
Registered: May 2003

iconnumber posted 07-02-2003 11:28 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I share your nostalgia - there may more good things on ebay than you ever found by random prospecting in the "good old day," but you have to fight for them, and the thrill of the hunt just isn't there. I don't follow the stirling market much, but in coin silver, which is much more arcane a subject, ebay is both a magnet, attracting some really good things, and a mine field for the unwary, as there is so much misinformation promulgated.

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Marc

Posts: 414
Registered: Jun 2002

iconnumber posted 08-23-2003 12:55 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Marc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hi there Paul,

The reason that your butter pick sold for more then one listed retail is that yours was an old one and their's was a new one made out of a teaspoon or similar piece.

Lots of "fun" items are being made out of teaspoons including the practical "ice cream forks", horse radish spoons, and tons of "IDEAL" olice spoons are being made out of ice teas spoons. As long as they are sold as new, fine, but this does not happen often. Ebay is a popular venue for these types of things.

enough said..

Marc

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Anuh

Posts: 190
Registered: Jan 2003

iconnumber posted 09-05-2003 07:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Anuh     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Paul S:
How about some other dealers. I find the percentage of profit in old silverplate wares to be much more profitable than sterling and usually easier to find.

Absolutely, Paul! Every small shop abounds with silverplate it seems, and few dealers know anything about silver at all. Prices aren't uncommon at 10¢ to 25¢ each! And since so few small dealers don't have any idea what the difference is between sterling and silverplate, I occasionally find sterling pieces in the same bins of silverplate!

I've sold some silverplate pieces for awesome prices! Most of my silver business is in silverplate, although I'm currently trying to expand my sterling inventory since sterling has an intrinsic value that far exceeds that of silverplate. It's like buying gold, but cheaper! ;-D

You made a good deal in your sale. That kind of profit is not to be sneezed at regardless. Whoever sold the piece for $1400 may well have paid through the nose to get it, too!

------------------
Anuh

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sterlingfiend

Posts: 11
Registered: Mar 2004

iconnumber posted 03-22-2004 01:50 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for sterlingfiend     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have to agree with swarter, "Like one of my friends repeatedly reminds me, "Knowledge is money!" Those books are no good if they only sit on the shelves, unread." I purchased a sugar basket (1792)and teapot tray (1791) along with a gorham pair of tongs all combined in an auction on ebay for $110.00, including overnight shipping. The seller listed it as "3 old pieces english silver, check hallmarks" or pretty close to that phrase, but the point i was trying to make was she KNEW the word Hallmarks and that it was english. Most of the people i show my silver would never know the word hallmark, and by just doing a search for "english hallmarks" on the web, she could have easily found the age of the pieces, and making a lot more. I turned around and sold the tongs for $35.00 and with the $20 for overnight shipping, I only paid $55 dollars for the pair. Later on she had emailed me and wanted me to look up some silver marks for her on a set of obviously modern Finnish silver spoons, as they were in their original PLASTIC case. Just seems odd to me that she would want to look up the spoons but not the old english silver. Again, I am sure I will never come across a bargain like this again, but one can always hope. I do not want to sound like a snake and dishonest, but honestly, who wouldn't have done the same in a store or on ebay? It all comes back to spending a little time on research, It is almost like listing a Babe Ruth Rookie Card as an "old Crummy Baseball card"!

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nihontochicken

Posts: 289
Registered: May 2003

iconnumber posted 05-13-2004 05:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for nihontochicken     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Okay, I'll throw in one just for fun. This isn't my first bargain, nor my biggest bargain, but it is a "recognize your hallmarks and act quickly" story. I like to collect flatware by female silversmiths (unfortunately, seem to have a lot of competition, why don't they just go collect Southern US silver?!). Since there are relatively few female smiths, I perused Wyler and hand copied all the female makers' marks I could find, into my "portable off-line brain" (3x5 inch spiral bound pocket notebook). One eve about a year ago, while engaging in a favorite form of meditation (idly bottom grazing on Ebay), I came across a new listing, only a few hours old, for two Hanoverian Pattern spoons, neither identified as to city or maker. I saw the lozenge mark on one, as follows:

I immediately flipped open my pocket notebook and began looking at the marks, from newest back to oldest, for a <something?> over "MA" or "WA"? over <something?> hallmark. I started to despair as I went through the list, not finding any match, until I came to the third mark starting from the top, <cross> over "MA" over <duck>. It was the mark for Mary Matthew, the third oldest identified English female silversmith (as far as Wyler goes). The auction had a "Buy It Now" option, not exactly a steal, though it was for both spoons. I did a quicktime review of the seller's feedback, took a breath, and sprang for the "BIN" price. So I got the two spoons, both in good condition, but with some tip wear, for somewhat over $100. Upon receipt, I found that I could just make out the Matthew spoon date mark, heavily rubbed, but still recognizable for 1711-12. BTW, the other spoon is still unidentified, but has already been discussed wrt my post to the Brit board on 5/14/03 ("ID Hanoverian Spoon Hallmarks?").

Anyway, The Mary M. spoon is certainly my oldest identified piece, and one of my favorites. A problem is that it will certainly be difficult, if not impossible, for me to beat this spoon as far as oldest identified female silversmiths (only Dorothy Grant and Joyce Issod left to top it!).

[This message has been edited by nihontochicken (edited 05-13-2004).]

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asheland

Posts: 917
Registered: Nov 2003

iconnumber posted 06-01-2004 12:17 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for asheland     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Does anyone ever find the reproduction "revere" bowls in sterling, cheap? I have found on several occasions, including ebay, where they can be bought for less than the scrap value. My favorite (recent) find was the Gorham revere bowl in sterling at an antique mall for $15.00! It weighs in the neighborhood of 17-18 troy ounces!

asheland

[This message has been edited by asheland (edited 10-28-2005).]

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etc-etc
unregistered
iconnumber posted 09-24-2004 09:53 PM           Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Children are always learning and asking questions. When my son was five he had LOTS of questions, always answered, if possible.

We were at an estate sale where 'trash' had been scattered around and he found a sterling trophy cup, black and unpolished, of course, but using newly-learned skills he rubbed a bit and found the words "Dorking Cock", terribly amusing to a kindergartener who loved words. He offered two dollars bid and it was accepted.

After cleaning, we discovered it to be from 1824, a prize given for The Best Dorking Cock in England, and weighing in at eight pounds! It is still his favorite collectible, 30 years later.

  • What's a "Dorking Cock"? Here is an example:

    Rose-Combed Dorking Cock

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Paul Lemieux

Posts: 1758
Registered: Apr 2000

iconnumber posted 09-29-2004 03:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Paul Lemieux     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It would be neat if you could post a picture of the silver cup.

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KillerChihuahua

Posts: 14
Registered: Oct 2004

iconnumber posted 10-18-2004 05:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for KillerChihuahua     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have two comments: Know Your Marks is good, and Be Not Afraid of Dirt is second to that. I'm relatively ignorant on makers marks, altho I know a few, but tarnish and grime don't deter me - I'm happy to see them because usually the piece will be cheap. I've found some nice things that were in perfect shape - after the grime and tarnish of years was cleaned away.
My first big bargain was not that big, I'm afraid - a Baker/Manchester sauce ladle for $1.00. Its very pretty, no pattern that I've been able to identify, with a poppy flower shaped bowl. It was dead black when I bought it and the owner thought it was silverplate - the Sterling was almost impossible to read through the grime, but the little Bird M Bird was clear enough.

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