Skinner Inc.

Auctioneers and Appraisers

Selling Silver: Before You Sell your Family’s Antique Silver for Scrap, Consider Consignment

Selling Silver

At a mere 3 troy ounces, the melt value on this item would have been in approximate region of $120. Its quality and charming design brought the auction result to $1,300.

A woman came in to Skinner with a collection of family silver that she no longer wanted. She’d already been to a smelter, who offered her $800 to melt the silver down for scrap. It was tempting to take the money, but she felt badly about the decision and decided to come to Skinner auction house first. Clearly she was uncomfortable with the idea of scrapping something with family history and artistic value.

Although the items in the silver collection in question aren’t extraordinarily rare pieces, as with all antiques the objects have some history and interest as decorative objects. The pieces she brought in included early 19th century coin silver spoons, as well as 20th century bowls, cake plates, and small sewing pieces.

Many people, including myself, have difficulty seeing any item that a craftsperson worked long and hard to create being melted down for its weight in silver (or gold). Still, with silver prices being so high in today’s market, we are finding that there are some instances where the price a silver item will bring at auction runs quite close to what a smelter or scrapper might pay.

Find the Value of your Silver

For those of us dedicated to the world of antiques and art, the idea of scrapping is difficult to take, but we know that it is an option for people looking to generate income from unwanted objects. But, with all things being equal, before making that decision, we encourage investigating selling your silver at auction, rather than melting it down.

Value My Silver

If you take a collection to a smelter or scrapper knowing nothing about when it was manufactured, or by whom, you may inadvertently let go of a rare, high quality silver piece for significantly less than its true worth. Even worse than the monetary loss, a rare art object could be destroyed. Scrapping for silver weight takes only the material into account when assessing value. And, weight is only one part of the equation. An item’s age, rarity, and aesthetics are other factors to be considered when assessing an items’ worth.

So, before scrapping your silver, have it inspected by a specialist. A silver appraiser at an auction gallery will inspect your pieces, identify their date of manufacture, and assess quality, condition, and aesthetics together with the value in silver weight. Once you have this information, you can then make an educated decision about what to do with the items.

Value My Silver

The antiques world is a business of knowledge. The person with the most knowledge walks away with the best value and the greatest rewards

In Fine Silver auctions at Skinner, we often see silver sell well beyond its melt value. Here are a few examples of small items that achieved mighty results:

Selling Silver

Overlooked or mistaken for an ashtray, this 11 troy oz. piece would have scrapped at about $440. As a truly hand-crafted piece by a well known silversmith’s shop, it achieved a result of $1,400.

Selling Silver

Without the knowledge that this form and pattern are extremely collectible, this piece could have been deemed melt-worthy, and at approx. 7 troy oz., would have scrapped in the region of $280. The hammer price was $1,200.


Our next Fine Silver auction will take place in Boston on January 9, 2016. Take a look through the auction catalog to learn more about the types of silver items that draw the most interest from collectors.

The antiques world is a business of knowledge. The person with the most knowledge walks away with the best value and the greatest rewards. At Skinner, our expert appraisers can empower you with knowledge about your silver or other antiques to help you make an informed decision about what to do with items that hold your family’s history.

Note: This post was originally published in May 2011

23 thoughts on “Selling Silver: Before You Sell your Family’s Antique Silver for Scrap, Consider Consignment

  1. Pingback: Value of Silver | From Tiffany and Georg Jensen to Towle, Durgin, and Whiting

  2. I do have some family pieces that I am keeping but do have some odds and ends that I don’t wish to keep but don’t want to scrap. How do I go about finding out if it is even worth anything? For example I have a beautiful silver brush, mirror and shears in a cloth bag, it seems a shame to merely scrap.

    • Jennifer – to find out if your silver is worth anything, you can use our free online auction evaluation form to submit photos and descriptions of your pieces:

      If you’re local to the New England area, you may also wish to give us a call at 508-970-3299 to speak with our Appraisal Services department about possibly scheduling an appointment with a specialist.

  3. i have a set of silver ware, that i want to sell or evaluate i `live in denver, co. and i can’t find a place to take them for an evaluation.

  4. Hello,I have 2-6 Gorham silver goblets numbered 272 and with the initial G for Gorham on the goblets.You just happen to be my third sight that I came across In my journey to give these wonderful sterling silver pieces a home.They are In wonderful conditioned and I was wondering if you would be interested.I also have 2-6 Reed and Barton 1810 goblets.They have (not etched or engraved) but almost a scorched look of leaves or butterfly wings on them.I also say 2-6 of each because i don’t know if i want to part with all the sets.I suppose it just depends on what’s offered.They are wonderful peices and i hope to here back from you.Thank you for your time.

  5. we have many types of antique silver 100 years old and we want to sell it so if can buy them and tell us what price you can pay.

  6. Pingback: The Smart Way to Sell the Family Silver for Cash | Money Talks News

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