How to Sell Silver Flatware for Cash (Definitive Guide)

by Erin Schollaert

Updated

Earning cash for silverware is often the best way to ensure you can quickly make some money without giving up something significant or essential from your home.

Silver is a precious element and has been treated as a currency for 2700 years.

As long as you make less than $1,000 on them, you won’t have to deal with being taxed at the steep 28% rate: but some more expensive sets can run over $30,000 in value.

Here’s how to sell silver flatware for cash without having to be a pro in the business.

How To Tell What You Have

silver-plated-vs-pure-silverAlthough your great grandmother may have received the flatware as a wedding gift and told everyone it was genuine pure silver: it’s essential to know what you’re looking at.

Here are the top ways to tell what kind of silver you have, leading you to find out their value.

Sterling Silver

Sterling silver is a mixture of silver and other metals (usually copper) at a 92.5% to 7.75% rate. Most sterling silver flatware is marked with 925 to show this percentage. However, some other countries mark theirs differently.

The following are the most common sterling silver marks you’ll find and where they’re from.

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  • England marks its sterling silver with the head of a lion. This mark has been adopted by other countries and sits as the most common mark of this alloy.
  • France marks silver with either ahead of a boar or a woman, changing over time.
  • 925, 925/1000, or 92.5% will show up on nearly every piece of sterling silver.
  • The characters ‘Coin,’ ‘C,’ or ‘D’ were often stamped on sterling silver before the 1830s to mark how much silver is in it.

If you have worked in a high paying retail job such as a jewelry store, you will be familiar with these markings.

Pure Silver

Pure silver is what most people hope for when they decide to sell their flatware for cash. The easiest way to spot it is to look for a hallmark somewhere on the pieces.

Although it may be accompanied by design, most pure silver is marked clearly with 999 to show that it’s 99.9% silver, as pure as possible.

This silverware shouldn’t be eaten off of more than a handful of times a year and would be something both highly prized and highly priced.

Silver Plated

Silver-plated flatware has an extremely thin layer of silver (measured in microns) on top of a more common and less expensive metal type. The most common types it covers are copper, brass, white metal, or nickel.

Unfortunately, if these are used and cleaned, and often polished, the silver will eventually wear off and lead you to get less cash for silverware.

To check if your flatware is simply silver-plated, first check to see if there are any hallmarks on them. Most silver-plated flatware will have the brands on them, including information about it being plated.

There’s no recognized system for silver-plated flatware to be hallmarked, so if it doesn’t have 925 on it or 999 to show it’s pure silver, you should check it to see if it has any silver in it at all.

No Silver At All

Although marking silver wasn’t a legal necessity in The United States until 1904, the practice has been ongoing since the 14th century.

If you have shiny metallic flatware and it’s not marked, there are a couple of ways to test it.

  • Silver is nonmagnetic. Hold a magnet next to the flatware, and check to see if it sticks to it.
  • Silver is odorless and tasteless. If you smell the piece and it smells metallic, it’s either not silver, or it could be silver plated.
  • Cold conducts heat extraordinarily well. If you place ice on a silver fork, it will melt faster than it would on a plain stainless steel fork.
  • Silver tarnishes with age. Try to rub a white cloth on the silver; if you do, some black residue may come off: that proves its authenticity.
  • Look for any flaking. Silver doesn’t flake off unless it’s plated on top of another metal.

If your piece isn’t silver, you may still get cash for silverware, but it’s less likely that the value comes from the materials.

How To Make Their Value Shine

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You may have a gorgeous set of cutlery or flatware that’s pure silver and a rare pattern: but if they’re not well taken care of, these pieces will lose their value.

Here are the best ways to make silver flatware shine and glimmer like the day it was sold. This is the first working step in how to sell silver flatware for cash.

1. How To Clean

Silver has to be carefully cleaned to ensure there are no water spots or dark marks after a meal. Line your sink with aluminum foil, and fill it with hot, almost boiling water.

Agitate the water and pour in one cup of salt and one baking soda, and then let your silverware sit in this mixture for around thirty minutes.

After this, carefully remove and dry them with a clean towel, careful to let them cool before you start toweling them off.

2. How To Polish

Polishing silver may sound like tedious work, but you can enjoy some music or a television show while you work away. Polish silver with smooth and luxuriously soft pieces of cloth. Use round motions.

This can take practice and a skilled eye, but you can develop both of these over time. Instead, focus on making deliberate and smooth motions.

Some people enjoy restoring flatware and cutlery to their former glory so much, it has become a lucrative second job.

3. How To Store Them

Do not store this flatware anywhere that will leave it wet or open with moist and warm air. Instead, keep it somewhere dry and safe, like a humidor or a protective box that comes with most silverware.

If you have them loose, gather them by item, and wrap a fabric napkin around them. You can secure this with a rubber band, and this will keep it all safe. You can also store your flatware in some curio cabinets, but it depends on personal taste.

4. What To Avoid

Although most metal is malleable and resistant, silver is a very soft metal. These are a few things you should avoid doing as long as you own a silver flatware set. Although some can be corrected, many of these may permanently ruin your silverware.

