Since last Fall one would need to live on the moon to be unaware of the skyrocketing value of SILVER–not gold, at least not in percentages of increase. Using approximate statements, gold has increased by one third in the past year and silver has increased by about 110%–and silver is what most Americans own from dreadful 1950′s bon bon dishes to grandma’s flatware.
What should you be doing with that silver in the cabinet and what should be the importance of age and quality when considering “scrapping” your silver? This is not an easy question but it is one deserving of some special thought by all of us who love antiques and beautiful objects.
Frankly I firmly believe that the loss of tons of mediocre flatware and hollow ware made from 1950 onwards is simply no loss. The scrap value today of around $40 per ounce is far above the extrensic value the objects being melted. (Extrensic value is that imparted to the silver by the maker while the intrinsic value is its value in coin of the realm.) Personally, one of my own mediocre silver sets which was used everyday went to the melting pot. I had paid about $500 years and years ago; I kept all the nice serving pieces; I scrapped the rest of the set for $2,480, of which I used $300 or so to buy a really fine set of high quality stainless steel in a smart design ideal for daily use, easily cleaned in the dishwasher! At the shop we have sent scads of boring silver to be scrapped–think insipid Revere bowls, boring cake plates, useless finger sandwich servers, hideous tea sets. I have no regrets. When you can sell a bowl worth $45.00 a year ago for $115 today, you simply must dance all the way to the bank.
But what about the horror stories of Tiffany silver, antique coin silver, fine Georgian silver going into that overheated melting pot? Mostly those stories are untrue. The finest silver has generally sold at retail for $50 to $100 per ounce–well above even today’s highs. We may reach a point where the fine antiques are endangered–but generally we are no where near there yet. I do know that many 19th century coin teaspoons are indeed going to the melting pot and it saddens me a bit–but for some reason the vast glut of such pieces has kept their value amazingly low. Many dealers have baskets of coin silver teaspoons in their shops for $15 each–with $30 of silver in each spoon it is not hard to know what is happening to those spoons. These are the spoons produced by the millions in factories of the 19th century–not 18th century examples, not shell or basket motif spoons, not Southern silver which was mostly melted 150 years ago.
When this all shakes out I fervently believe the remaining silver available on the market will be of superior quality to what we have seen for generations–and that it will command a price reflective of the craftsmanship with which it was created. This will be true for fine hand-made 20th century silver as well as antique silver. And I believe the heavy, quality designs of our late Victorian and 20th century factories will also command a deeper respect and garner a greater price.
SO—–scrap the junk and hoard the fine stuff and you will be a very happy camper just in a few years!