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

A woman came into 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 bad about the decision and decided to come to Skinner auction house first to sell silver. Clearly, she was uncomfortable with the idea of scrapping something with family history and artistic value.

With its plain form and prominent monogram, this small Tiffany & Co. Sterling Silver Pitcher sold for $800, more than 3 times its scrap 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, we find 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 first investigating selling your silver at auction, or obtaining an antique silver appraisal rather than melting it down.

Without the knowledge that this Tiffany Vine pattern is rare and desirable, these pieces could have been deemed melt-worthy. The group sold for $2,214, more than 10 times the scrap value.

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 looked at by a specialist. A silver appraiser at an auction gallery will view your pieces, identify their date of manufacture, and assess quality, condition, and aesthetics together with the value of silver weight and discuss how to sell silver. Once you have this information, you can then make an educated decision about what to do with the items.


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 with a minimal silver metal weight that achieved mighty results due to age, origin, maker and workmanship:

Two George III Sterling Silver Wine Coasters, sold for: $1,599

Tiffany & Co. “Winthrop” Pattern Sterling Silver Asparagus Tongs, sold for: $615

George Shiebler Sterling Silver Sardine Serving Fork, sold for: $1,169

Overlooked or mistaken for an ashtray, this Robert Evans Silver Porringer, circa 1798-1810 at 6.5 troy oz. would have sold for less than $100 for scrap.  As a truly hand-crafted piece, it achieved a result of $960.

Our auction schedule lists upcoming sales, or conduct a sitewide keyword search 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.


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2011, revised in December 2019 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

26 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: https://www.skinnerinc.com/appraisals/form.asp

      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

  7. My aunt wants to sell her silver antiques at home, but she’s unsure of the value. It was mentioned here that it’s best to have a specialist look at the silver first before selling it. Moreover, it’s highly recommended to only contact financial experts when selling your silver.

    • Hello Vanessa,
      If your aunt is local, she may of course request an appointment with our Silver Specialist at any time by calling our Appraisal Services Department at 508-970-3299, or if she is not local to us, anyone can submit an evaluation/appraisal request with images of the item if possible to our Appraisals Department here:

      Thank you very much!

  8. Thanks for the Wonderful post. Very informative and useful. Thanks for sharing. Please do post the same kind of blogs in future

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