Make sure to avoid:

  • Leave silver flatware in the sink to soak with Dawn overnight.
  • Don’t eat using silver flatware every night. You’ll wear it down.
  • Avoid acidic foods.
  • Avoid foods that make it tarnish faster, like eggs and onions.
  • Don’t allow children to use these pieces until the children are old enough to understand the responsibility.

The Value of What You Have

selling-silverware

The value of the silver flatware you have depends on many things, ranging from the shape, the brand, the rarity, and the amount of silver in them.

Although all pieces and collections should be looked at seriously to check the value if you start your search based on their amount of silver, you may find a more immediate answer.

Pricing used stuff correctly can be the difference between getting the sale or not, so it’s worth taking your time.

Sterling Silver

To put it as simply as possible, a pound of sterling silver is worth $304 currently (although this does fluctuate over time).

Fortunately for silver flatware owners, there’s more value to what you have than just the melting price.

Because of how standard sterling silver is, it’s easier to find brands that people adore and sell them to specific buyers. A common set of sterling silver flatware can be worth $200 to $2,800, depending on the brand and pattern.

Pure Silver

Pure silver is, of course, what most people hope for when they find silver flatware. Although silver is only slightly more valuable than sterling silver by the pound: when it comes to silver flatware, there’s an enormous price leap.

If you want a set of classic real silver flatware, you’ll be looking at a starting price of $1,500. From here, the cost will only go up exponentially as long as you’re looking for how to sell silver flatware for cash.

Silver Plated

Over 75% of people who try to sell silver flatware bring in silver-plated utensils without realizing it. Unfortunately, this means that they’re often walking away with far less than they hoped to gain.

Silver-plated silverware has far less silver than sterling or pure silver, and yet it’s one of the most produced types of flatware out there.

A set of silver-plated silverware will start at less than a hundred dollars but will go up in value depending on what’s under the silver, what the brand is, and whether the item is collectible.

No Silver At All

Unfortunately, if your flatware has no silver in it, its value is based entirely on the brand and the rarity. Pewter without any silver can be valuable, despite stealing the look from its more valuable companion.

With these spoons, you’ll need to research comparable prices, check to see if their patterns are specific to any brand, and shop around.

Collectables

Even if a spoon is sterling silver or silver plated, it could be worth more than any pure silver spoon you could own if it’s a collectible.

Multiple estates, brands, and even countries and governments have put out collectible silver spoons throughout the years.

Some of the most popular ones are:

  • Antique Sterling and enamel painted spoons
  • United States state souvenir spoons
  • Country souvenir spoons (the rarer, the better)
  • Sports collectibles (the Olympics, horse racing, etc.)
  • Monument spoons (courthouses, memorials, critical historical sites)
  • Citrus utensils, which are less common now, have become highly collectible because of their unique shape and decoration.

How and Where To Sell

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Unfortunately, not every seller out there has your best interests at heart. Instead, most are after getting as much value as they can while paying as little cash for silverware as possible.

Because of this, you must pick your buyers carefully. You can still use auction sites like eBay, where 10% of your total winnings are taken in fees: or you can go the old-fashioned way through an in-person auction or sale.

Some sellers even sell silver goods exclusively to make money on eBay. Regardless of what you do: choose carefully to ensure you don’t get short-changed!

Collectables

It’s essential to have the right terminology to describe your collectible accurately. Check a site like Spoon Planet to see what you have. Using the right keywords can impact your overall payout, whether you’re selling forks or selling clothing online.

Some professionals say that up to 50% of the market’s antiques are fake, so check to ensure your item is authentic. Follow through with a site or a business that has sold plenty of collectibles like those you’re trying to sell.

Not only does this mean you’ll have an active audience, but it also means you’ll find someone who knows the actual value of what you have as well as how to sell your silver flatware for cash.

True Antiques

You don’t have to try and steal a spot on Antique Roadshow to have your antiques appraised. Instead, please get in contact with a pro who knows what they’re looking at.

Consignment silver sellers like Sotheby’s can help you get cash for silverware for a higher price much faster because they get a percentage based on your sales.

It’s better to go through a specialty site or company rather than the simplest bidding site to ensure you get the money you deserve.

What To Avoid

No matter how much you need the money or how quickly you want to sell your silverware for cash, it’s best to avoid some methods of selling.

Pawnshops, ‘quick buy’ gold and silver shops, and even some bidding sites can be poor choices.

These shops are all about buying for low and turning it around to sell it for high: as long as they don’t own it for an entire year, they often don’t have to worry about the collectibles tax.

Some of these locations will also attempt to buy for as cheap as possible so they can melt it down, which erases the history of your pieces, and ruins whatever antique or collectors value they may have had.

Please think twice before you attempt to pawn or sell them off like this.

Conclusion

Selling silver flatware can be a difficult task to undertake if you’re not prepared for it.

Plan ahead, get your tableware looking its best and ensure that you know what you’re selling before you start trying to find a buyer.

These days there are lots of great ways to build wealth, and cashing in your silver flatware is certainly a step in the right direction.

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About the Author

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Erin is a business teacher and mother of three. When she’s not in the classroom or fulfilling her obligations as an A+ hockey and lacrosse mom, she’s working on her latest article.