0156 GMT March 03, 2021
Silver won't be minting the next round of Reddit-trading millionaires, but that doesn't mean now isn't a good time to sell the family silverware, candlesticks and coins stored in the back of the closet. At $27 an ounce, the spot price of silver is still close to an eight-year high – and more than double where it was trading about a year ago.
Dealers say they're fielding as many as four times the number of typical inquiries a day thanks to the price increase, along with pandemic-inspired decluttering. If you'd like to join the silver selling, here are a few things to keep in mind.
First, inspect what you have to make sure it's real silver rather than silver-plated. Look for either the word sterling or the numbers “925.” The latter means it's 92.5% pure silver. Just because something is stamped with “Made in England” doesn't mean it's pure. If it's silver-plated, it's better to sell wares at a garage sale or donate them, rather than going through a dealer or selling them online.
If the pieces have the mark of a coveted designer, such as Tiffany & Co., Cartier or Georg Jensen, or if it's flatware that's considered a popular pattern (Replacements Ltd. has easy-to-follow instructions to help identify silver patterns) they're probably worth more than just the value of the silver. Anything else is likely to be sent to the refiner and melted down.
Also, don't waste time with polishing before taking pictures or consulting a dealer. A reputable dealer will be able to tell the condition regardless of tarnishing, and the item will be professionally cleaned before resale.
The process tends to be more straightforward when it comes to silver coins or bars, where the value is generally just based on the weight of the item. There are online calculators to help figure out melt value. Dimes, quarters or half dollars minted from 1964 or earlier are 90% silver.
Forget about selling most silver jewelry because it doesn't weigh much, unless, again, it's by an in-demand designer such as Tiffany, which would likely have resale value.
If you're strictly selling for the metal itself, the spot price of silver will be a starting point for what you'll get. From there, shipping and refinery costs, along with dealers' commissions, could be deducted. For pieces that dealers will try to resell, remember if there's any damage, or even a monogram, it could reduce the value. Also, be aware that insurance appraisals aren't necessarily indicative of actual value.
Greg Arbutine, co-owner of Antique Silver Buyers in Largo, Florida, says he's seen customers get high insurance replacement appraisals for their silverware that turn out to be three- to four-fold times more than what they can actually get when they go to sell.
When choosing where to go for the best price, look for a dealer who will provide a free assessment (including via email or text) without any obligation to sell. There's no required accreditation for dealers, so check reviews and ratings by the Better Business Bureau. You can also try selling directly to another consumer via a site like eBay, but that may be more time consuming.
Finally, don't forget the tax implications. A seller may be liable for the 28% capital gains tax that applies when making a profit from collectibles. The difference between the fair market value at the time of inheritance and the sales price is subject to the tax.
For an antique-lover like Arbutine, he says that while the increased business is nice, he actually hopes the silver price doesn't get too high, like it did in 1980 when the wealthy Hunt brothers went on a buying spree for the metal and its futures contracts. As the price rocketed to almost $50, sellers didn't care about the resale value; they just wanted the money from shipping it off to the refinery.
“We were crying over melting these beautiful tea sets,” he remembers.