What's It Worth? A Sterling Silver Methodology Conundrum

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With the value of silver being so high, items that are extremely heavy don’t carry much premium because the weight of silver tends to make otherwise willing investors have second thoughts.

An Indiana jeweler asked me about the value of eight dinner plates he purchased. He knew they were old, but wanted me to identify and value them. As with many items, this was a real struggle. He paid $3,000, knowing he could scrap them if he had to for a small profit. The plates are very heavy and almost identical.

In the 1940s and ’50s, most silver in retail stores sold for double or triple the silver value, which means the retail would be $15,000 to $20,000. But the amount of available buyers for plates is scant. To further complicate things, it was an assembled set. The British hallmarks reveal several different makers on this set – some dating to the Georgian era and some mid Victorian, but all made in the same manner. We were intrigued, because according to our research, the Georgian versions were made in 1814 with a mark similar to William Bateman’s. Bateman was a member of the famous Bateman silversmiths family. Other marks were made by more common silversmiths.

Complicating the value conundrum is the fact that all bore the crest of the Author’s Club (left), one of the most famous gentlemen’s clubs in England. The Author’s Club was opened in the 1700s and eventually restarted in 1811 and reportedly did their best to change the tawdry image of gentlemen’s clubs to a more high society club by limiting gambling. It went out of business in the 1940s.

We bought the platters for 10% over silver, which is a lot – since if we can’t sell the Georgian examples for a decent profit or find a collector, we will struggle to keep them from being melted in fire.
Four former sothebyscom associates and two art historians on staff.

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