Why would anyone invest in a set of sterling silver or silver-plated shot glasses, in a silver cocktail shaker, or in sterling swizzle sticks? It seems a little crazy. Silver tarnishes after all, and keeping it shining bright is a time-consuming chore. Why not just buy items made of glass or stainless steel and skip the tubs of silver polish?
Yet the fact remains that silver shot glasses and other items of barware were very popular back in the days when wealthy people had servants to keep their silver shining bright. Those silver items are now turning up in large numbers in antique stores and malls, on online auction sites and elsewhere. It is a good time to stay alert and snap them up at low prices.
Silver Items to Watch For
Here are some of the items of silver barware that we have been seeing lately . . .
- Solid sterling silver shot glasses from top manufacturers like Gorham, Reed & Barton and S. Kirk & Son. They come up for sale as individual pieces and sometimes in matched sets of four, six or more glasses.
- Solid silver and silver-plated shot glasses from Austria, Germany, Mexico and other countries. Some were apparently sold as souvenirs in those countries. Many do not have stampings to indicate whether they are solid sterling or silver-plated, but if you can snap up a set at a low price and send them to us for testing, they could be worth significantly more than what you paid for them.
- Silver-rimmed shot, cocktail glasses and drink coasters. These too were popular items on bars in earlier times, and they are easy to find at auctions and estate sales.
- Silver and silver-trimmed cocktail shakers and decanters. Most are silver-plated, not pure silver. We recently saw a set of little labels engraved with “Rye,” “Scotch” and the names of other liquors; they were made of sterling silver and were equipped with little chains so they could be hung around the necks of bottles displayed on a bar.
- Silver and silver-plated flasks and other bottles. Flasks were extremely popular items back in an age when people liked to carry a small quantity of a spirit with them wherever they went. As a result, plenty are available for sale now. Most are stamped with their metallic content. But also be on the lookout for some unstamped flasks that were made in other countries and sold as inexpensive accessories. If you can buy them for only a few dollars, we advise you to do so and then to send them to Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners for testing. Your small investment could translate into profits.
- Silver stirrers and swizzle sticks. If your wealthy host back in the Victorian era prepared your cocktail in a silver shaker and served it in a silver-trimmed glass, it apparently seemed logical to toss in a silver drink stirrer too. They can be quite elegant and are often made of solid sterling.
- Silver or silver-decorated beer steins and beer glasses. They are rare, maybe because beer has traditionally been seen as a drink for the working man, not something served by lords and ladies to their well-heeled guests. Most of the metal you’ll find on steins is therefore pewter, not silver. But if you keep on the lookout, silver and silver-plated beer steins do come up for sale occasionally. As we publish this post, several elegant silver-plated beer steins are for sale on eBay in the price range of $50-$75.
- Silver-decorated corks and stoppers. They’re rarer than the other items we mention today, but are well worth looking for. If you see a cork that has a silver horse, quail or other animal on top, it could well be made of solid sterling and worth more than you expect.
- Sterling and silver-plated punch bowls and cups. Although they are classified as dishes, not barware, we’ll mention them here because they were used to serve beverages. Some of the finest makers like Gorham and Reed & Barton made them in rich silver plate or even in solid sterling. But also be on the lookout for the less expensive silver-plated bowls that were once common in middle-class homes. A large silver-plated bowl and accompanying cups can contain silver that is worth recycling.
Stampings and Hallmarks to Look For
As we noted earlier in today’s post, some silver and silver-plated items are marked with stamped hallmarks, while others – especially those made in countries other than America or England - are not. If you find an elegant silver item with a stamped hallmark, it can be worth researching it in an online database like www.925-1000.com. Or give us a call.
If you acquire an unmarked silver item or one with a hallmark that you don’t understand, call our consultants at 800-426-2344. Be sure to mention this blog post and ask about free or discounted shipping of your items to us for testing.
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